It’s not exactly breaking news to state that sustainability is THE business challenge (and opportunity) of our time. Developing businesses around an eco-friendly mission and integrating sustainable practices into existing businesses will become common practices over the next decade. In fact, businesses that fall behind this trend will undoubtedly lose out as consumers become more savvy about their purchasing practices.

Of course, designers and creative thinkers are well positioned to be leaders in this trend, given that it contains the ingredients of a classic design problem: opportunities and limitations. But acting on this potential is easier said than done, and lately I’ve been collecting resources that illuminate openly the challenges that businesses face in following through on their sustainability mission.

Picture 45This NY Times essay by Vindu Goel entitled That Long, Long Road from Idea to Success, tells the story of GreenPrint, a software product that helps reduce waste in the office printing process. Goel quotes Scott D. Anthony, president of consulting firm Innosight: “The gulf between invention and innovation is often a huge one that many entrepreneurs can’t cross.” The GreenPrint proposition is built entirely on a sustainability

In this video from Fast Company, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard discusses his decision to eliminate the packaging used for Patagonia’s long underwear and the surprisingly profitable outcome. In a second video, (linked here), Chouinard makes the case that, for certain commodity products, a company’s sustainability commitment will soon become a key point of differentiation.