A sustainability manager can play an important role in fueling innovation. As an innovator, the sustainability manager challenges others and him/herself to reconsider sustainable development. She or he shows leadership and courage, and is able to find and develop sustainable innovations with impact. Partnerships within the value chain are a key source of innovation, but there are other sources as well. By combining a cross-functional way of working with external orientation, the sustainability manager can drive innovation.
To be an ‘out of the box’ and ‘step-changing’ innovator, the innovator needs trust from the organization. You therefore are more likely to see a substantial innovation role for CSR managers in organizations which have already embedded sustainability or for CSR managers who have been in their organization for quite some time. In organizations just starting on their sustainability journey, innovation is focused more on embedding sustainability in the innovations process, in such a way that all innovations are sustainable or lead to sustainability related improvements. In companies without a strong innovation culture, the innovator role of the sustainability manager will consist of the establishment of a development process for sustainable innovations.
You could consider the initiation of a few (pilot) projects to make sustainability more tangible part of the innovator role. Through such iconic projects, sustainability becomes more visible and they offer the opportunity to communicate tangible results. But as these type of projects are really more related to embedding sustainability in the organization, they tend to belong primarily to the coordinating and initiating role of the sustainability manager.
The chapter in the book about the innovator role addresses the most important tasks of the innovator such as initiating and guiding innovation processes, so they can come to life and lead to a more sustainable business.