Electrolux revolutionized how it integrates sustainability into innovation in 2021 with people and planet driving processes. Tove Chevalley, Head of the Electrolux Innovation Hub, explains what has been done and what this means for the company and society at large.
How has Electrolux changed its approach to sustainability innovation?
We’re on a journey and have made major leaps in how we integrate sustainability earlier into our innovation processes in the last couple of years. The major difference is how we have switched from business value as the main driver, to also include consumers and the planet as our key value drivers in our innovation process. This approach also ensures we better meet the demands of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
In the past, we saw ourselves as a brand in the appliance industry. But as our products have most of their environmental and social impact in their use phase, we have started to broaden our perspective on the role our products play and how we can create ongoing relationships with people to help them live more sustainably.
This approach is reflected in our For the Better 2030 Goals, such as how we can make clothes last twice as long or make healthy and sustainable eating the preferred choice. It's all about how we can contribute toward creating better and more sustainable systems for both people and our planet. It also involves a long-term approach to innovation by looking at where we want to be in ten years' time.
Why is it important that sustainability is integrated into product development from the very beginning?
First and foremost, sustainability is essential to who we are as a company and our purpose. And sustainable product innovation is about us walking the talk.
It also makes us more resilient in times of crisis or market volatility as demand remains high for our more sustainable products. In addition, innovation drives stronger, more profitable patents and long-term revenue streams.
Finally, sustainability product innovation is becoming increasingly important for attracting and retaining employees. Younger generations in particular demand that our business has a sustainability focus.
How do you integrate sustainability from the very beginning when developing new products?
Again, it all starts with our purpose and company strategy. We work with a "Present forward" approach to look at what's driving current consumer experiences as well as a "Future back" approach where we re-imagine the future in say ten years time. Both approaches are part of our strategy.
We plan each of our Taste, Care and Wellbeing innovation areas in detail. It isn't about just improving what we have today – but how we can innovate in these growth areas to create new value for people and the planet. By radically rethinking products and how we deliver value, we have huge potential to create a positive societal impact while achieving long-term profitability for our business.
How important are partnerships in innovation?
Of course, we can't do all this alone and we work with a wide variety of stakeholders. We work with the youth of today for example to ensure our innovation is focused on meeting the needs of future generations (read more in our Case Story on Envisioning the future of better living with the next generation). We have always worked with consumer testing and suppliers, but we have also started working with partners to extend our influence. One example is our partnership with the fashion brand Houdini to further our efforts to promote more sustainable fashion.
By establishing such partnerships that go beyond our appliances and by drawing on digital tools, just think what we can achieve! It goes beyond our products and highlights the huge potential we have to promote societal benefit through partnerships and consumer engagement.
How is this sustainability innovation journey changing the way we work internally?
In short, it is revolutionizing our ideation process and how our various teams collaborate and work together from the very beginning. When we get people out of their comfort zone and enable them to collaborate in a fluid and liberated environment where they feel included, safe and empowered – this is where we create synergies that really drive innovation.
Inclusive innovation is also essential. If people don't feel they are involved the process, it can kill innovation.
How will you further develop your approach in 2022 and beyond?
We are currently developing our approach that puts people and the planet in the driving seat. The approach encourages people to challenge conventional thinking and work in a human-centered manner.
I am extremely proud of our progress in 2021, and I'm so impressed by the passion and dedication of our people. They have been instrumental in making sustainability part of everything we do, and I look forward to continuing our journey in the years ahead.
Read more in our For the Better 2030 Goal: Lead in energy and resource efficient solutions.