A Sustainable Future Through IP Sharing

Guest Author

Hannah Jones is NIKE, Inc’s. VP of Sustainable Business & Innovation, and the lead on NIKE, Inc’s. Government and Public Affairs strategy. At Nike, she leads the team mandated with enabling the company to thrive in a future sustainable economy through closed loop business models. Hannah is a founding member of the business advisory council to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Chairs the Sustainable Consumption initiative for the Consumer Industries grouping of the World Economic Forum and was named a Global Young Leader by the Forum in January of 2007..

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In their new book Macrowikinomics Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams clearly articulate the power of collaborative thinking and open innovation as a desperately needed call to action to help transform our global institutions and business models.

At Nike we know that the imperative for designing a new reality has never been clearer. Put simply we need to decouple consumption from scarce natural resources in order to help reboot the economy and put the breaks on climate change.

We believe we need to architect a new future by creating more sustainable business models, transforming our products to become closed loop and our supply chain to be lean, green and equitable, to enable us to thrive and win in a future sustainable economy.

But we know we can’t do this work alone. I’ve just come back from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where we work with a group of other progressive companies who are innovating with the same urgency and determination. For the past three years we have grappled with the issues of reducing or eliminating the use of water, decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and how to turn waste into renewable material.

This forum has given birth to the GreenXchange (GX), a Web-based marketplace where companies can collaborate and share intellectual property which can lead to new sustainability business models and innovation. Don has been a great supporter and advocate of GX because, in his words: “Increasingly it makes good business sense for companies to share some of their intellectual property. The GreenXchange is the new commons and by applying open innovation to sustainability it will contribute not just to the heath and well being of our planet but also to the cost control and competitiveness of its member companies.”

It’s these new ways of sharing information and knowledge in an increasingly interconnected world that will help us with one of our biggest challenges – scale. Without scale this work will, at best, produce shiny examples, at worst we will only take incremental steps.

We live in an intertwined, complex mesh of industries, regulation, marketplaces and communities. For the type of scale the world needs to see, we need not only the early business leaders to be doing what they do best – investing in innovation and shaping market forces – we need government to play a crucial role in enabling policies, we need new media to enable open discussion and dissemination of information and we need collation and crunching of data to give us new insights and predict trends.

This all feeds the question of how we move from the industrial economy to the sustainable economy. How we build a place of trust and dialogue that will spur innovation. How we open data and intellectual property to envisage what is possible when it comes to scale, collaboration, and innovation.

These are the burning questions that might help shape the 21st century sustainable economy. Macrowikinomics helps provide a window into what the answers might be and the beginning of a roadmap to get there.