When it comes to saving the planet, innovation has to be a team effort

This previous yr has revealed with brutal readability the intersection between a world well being disaster, local weather disaster, and systemic social injustice. It has additionally made clearer than ever the ethical crucial not solely to deploy all the instruments in our arsenal, but additionally to hunt down new options. We’d like discontinuous, bold, change and we’d like improvements that may assist drive options at a systemic degree. Dame Ellen MacArthur not too long ago instructed us that her imaginative and prescient for a round economic system “is a a lot larger thought than recycling,” she stated. “That is about systemic change and restructuring the world economic system.”

Whereas innovation can typically are available the type of a flash of particular person inspiration, it also can come from issues in a new method, collaborating with new companions, and typically, utilizing old school instruments in new mixtures. Take, for instance, options like India’s SELCO, which bridges the want for gentle with training. Rural households obtain LED lamps that use a pocket-sized rechargeable solar-powered battery instead of soiled kerosene lanterns. The central photo voltaic charging station for the batteries is deliberately situated at the native faculty, creating incentives for households to ship kids to faculty to get the batteries recharged. Not solely do households obtain clear, protected gentle at dwelling, however the school-based charging stations encourage faculty attendance and improved training outcomes.

In that spirit, the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing is sharing our folks, our experience and our community to lean into on the energy of innovation and cooperation; the result’s the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Options Collaborative. Our first cohort options 5 of the brightest, floor breaking ideas from round the world—representing trade, non-profits, and academia, as these chosen convey forth improvements in well being care, local weather options, plastic waste discount and ecosystem companies, along with re-engineered distribution strategies, expertise platforms, and a new perspective on the worth of nature.


One such firm from our cohort is SunCulture. SunCulture brings collectively improvements in photo voltaic expertise, sustainable agriculture practices and entry to inclusive finance to assist smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa tackle their largest challenges: getting inexpensive, accessible, clear power to electrify their properties and energy irrigation to their farmland. By fixing these issues in tandem, SunCulture may also help farmers enhance their crop yields between two to 5 occasions and improve their incomes by 5 and ten occasions.

Based mostly in Kenya, the firm presents a confirmed answer that’s now aggressively scaling throughout Africa, with plans to take the thought world. They’re working hand-in-hand with native and nationwide governments to promote the uptake of photo voltaic irrigation. They’ve not too long ago launched a partnership with the authorities of Togo to supply hundreds of photo voltaic irrigation programs throughout the nation and have an ongoing venture in Kenya via the World Financial institution. At a time when an current world meals disaster is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, probably doubling the variety of folks going through hunger globally to 265 million, SunCulture’s options are much more important to making certain smallholder farmers are productive and households are fed.

The collaborative mindset isn’t restricted to startups. Clothier Eileen Fisher has created the Renew and Waste No Extra takeback program, reclaiming and reselling garments as “second life” clothes. And, for “third life” clothes, the firm takes broken and previous clothes, deconstruct the gadgets, and remanufacture them as completely new clothes. Even acrylic and nylon pants can be remade into a new pair. Since 2009, the model has saved 1.24 million clothes from going into the landfill and has opened its doorways to collaborate with different designers, sharing and creating new programs with innovation and remanufacturing methods.

For some company leaders, this will likely require a mindset shift. As IKEA’s CEO Jesper Brodin not too long ago instructed me, “Earlier than, we have been considering, ‘How can we defend the uniqueness of our firm by locking others out of it?’ I believe now we defend our firms by having velocity, we defend our firms by being related for our prospects and associates, and … [those that] work in your individual funnel and [do] not collaborate with others, can even have a worth to pay.”

Finally, we’re excited to associate with innovators from all corners—people who have Eureka! moments of discovery in addition to those that uncover new methods of mixing current instruments to meet the accelerating challenges we face. We draw nice inspiration from a current dialog with U.N. Deputy Secretary Common Amina Mohammed who urged us, “Make every step rely. In the event you try this, once you look again, you’ll admire these steps. You’ll know that your journey was wealthy, it was fruitful, and also you made a distinction in folks’s lives. And hopefully your footprint was inexperienced”

Audrey Choi is chief sustainability officer and chief advertising officer at Morgan Stanley.