The demand for sustainability is omnipresent in various discourses across the globe. Political policies have to be made in a sustainable manner, ensuring long-term financial balance of national budgets; companies have to rethink their businesses in a sustainable manner, using less resources while providing secure employment; consumers are urged to buy “green” or “ethical” and shift their habits of mobility, eating, clothing and leisure time behaviour. Sustainability is thereby just as much a fashion fad, a newly dominant power discourse or a marketing tool as it is a real necessity on a finite planet.
The favoured road to sustainability in all of its discourses is innovation. The vast majority of decision makers in politics and business adhere to the belief that by introducing novelty – new product development, technological breakthroughs, new institutional instruments, and also new social arrangements of how to consume or how to organise for a more sustainable democracy – the problem of non-sustainability of current circumstances can be solved.
However, every increase in efficiency by the introduction of novelty induces a rebound effect — Jevons’ paradox. The direct rebound increases demand for the novel good, while the indirect rebound stems from increased possibilities in alternative consumption. Both effects directly lead to economic growth and largely destroy ecological gains through innovation. The triangle of innovation, sustainability and growth is paradoxical and its dissolution poses what Heinz von Foerster called an “undecidable question.”
Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, this special issue on “Sustainability of Innovation, Innovation of Sustainability” tries to address – not answer – this undecidable question from three different perspectives.
Suitable topics include but are not limited to:
- Sustainability and innovation: How do we make sense of their interrelatedness, imbalance and connection on a conceptual level?
- Multi-dimensional and multi-level approaches to sustainability and innovation
- Sustainability, innovation and social differentiation
- Sustainability of innovation: How can innovation processes, social innovation arrangements and contexts and innovation output be made more sustainable?
- Sustainability as a demand in the innovation process
- Measuring sustainable innovation output
- Opening or closing innovation for more sustainability
- Cross-border innovations in terms of know-how fields and geopolitics
- Global innovation ethics
- What is a sustainable innovation?
- Innovation of sustainability: Using sustainability itself as an innovative and innovation-spurring concept.
- What constitutive factors of sustainability have the power to change our understanding of innovation?
- How do sustainable innovations differ from non-sustainable innovations?
- Sustainability and ethics: locked in translation?
- Can there be such a thing as a sustainable innovation?
We invite full paper submissions dedicated to, but not exclusively limited to these perspectives with a focus either on theory, empirical research or real world application.
Submission deadline: 22 December, 2012