Comprehensive innovation can benefit all parties involved in climate action – including producers, users and communities – so long as the benefits are subject to broad partnerships and integrated policies.
Recent research has demonstrated how multiple-value creation can ease the shift(s) towards various creative economies, such as the low-carbon economy, circular economy, bioeconomy and social economy. An instructive example is the case of ‘paludiculture’ – the rewetting of drained peatland to stop carbon emissions, combined with sustainable biomass activities for preservation and commercial use. Drained peatlands worldwide emit at least 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually (through oxidation and fires), representing roughly 5% of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions.
By combining carbon reductions with other benefits for communities and users, the SDG agenda is served by providing added value to both producers and funders. Against this backdrop, ecological and social sustainability benefits are therefore sought and secured alongside economic benefits. That is what makes comprehensive innovation an important and radical concept for society, research, policy and finance, as well as for ecology, in terms of system transitions, societal and ecological transformations.
Long-term success, however, also requires a ‘solution design’ approach involving business, government, academia, NGOs and intermediaries who able to offer bridging and brokering services. In practice, that means matching possibilities with social needs and pro-active attention to negative side effects. The overall goal is therefore to produce solutions that:
i) Address underlying problems instead of symptoms
ii) Achieve long-term impacts rather that short-term gains
iii) Avoid unintentional negative consequences.
Solution design takes note of the politics of transformative change and the important role of intermediaries for spanning boundaries. The expected outcome consists of a deeper understanding of the multi-stakeholder governance aspects of multiple-value creation as an integrated, multi-sector strategy for sustainable development and a data-based overview of the links between a low-carbon economy, digital economy, circular economy and the economy of the common good.
At present, the energy transition and shift to a circular economy are being pursued separately because of narrow partnerships and narrow value perspectives – which is simply not sustainable. The SDG agenda is meant to counter this, but lacks actionable models of solution design. Our objectives are to use measurement and mapping of the links (or missing links) between different green economy models, business solutions, and (participatory) case-based research to identify problems with sub-optimisation. We will then offer actionable insights and pathways for policy, research, industry and finance — as well as for innovators, practitioners, students and citizens — to engage actively in multiple-value system transitions, societal and ecological transformations.