Exploring and stimulating green innovation in the tourism and experience economy are the main objectives of a joint innovation programme, launched recently by Nordic Innovation and the OECD. 15 companies, providing a wide spectrum of experiences to their customers, were present at the programme’s Nordic kick-off seminar, held in Copenhagen on June 22.
Building on successful use of the Innovation Radar
Business Model Innovation in the Tourism and Experience Industry is a groundbreaking project on green innovation, initiated by Nordic Innovation and the OECD. The project will apply the Innovation Radar tool, developed by Kellogg School of Management, to analyse innovation in the sector.
- Using the Innovation Radar allows us to go into the grain of management of Nordic tourism and experience companies and explore how green innovation can improve their return on investment. We hope to reach a breakthrough in terms of thinking innovation in the sector, making the green dimension an integrated part of the companies’ business models, says Jørn Bang Andersen, Senior Innovation Adviser from Nordic Innovation.
The Innovation Radar will be adapted specifically to the programme, adding factors indicating and enhancing green innovation to the model. According to Bang Andersen, it will be the first systemic tool that focuses simultaneously on innovation and the green dimension in its analysis.
Green thinking a natural feature of innovation
His colleague, Petra Nilsson-Andersen, explains that with the adjustments to the radar, the project will illustrate the participating companies’ current level of innovation and identify the main drivers for successful green innovation efforts.
- Thinking green should be a very natural feature of the innovation process. The results from the BMI project will help the companies adjusting their business models in accordance to market needs, identifying the opportunities in green innovation and using it to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, Nilsson-Andersen says.
Carefully selected participants
The participating companies have been carefully selected by an advisory group, consisting of representatives from the national Nordic tourism organisations and the OECD Tourism Committee Secretariat.
- We distributed information about the programme to local tourism offices in areas that are known to be particularly active in sustainable tourism and green innovation. Followingly, our local partners nominated candidates suitable for participation, which allowed us to select motivated and interesting companies for the project. The results will be distributed to the regional tourism offices to increase the awareness and motivation regarding the importance of green innovation, says Åsa Stengel Egrelius from Visit Sweden.
Håkon Christensen from Innovation Norway sees large potential in using the Innovation Radar to point tourism and experience companies towards more concentrated, green innovation efforts.
- The presentation of the radar shows that a lot can be gained for both SMEs and larger enterprises. The radar allows them to map their current innovation position and see how they can innovate differently, Christensen says.
15 companies from the Nordic region and 15 from other OECD countries will participate in the project.
Varied sustainable tourism initiatives presented
The kick-off seminar took place at Scandic Hotel, which was recently awarded the Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize 2011. Communication Manager, Anette Larsen, presented Scandic’s many sustainability initiatives at the event.
- We started developing our sustainability programme in 1993 and have really come a long way. The challenge now is to accomplish the last 4-5% by continuing to be innovative, and to ensure this constant improvement you need some energy and inspiration from others. That is what we are hoping to get from the BMI programme, Larsen says.
Each of the representatives at the seminar also made a short introduction of their companies, ranging from smaller companies focussing on nature-based experiences to some of the best-known Nordic tourism brands. This provided interesting views and examples of sustainability and green innovation in tourism.
Thinking like the Moomins
One of the participants is the Moomin World, a Finnish theme park based on the characters and philosophy from the popular Moomin books by Tove Jansson.
- The Moomins are environmentally friendly and their values are very good values, everybody can accept them. We have been thinking like the Moomins from the start, and this has allowed us to become an example of how to work in a green, sustainable way, says Managing Director Tomi Lohikoski, who hopes that the participation will lead to considerable progress in the park’s innovation.
- We have to keep pushing our limits and think in new ways. The radar seems to be a very interesting way of looking at our business, changing the way of thinking and innovating in the park and even creating new businesses, Lohikoski says.
Green innovation adds value for all
The project aims to do away with the myth of sustainable tourism and green innovation as being something costly and exclusive.
- Why should it be more expensive to be green? It has been a problem for tourism and many other industries that being green is associated with increased cost. The real essence of innovation is to come up with better solutions at better prices, using fewer resources. The green aspect should therefore be seen as an improvement to existing business models to the benefit of both the companies and their customers, Jørn Bang Andersen concludes.