About this project

How Can Business Accelerate Innovative Solutions to the Climate Challenge?

A confluence of factors makes the issue of low-carbon innovation particularly relevant today. As the U.S. recovers from a deep and prolonged recession, many economists and analysts view innovation, particularly innovation in low-carbon energy, as a key pathway toward sustained economic growth. 

Our project is a research effort to identify and highlight the most effective methods used by companies today to bring low-carbon technologies and solutions to market. The focus is on accelerating the business innovation needed to achieve significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions while contributing to economic growth. 

The project explores the best practices of companies that have successfully brought low-carbon solutions to market in the face of unprecedented technological, political, and market uncertainties. Among the questions the project seeks to explore are how companies identify promising low-carbon innovation opportunities and bring them to market; the characteristics of the successful innovations themselves, the people who commercialize them, the management systems that nurture them and the customers who buy them, and the critical internal and external drivers and barriers to success.

The research culminated in a report launched October 26 that summarizes lessons learned from leading companies bringing low-carbon innovations to a wide range of markets, presents a set of practical lessons for companies pursuing low-carbon innovation strategies, and distills insights on how to further advance low-carbon business innovation. This project is conducted in partnership with Hewlett-Packard


Project Activities

Key research activities include:

  1. Survey: We distributed a 27-question survey to nearly 70 leading companies. The survey was designed to gather key quantitative data, identify trends, and gauge current activities, priorities and challenges in executing corporate low-carbon innovation strategies. Check out the key findings of the survey results.
  2. Workshops: To help inform the research effort, we held three Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) workshops that brought together representatives from leading businesses (including from outside the BELC), the financial community, and government officials to discuss their efforts on different aspects of low-carbon innovation. These workshops explored challenges and opportunities in specific sectors of the economy including in the electric power, transportation, defense, and financial sectors.
  3. Report: In October 2011, we published a comprehensive report on best practices and insights into how to further advance low-carbon business innovation. The report, Business of Innovating: Bringing Low-Carbon Solutions to Market, summarizes key findings from the survey and workshops and features in-depth case studies of eight low-carbon innovations from four multinational corporations. The report is authored by Andrew Hargadon, the Charles J. Soderquist Chair in Entrepreneurship and Professor of Technology Management at the Graduate School of Management at University of California, Davis and a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.
  4. Conference: We released the report at an invitation-only conference in Atlanta on October 25-26, 2011. Through panel discussions and engaging keynote addresses, participants will learn how leading companies pursue low-carbon innovation, including managing political and regulatory uncertainty, strategic relationships and partnerships, reimagining their value proposition, and leadership that cultivates innovation.
  5. Post-Conference: In partnership with EDF’s Innovation Exchange, DIG IN and the Green Innovators in Business Network (GIBN), C2ES co-hosted a “Business of Innovating” Solutions Lab on December 8, 2011. Learn more about the event and download speaker presentations.
  6. Low-Carbon Innovation Forum: On April 24, C2ES will host a forum exploring the roles business and government play in advancing low-carbon innovation. Click here for more information about the event.


To learn more about this project, please contact Meg Crawford at (703) 516-4146.

In partnership with: