Alyssa Thorp




Plus X


Plus X

Radical collaboration, starting with iterative change, not focusing on perfection, and simply talking to each other are some of the key insights for accelerating sustainable innovation that came out of last week’s Better World Collective Innovation Summit by Plus X.

Better World Collective is a Plus X initiative that brings together corporates that have sustainable innovation challenges with the startups and innovators that hold the solutions. As part of our corporate innovation arm, Better World Collective is also a peer-to-peer learning network that enables the sharing of open innovation best practice and learnings around open innovation across industries, enabling accelerated impact in sustainable innovation.

Read on to find out the day went, and the main learnings uncovered during the Summit.

Collaboration in Action

Kicking off the two-part event was multinational energy company OMV, who challenged Plus X to connect them with disruptors and innovators in food, packaging, and inventory management. After an in-depth scouting process, we facilitated meetings with six scaleups to address the sustainability initiatives on OMV’s agenda.

Attendees discussing innovation at the Better World Collective Innovation Summit

Julia Benbow, Change Management & Organisational Development Downstream Digitalisation at OMV opened the floor by sharing her insights on the company’s purpose, and how they live this by reinventing the essentials for sustainable living. Julia noted that collaboration and innovation is fundamental to their transformation to Net Zero by 2050.

Face-to-face meetings and the opportunity to speak directly to the innovators is consistently valued by Better World Collective event attendees. Each scouted scaleup had the opportunity to match their solution to the different challenges presented by pitching their solution. This was followed by one-to-one meetings with different departments across OMV.

Corporates and startups collaborating at the Better World Collective Innovation Summit

Julia Benbow said that her key takeaway during this process was learning how to open up conversation and share ideas, even if the obvious answer is not immediately presented. She said:

“We had really interesting sessions with these hand-picked startups and scaleups, who have experience in areas that are challenging us. Hearing their different takes and working through a hierarchy of different opportunities and the different solutions to our problem at different stages in the process was stimulating and interesting and they were a well picked and well thought through. They had some fabulous solutions.

“It then gave us the chance to think about how they fit into our organisation. The Better World Collective event was a really useful way of having a dialog of chatting and meeting people and getting into some specifics and being very personal about that.

“Just the exploring of the conversation and the sharing of the ideas, bringing a number of other people from our organisation along to be able to get their different perspectives was incredibly helpful.”

We look forward to following the connections formed during this part of the event and seeing the impact made.

Inspired Honesty

To facilitate further collaboration, we invited industry experts into the room to expand on the discussion of the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and collaboration. The room was filled with key players in the sustainability and innovation sector and open innovation was on the agenda.

Toby Kress, Programmes Lead at Plus X, speaking at the Better World Collective Innovation Summit

Toby Kress, Programmes Director at Plus X kicked off the event by encouraging everyone in the room to take advantage of the great minds and knowledge around them, and to also give generously by openly sharing insights.

And giving generously is exactly what the crowd did. Participants commented on the inspired level of honesty amongst their corporate peers in the room and the sense of comradery formed around mutual innovation challenges.

Speakers Saasha Celestrial-One, Founder at OLIO, the world’s first food sharing app, and Barry Waddilove, Sustainability Director at Electrolux set the scene for the afternoon.

Attendees watching the presenations at the Better World Collective Innovation Summit

Attendees from John Lewis, Costa Coffee, Unilever, Kimberly Clark, Deloitte Digital, PWC and more leaned in enthusiastically to gather insights and inspiration to accelerate their innovation efforts in their business. Together, they explored how they can work better with startups and innovative technologies, and swapped the tips and tricks that have worked to push innovation initiatives over the line.

Speaker Saasha Celestial-One inspired the room by sharing OLIO’s journey, the impact of their corporate partnerships, and the potential impact if more corporate partners were open to conversations.

“It’s about getting a foot in the door and having that conversation,” she said, challenging several old and new potential partners in the room to start moving in the direction of collaboration with them.

Barry Waddilove shared his thoughts on the need for whole system design and some of the initiatives they are working with startup and corporate partners on to exact change in the reuse and recycling space.

Peer-to-peer Learning

Taking advantage of learning from all the great minds in the room, each table was challenged with a question to discuss focused at the intersection of sustainability, collaboration, and innovation.

The room lit up with conversations around what a great startup partner looks like, how historical greenwashing claims have impacted sustainability strategy, the biggest barriers to embedding innovative technology into your business, and the best strategies to gain internal stakeholder buy in for innovation.

Attendees sharing their innovation insights at the Better World Collective Innovation Summit

A volunteer on each table provided feedback on the insights that sparked dialogue in their circle, giving the room a peek inside important conversations, and diverse ways of thinking about challenges and finding solutions.

Standout insights included that radical collaboration is needed between both corporates,  and between corporates and startups to accelerate impact. Teams also discussed the importance of shared values and good working relationships in collaborative partnerships, the tension between sustainability initiatives and communicating these to consumers, and nervousness about acknowledging their sustainability journey for fear of facing greenwashing accusations.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, our panellists brilliantly shared a summary of the day’s agenda and findings:

  1. “Start with iterative change and don’t focus on perfection.” – Saasha Celestial-One, Founder at OLIO
  2. “Innovation is on a spectrum and means different things to different people and organisations” – Craig Smith, Research and Development Director at PANGAIA
  3. “Simply, talk to each other. Startups want the conversation; they want to get in the room with the corporates so they can talk through how they can help. Startups are agile, and quick – take advantage of that” – Nikki Stones, VP Marketing at CleanHub
  4. “Listen, adapt, and find compromises. We need to be open with one another in order to build an initial sense of trust. Then moving into a more detailed set of activities where we’re really trying to dig into the problems and reveal new truths that will unlock the problems will help us all move forward together” – Mat Hunter, Co-CEO at Plus X

To stay up-to-date with news from Better World Collective and future events, sign up here, and follow our Plus X Corporate Innovation page on LinkedIn.

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