Israel's Burgeoning Sustainable Innovation

Israel's Burgeoning Sustainable Innovation
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From the world's most environmentally recycled paper to cutting-edge water shortage solutions, sustainable healthcare, energy conservation and the green construction and infrastructure of the future, Israel continues to make strides in sustainable innovation, living up to its status as the world's top innovator in the field of clean technologies by the Global Cleantech 100 Index.

Israel has a wealth of experience and expertise in fields like advanced agriculture, water technologies, drip irrigation, renewable energy and high-tech, but it is also a tiny country, with limited resources. So how has it emerged as a leader in sustainable innovation?

First and foremost, Israel's surge within environmental innovation stemmed from a need; a need for a solution to problems like drinking water shortages or agricultural solutions in the Negev desert. It was out of this necessity to innovate that Israel has pioneered its way to the forefront of environmental sustainability.

Take Mekorot for example, the national water company of Israel and the country's top agency for water management. In the face of one of Israel's most significant environmental and security challenges, the organization now provides a steady flow of clean water to a rapidly growing population despite the region's limited freshwater resources, amid climate and difficult geopolitical realities. The problem of drinking water shortages in Israel has in fact been solved and the organization is even working with companies in Southern California, India, Cyprus and Uganda to spread its desalination practices to similar climates to help them recycle water most effectively.

Or take Netafim, an Israeli pioneer of drip and micro-irrigation products for agriculture, greenhouse, landscape and mining applications. From its roots as a kibbutz company experimenting with ways to save water to its current status as a worldwide innovator in drip irrigation technology. Simply put, there was a need within Israel to innovate locally. Now we see them going global and it's working because it is an issue many countries are dealing with.

Secondly, Israel is a small country. Counterproductive you might think, but in fact this proved to be a key component in Israel's ability to operate efficiently, tying up the necessary knots together quickly. Size and accessibility make these companies flourish. Networks are very much beginning to materialize because of this. International perspectives and investors come and visit to learn more and look for the solutions here with us. The scale and size of Israel makes it much easier to connect all the dots.

Finally, there's passion. This might seem strange to allude to, but similar to the necessity of producing such innovation, also comes a greater purpose in what Israeli innovators are striving towards. I recall watching a field manager at work during a visit to Mekorot. You could see in his eyes this deep sense of value and purpose to what he was doing - you don't usually find this type of attitude at Government-owned companies. There's an inherent passion within Israelis to create and participate in something that will not only affect the greater good around the world but also be able to see the extent of the value personally.

Israeli innovation continues to establish links with companies in developing countries themselves, but is still only at the beginning of this process. Indeed, the country has garnered a reputation for itself in recent years as the "Start-up Nation". However, this is an identity born out of innovation in the fields of information and communications technology (ICT), defense and cyberspace. Such networks have yet to be established and collectively focused within the sustainability context.

For Israel to really reach its potential we have to invest more within sustainable innovation. We need to encourage our youth to study the industries and provide ample opportunity for them take an interest in the likes of agriculture and science, rather than seeing ICT as the only path. I remember when I was at school myself and agricultural studies were taken off the curriculum as it wasn't viewed as attractive enough. Thanks to organizations such as Adama, one of the world's leading crop protection companies based in southern Israel, strategic connections between the professional industry and community involvement is starting to taking place. Working with the local authorities and the Ministry of Education, the company has instigated change through multi-sector cooperation and has addressed the promotion of pupils toward personal and research excellence in the fields of science and agricultural studies. This will boost Israel's sustainability industry from a bottom-up approach, providing the field with qualified professionals who understand the intricacies and technological implications. There needs to be more scaling up, increased collaboration between companies and across sectors. Only then will we see Israel providing sustainable solutions in developing markets around the world and making the impact it does in fields such as defense.

This week, Israel's CSR standards-setting organization, Maala hosted its first-ever Israeli CSR Experience Conference, gathering leaders from Israel's business community and key international opinion formers in the sustainability and CSR community. We took great pride in showcasing the innovation Israel continues to produce and hope to bring the industry together as one multidisciplinary force to continue growing and instigating change globally.

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