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THRIVE Framework: Values-Based Innovation



Values-based innovation is an extremely important aspect of trying to create a world which is sustainable, and indeed, Thrivable. Values-based innovation as an approach seeks to act as a guiding standard. It brings together strategies infused with a common ethical basis and shared values. These strategies are the vehicle by which the quest for sustainability, and by extension, Thrivability are enabled. The requirement for these shared values is essential on multiple levels.

Values-based innovation is more than just innovation. It means creative problem-solving with values in mind.
Values-based innovation is more than just innovation. It means creative problem-solving with values in mind.
Source: Freepik.

What is values-based innovation?

Values-based innovation acts as a centralising platform and basis of psychological and socio-political motivation to enable effective change. It pursues efforts upon the basis of common values. These values are understood and consistent, and not in isolation to one another or contradictory in any way. These instead should be pluralistically complimentary of one another and consistent in underpinning a central and shared value system. According to the ISPIM, European companies see sustainability challenges and human values as drivers towards innovation (Breuer, et al, 2021). Therefore, sustainability-based issues and the ethical and values-based considerations by stakeholders, are not constraints. Values as a driving impetus influence many areas, from ESG to integrated reporting.

A Study

A study conducted regarding the relevance of values in sustainability-minded entrepreneurs, found that a value base was a significant driver of personal commitment to sustainability. It also found that the relevance in underlying commitment was significant (Gangnon, 2012). The values of a company can provide insight into the values held by relevant stakeholders. Values can also enable greater capacity for innovation, which simultaneously allows profit to coincide with ecological and social values. Values can be a win for the environment and society, as well as for innovation (Breuer, et al, 2017). 

Open Innovation

Post-heroic management cultures aim to reduce the focus on leadership and instead promote a bottom-up approach to foster innovation. In contrast, the open innovation paradigm approach seeks to allow external ideas to shape and influence the internal views and innovations of companies (Breuer, et al, 2018). Both can be beneficial in that they allow for concerns for environmental and social sustainability to influence the capacity for innovation by companies. This can be seen in normative, strategic and operational innovation and its management (Breuer, et al, 2018). This facilitates the emergence of more innovative approaches that simultaneously address the external values of stakeholders.

An Explanation of Values-Based Innovation

There are a few obstacles when attempting to translate values-based innovation into a culture infused within companies and education systems. Case studies and macro-economic perspectives dominate existing scientific discourse (Breuer, et al, 2021). There are also other drawbacks when it comes to education systems. For instance, the lack of maturity of academic theory for educators to fall back on. A comprehensive and cohesive approach must underpin the way shared ecological and social values influence innovation. 

Innovative Cultures

The ISPIM SIG seeks to establish new values-based innovation cultures for organisations to use in addressing many of the sustainability-oriented goals and SDGs (ISPIM 2023). This is also relevant when it comes to the involvement of stakeholders in determining shared values. Involvement of stakeholders can evolve and change. When addressing ecological, environmental, and social issues, stakeholders should enact these changes in accordance with their values (Pranskune, 2022). Furthermore, these changes can include the integration of very different and even “opposing” values to address a range of different areas. For instance, integration of ethical values such as ecological innovation by green values, and social innovation by social values can enable responsible innovation. Together, these can contribute to addressing social and environmental problems.

governing Bodies, organisations, and values-based innovation

The nature and agenda of recent sustainability-oriented innovation from governments have not adequately addressed values-based innovation. Therefore, many ill-equipped organisations have difficulty incorporating such focuses as drivers of performance. Similarly, ill-equipped educators and curricula have difficulty drawing upon mature and significant related resources (Breuer, et al, 2021). Infusing values-based approaches within governmental, educational, and organisational processes allows for negating and minimising drawbacks.

According to one study, three key needs and challenges exist. These are:

  • The need to aggregate and disseminate empirical understanding, as well as methods and barriers concerning sustainability-oriented innovation.
  • The need to establish sustainability-oriented innovation cultures in business, and how to train values-based innovation approaches within business.
  • How to deliver sustainability-oriented innovation and values-based innovation in education systems. In particular for students and teachers to possess advanced education methods and real problem-based materials to facilitate teaching and learning. (Breuer, et al, 2021)

Educational Models for Values-Based Innovation

One approach to address challenges is to create a model to assist universities in educating students and organisations on how to facilitate values-based innovation. In developing this model, three additional competencies were discovered which led to the establishment of a values network. These were: sense-making, forecasting, and meta-competence of orchestration (Faccin, et al, 2022). This demonstrates the different factors that contribute to the establishment of values-based innovation networks. These three additional competencies also demonstrate how they can guide implementation of values-based innovation approaches.

It is also significant that values-based innovation exists beyond the boundaries of an organisation. It is central to innovation within and beyond organisational boundaries. Values-based innovation can also present values as the “source, level, and orientation mark” for innovation strategies. The desirable nature of values can be brought from the periphery to instead act as the central basis of an organisation’s value creation (Breuer, et al, 2015).  

Examples Of Values-Based Innovation

Who Gives A Crap?

Who Gives A Crap is a distinctive brand with a mission to enhance toilet access in the world’s most impoverished areas by selling toilet paper. The founders were inspired to start the company upon realising that 40% of the global population lacks access to toilets, resulting in approximately 300,000 children dying annually from diseases related to inadequate toilet access and sanitation.

To address this issue, Who Gives A Crap produces toilet paper from recycled paper and bamboo and channels the profits to organisations working on installing toilets in underserved areas. By using sustainable materials and directing profits toward a charitable cause, Who Gives A Crap is making a dual impact. This commitment is ingrained in the brand’s ethos, with its purpose serving as a guiding principle for all aspects of the business, including profit motives.

Single Use Ain’t Sexy

Single Use Aint Sexy, a one-year-old brand from Australia, is on a mission to combat human plastic waste by introducing a reusable plastic bottle along with soap tablets. Josh Howard, the CEO and founder, was motivated by the goal of reducing the daily accumulation of single-use plastic bottles in landfills.

The brand created a non-plastic soap bottle specifically designed for convenient refilling with tap water and their soap tablet. Instead of repeatedly buying new soap bottles, users can opt for a soap tablet, fill the reusable bottle with water, and insert the tablet, offering a sustainable solution to the issue of single-use plastic consumption.

Despite being in existence for just a year, Single Use Ain’t Sexy has already prevented more than 125,000 plastic bottles from contributing to landfills. This underscores the product’s popularity and the evident demand from the community.

“If you build a purpose-built business, then you don’t have to worry about marrying the business and product. They are one and the same. Scaling up the business will also scale the impact.”

Josh Howard (CEO and founder of Single Use Ain’t Sexy)


Thankyou, a brand with 12 years of history, offers consumers a product selection aimed at bringing an end to extreme poverty. With over 700 million people living in extreme poverty and an estimated $2.5 trillion needed to eradicate it by 2030, Thankyou seeks to bridge this gap by redirecting wealth from consumer spending. Considering the annual global consumer market is around $63 trillion, Thankyou aims to channel these resources to impactful change-makers, working towards a world where people don’t live in extreme poverty.

Their initial product, bottled water, was created with the purpose of providing a more meaningful choice in the market that contributes to bringing water to those in need. Thankyou acknowledges that bottled water is, by their own admission, a “silly product” that they believe shouldn’t exist. However, while it does, they strive to find a solution that benefits both humanity and the planet within the industry.

Moving Forward

The importance of values-based innovation is that the approach demands a universalised framework to guide innovation by companies. It guides companies through ways in which they can incorporate ecological and social issues into the basis of their innovation. This enables a means by which values are not shaping operations in isolation to one another. Instead, academic theory is structured and given coherence, to solidify values-based approaches into relevant innovative approaches. Moreover, incentive is provided for companies to address ecological and social issues by infusing these values held by stakeholders into innovation. This allows the values-based innovation approach to compliment sustainability in a way which does not inhibit profit. But more importantly, values-based innovation allows approaches to remain within the parameters of a social floor and environmental ceiling. 

Why Is It Important We Focus On Values Based Innovation?

Focusing on values-based innovation is vital because it helps businesses operate ethically, build a positive reputation, engage employees, and create products that benefit society. It also reduces risks, ensures regulatory compliance, and promotes long-term sustainability. By aligning innovation with values, companies can adapt to challenges, build customer loyalty, and have a positive impact globally. In essence, it’s about doing good whilst doing well in business.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) And Values-Based Innovation

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.”

United Nations

Values-based innovation connects with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since it naturally highlights ethical, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable practices. Here are a few SDGs that align well with values-based innovation:

  • SDG 3: “Good Health and Well-being“. Values-based innovation can contribute by creating healthcare solutions, promoting healthy lifestyles, and addressing healthcare inequalities.
  • SDG 4: “Quality Education“. Innovations that focus on inclusive and accessible education, as well as those leveraging technology for educational purposes, align with this goal.
  • SDG 5: “Gender Equality“. Values-based innovation can support gender equality by addressing biases, promoting diversity and inclusion, and creating products and services that empower women.
  • SDG 7: “Affordable and Clean Energy“. Innovations in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices contribute to this goal.
  • SDG 8: “Decent Work and Economic Growth“. Values-based innovation can foster inclusive economic growth, fair labour practices, and the creation of decent job opportunities.
  • SDG 9: “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure“. Values-based innovation encourages sustainable and responsible business practices, fostering innovation that aligns with environmental and social considerations.
  • SDG 11: “Sustainable Cities and Communities“. Innovations related to smart cities, sustainable infrastructure, and technologies that improve urban living can contribute to this goal.
  • SDG 12: “Responsible Consumption and Production“. Values-based innovation encourages sustainable consumption patterns, waste reduction, and environmentally-friendly production processes.
  • SDG 13: “Climate Action“. Innovations that address climate change, promote renewable energy, and reduce environmental impact contribute to mitigating climate change.
  • SDG 16: “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions“. Values-based innovation can support this goal by promoting ethical business practices, transparency, and inclusivity, contributing to the development of just and accountable institutions.
  • SDG 17: “Partnerships for the Goals“. Values-based innovation often involves collaboration between various stakeholders, supporting the idea of partnerships for sustainable development.

These are just some of the main SDGs to consider, but it’s important to recognise that values-based innovation can make a broad impact, affecting several goals at once. The interconnected nature of the SDGs creates opportunities for collaboration between different areas of focus. Approaches grounded in values can play a role in an all-encompassing and unified approach to sustainable development.

A Thrivable Framework

Systemic Holistic Model

THRIVE, an acronym for The Holistic Regenerative Innovative Value Entity, serves as the foundational concept for the THRIVE Framework, a transdisciplinary modelling system that anticipates potential outcomes of actions in advance. The THRIVE Framework aims to assess the impact of current initiatives, facilitating the transformation of society toward a future that surpasses mere sustainability. It is the strategic tool for realising the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

12 Foundational Focus Factors (FFFs) underpin the THRIVE Framework. Furthermore, these FFFs are theories and guidelines. As a result of several years of comprehensive research, the 12 Foundational Focus Factors identify necessary and sufficient conditions to transition humanity beyond sustainability towards Thrivability

Sustainability is not just about surviving, but thriving. The 12 FFFs, along with the THRIVE platform, use backcasting to solve problems. Backcasting is like planning your dream future and then figuring out the steps to make it happen. It’s not just about predicting the future based on what’s going on now; it’s about working backward to set goals, tackle obstacles, and plan the actions needed. People often use it in sustainability planning to aim high and innovate ways to get there.

The Systemic Holistic Model brings together these 12 Foundational Focus Factors, which operate across four quadrants, working together to create Thrivable transformation. These quadrants are significance, shift, scale, and scope.

Entity Model

The FFF of Entity Model aims to navigate what entities can do. In fact, an entity can be anything from a small single-celled organism to the entire cosmos. Furthermore, these models shape the boundaries that outline their limits. THRIVE’s logo, a ciambella chart, outlines two important boundaries for humanity to adhere to. These boundaries consist of a social floor, representing the minimum for an entity’s survival, and an environmental ceiling, where resources are extracted from the environment at an unsustainable rate. Values-based innovation is about creating solutions based on values. For example, we care for our environment, so whatever solutions we come up with to mitigate climate change, will encompass the value of environmental care.

Regenerative Economy

Regenerative economy is one of THRIVE’s FFFs. A regenerative economy is an alternative approach to living within our Earth’s natural means while still providing for the Earth’s population. Furthermore, it is a business model that aims to maximise the value of resources while minimising waste by reusing them as much as possible. It’s three main principles are:

  • Elimination of waste and pollution 
  • Circulating products and materials at their highest value 
  • Regenerating nature

Of course, we all value our planet, environment, and our personal and extended ecosystems. This means everything residing in these areas will need to be geared towards regeneration. The planet isn’t just about us as individuals, communities, or nations. It’s about the future and future generations as well. Those of us living now have a responsibility towards the people that come after us. Even if we can’t be held accountable after we are dead, we still owe the future our best foot forward. The regenerative economy and values-based innovation work hand-in-hand to achieve this.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking, another FFF, is an approach that involves taking a holistic look at the range of existing challenges over time. Interactions between elements of the system can directly or indirectly affect its success or failure. Values-based innovation uses systems thinking to take a holistic approach to current situations and crises in order to evaluate and implement solutions that take into account our values.

Values-Based Innovation

Also one of THRIVE’s 12 FFFs is values-based innovation. Innovation grounded in values considers the principles that are most significant to us. These values encompass aspects such as human life, thriving societies and ecosystems, fairness, social justice, and other initiatives aimed at crafting a superior world. It is these core values that steer the innovation process, shaping the development of solutions for numerous intricate and challenging issues facing us.

This FFF sits within the shift quadrant of the Systemic Holistic Model. The Shift quadrant highlights how all sustainability approaches must move toward Thrivability. This accordingly requires consistent values, different expertise from different disciplines, and a circular sustainability approach. It shares this space with the systems thinking and regenerative economy FFFs.

Co-Create Innovate Based On Values With THRIVE

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