Crowdsourcing Sustainability: Big Ideas for Small Companies

Jul 6, 2010   //   by Colin Manuel   //   Leadership  //  No Comments

Small companies can level the innovation playing field with crowdsourcing.Ever meet someone who’s better at finding problems than solutions? It’s easy to spot the weaknesses in your sustainability strategy. But it’s far more difficult to find the time and talent to solve these issues in a small or medium-sized company.

Thankfully, the rise of crowdsourcing websites dramatically expands your ability to find ideas for solutions that are friendly to both your business and the earth.

“Nobody is as Smart as Everybody”

A combination of “crowd” and “outsourcing”, you can think of crowdsourcing as distributed problem solving.  It’s a recognition that the best expert for your problem may not be found within your company. After identifying the problem, companies broadcast it online, often with an incentive that drives novel approaches to their problem.

Crowdsourcing in Action: Levi’s & MyooCreate Partner for a Better Jeans

Recently, Levi’s conducted a life cycle analysis to find out where its denim jeans most impacted the environment. While most people focus on the product, Levi’s discovered that the washing and drying consumes the most resources during the lifetime of a pair of jeans. How could Levi’s reduce this impact?

With this question in mind, Levi’s turned to Myoo Create — an online community for environmental and social innovation. Myoo posted Levi’s “Care to Air Challenge” to its online community with a top prize of $4,500. The challenge has already yielded more than 50 potential solutions. The deadline for this challenge is July 31, so you can still vote on submissions or submit your own idea.

If your idea is selected as the winner, you can win whatever prize that company posted to the contest.

4 Steps to Make Crowdsourcing Work for You

  1. Pinpoint your problem area. Being able to describe your problem in simple terms will help people think of better solutions
  2. Broadcast your challenge. If an organized approach, such as MyooCreate, Innocentive or Idea Crossing, is too much for you right now, try holding small-scale contests on Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Engage with your entrants. Tell people what you think about their solutions. If they’re not all practical, try to find at least one element that you can praise.
  4. Pick a winner and publicize the results. Draft a press release for local papers and PR websites, such as OpenPR, PRWeb or You’ll help your winner feel good about their work for much less than a consultant would have charged.

If you’ve postponed action because you didn’t think you have the resources to solve big problems, now’s the time to open your doors to the world. With crowdsourcing, you’ll expand your talent pool, engage your customers and tackle problems in unimaginably innovative ways.

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