Social innovation for sustainable development: assessing current trends

Walter Leal Filho, Barbara Fritzen, Valeria Ruiz Vargas, Arminda Paço, Qiong Zhang, Federica Doni, Anabela Marisa Azul, Claudio R.P. Vasconcelos*, Ioannis E. Nikolaou, Antonis Skouloudis, Marzenna Anna Weresa, Magdalena Marczewska, Elizabeth Price, Rosley Anholon, Izabela Rampasso, Osvaldo Quelhas, Amanda Lange Salvia, Pinar Gokcin Ozuyar, Sara Moggi, Yenchun Jim Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Innovation is believed to be a key driver of societal and economic well-being. In many cases, it has also led to more sustainable lifestyles and a more efficient use of natural resources. But despite the relevance of innovation as a tool to support sustainable development, there is a need for research that analyses current trends in order to guide future efforts. The present paper addresses this research need. It examines existing methods and tools for fostering social innovation in matters related to sustainable development, within the framework of the SDGs. By means of an online survey undertaken among sustainability and innovation experts in a sample of industrialised and developing nations, this study has identified some of the means via which social innovation is being pursued, along with its applications and limitations. A number of case studies showing examples of sustainable innovation have been mapped to demonstrate its usefulness. A causal loop diagram, which links the factors associated with social innovation within the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is also presented, offering a greater understanding of their interconnections. The paper concludes by outlining some measures that may help to take better advantage of the many opportunities offered by social innovation that put the principles of sustainable development into practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-322
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • SDGs
  • Social innovation
  • barriers
  • case studies
  • survey
  • sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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