The Greek economy, part of the hardly hit by the debt crisis Eurozone countries, has seen its annual growth rates falling from an average of 3-4% since 2004. The on-going financial crisis inevitably affected all economic sectors, local business and labour market. On the other hand, the financial downturn has provided the impetus for a comprehensive and structural reform, aimed at the development of a healthier investment and business environment, including among others faster licensing procedures, a better focused investment law and the liberalisation of a number of markets; however the implementation of these structural changes is still at an early stage.
The uncertainty of the economic and social environment seems to have further enhanced the openness of the Greek businesses and society to new concepts; however, the majority of indices measuring innovation rank the country below the EU27 average, showing particular difficulties in the implementation of new ideas. Greece seems to be performing better in the promotion of new to the firm products or processes, as well as to organisational innovation.
Eco-innovation is not an exception to the above. Despite the crisis, public funding available for eco-innovation investments has increased (Structural Funds), while the availability of scientific and research personnel has remained adequate, even though often lacks sufficient business experience. Availability of eco-innovation inputs is expected to be further improved in the future; the Greek National Strategic Framework for Research and Innovation (NSFRI) is based on a global target for R&D public spending at 2 % of GDP in 2020, while at the same time anticipates that research will be primarily focused on selected priority areas, with `Environment´ already being identified as a prominent sector, in line with the national strategic objective for Green Growth.
It shows relatively better performance in company level eco-innovation activities targeting energy and material efficiency improvement. Furthermore, Greece ranks among the five top EU performers in energy productivity of its economy. Food and chemical industries are showed to be more active in promoting eco-innovative products and processes. Present policy priorities and strategic developments indicate the following emerging lead markets with a good potential for eco-innovation: the waste management sector (recycling, treatment, re-use), the green tourism industry; the green banking services. Eco-innovation is not explicitly framed in the policy agenda of Greece; its elements are somewhat captured by general innovation and S&T policy strategies and the availability of eco-innovation inputs is expected to grow in the future. At the same time, there are regulatory and policy restrictions in business exploitation of eco-innovative concepts.
Carbon Neutral Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Material flow and marketing innovation in the food processing sector.
Gaea´s products intent to access the international quality food market, offering high quality traditional, authentic and innovative Greek specialty food products, with an environment friendly character. Material flow eco-innovation is linked with Gaea´s Extra Virgin Olive Oils, which were the first in the world to be certified as Carbon Neutral, while maintaining their high quality characteristics, featuring only 0,3 - 0,4% acidity. Through the calculation of CO2 emissions-carbon footprint in the life cycle of olives, the company is committed to gradually interfere in all harmful for the environment practices involved in olive oil production - from cultivation to the shelves of the markets, in order to reduce CO2 emissions year per year, while at the same time producing a high quality extra virgin olive oil. Marketing innovation refers to the placement of the product in a niche market, certified as climate neutral, having zero energy footprint (carbon footprint).
Market demand (niche market): The perception that eco-conscious shoppers are looking for products that do more than simply fulfil their daily needs, by demanding companies to offer environmentally and socially responsible products, acted as a motivation for producing olive oils according to specific environmental rules was.
Cost: competition is in a position to offer products of similar quality characteristics, but with higher environmental impact, at lower prices.
Knowledge: Know-how for the calculation of the olive´s life-cycle carbon footprint was not available in-house; external assistance was provided in the application of scientific and technological tools (based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard) by the Center for Sustainability (CSE) and Myclimate organization.
Gaea, recognizing the severity of Climate change, has minimized its impact on the climate through offsetting the carbon emissions of its olive oil products in co-operation with the Swiss organization Myclimate. It calculated the amount of carbon emissions produced per kg of olive oil and compensated it by funding protection projects through the myclimate foundation. Moreover, the calculation of the carbon emission throughout the life-cycle of olive oil provided an opportunity for several environmental improvements to be made in the cultivation and transportation of olive oils, the production and bottling, as well as the final distribution to the retail network. The initiative may benefit in the future from relevant R&D efforts in olive waste management, that are currently under way in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, such as the PROSODOL project, funded under Life+.