Submitted by Kohler
Innovation for Good® (IfG) is Kohler’s in-house start-up incubator for developing business opportunities to address pressing environmental and social issues. Our associates participate in IfG to demonstrate their passion for innovation and social impact.
Through IfG, Kohler has provided funding for new products and services related to using materials recycled from our manufacturing processes, such as the KOHLER WasteLAB®, discussed in the Better Planet chapter. Output of IfG has also resulted in the development of new products focused on providing safe water and safe sanitation, like the KOHLER Relief Shower Trailer and KOHLER® Rinse pail-flush toilet. Through IfG, Kohler is continuing its focus on WaSH and is developing solutions including off-grid sanitation to address open defection in dense urban environments and universally adaptable hands-free handwashing in regions dealing with water scarcity, and more.
The IfG incubator launched the annual I-Prize Challenge in 2018. In support of IfG, Kohler holds a competition each year inviting associates to bring their bold thinking and to propose innovative new products and solutions addressing key social or environmental challenges. These have included innovative solutions for safe water and sanitation, which were discussed in the Better Communities chapter. Winning ideas receive incubation funding and, upon further concept development, may be mainstreamed into Kohler’s business. Each year the I-Prize generates energy and excitement among our associates around the world.
In 2022 the I-Prize took on the theme of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to address the materials, water, and energy needed to source, produce, operate, and dispose of existing and future products. In total, 118 associates worked in teams to generate 27 ideas. Across the globe, 27 teams competed for I-Prize, spending 3,600 hours on incubation. We hosted three fast-paced global innovation workshops to encourage associate ideation and break down the barriers to encourage all associates to see how innovation fits into their roles at Kohler. Of this year’s global I-Prize participants, 25% were women, a truly diverse group of innovators.
The 2022 judging process identified 12 finalist teams, six of which advanced directly into the business to join new or existing new product development projects. These innovative ideas addressed topics such as reducing packaging waste, lowering GHG emissions on shipping, and a water-saving showerhead. Three other ideas were declared I-Prize winners and received Innovation for Good® incubation funds totaling $100,000. These projects included developing packaging solutions using more environmentally friendly material and exploring a product circularity and end-of-life program.
Since the inception of the I-Prize in 2018, 491 Kohler associates and 108 global teams have participated in the competition. There have been 17 innovation ideas winning incubator funds totaling $1.03 million since 2018, with four innovations mainstreamed into the business since the program’s inception.
Global 2022 I-Prize
27 ideas generated teams
3 teams awarded incubation funding
$100K provided by Kohler to support Incubation
1 global challenge
At Kohler innovation goes beyond engaging our associates to generate ideas; we are committed to seeing these ideas through to commercialization. Associates who win the I-Prize Challenge are awarded incubation funding and are paired with an executive business coach and the Innovation for Good team over 6–12 months to help develop the ideas and drive them into the business. This ensures that as ideas develop, they are aligned to key business needs, existing strategies, and market opportunities. In addition, each I-Prize team who receives funding presents to a series of executives from all businesses at the end of the year following incubation to share their progress, their learnings, and ultimately make a recommendation to those leaders for the best next step for their concept. Associates who win the I-Prize Challenge are empowered as key leaders within our organization driving innovation and ultimately business adoption of their concepts.
“As someone who strives for change for the better, becoming a part Kohler I-Prize propelled my career forward. The support, resources, experience, and networking opportunities were endless. I cannot wait to continue Believing in Better for 2023!”
Engineer – B-Line
“I was delighted when the moonshot of an idea from our team curried favor with the Kohler I-Prize this year, enabling us to pursue our vision and take a chance at something way outside of Kohler’s core business as usual.”
VP - Innovation, Heila
IGNITING INNOVATION IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY
In 2022 Kohler also brought our culture of innovation to an external audience by hosting the inaugural M-Prize Challenge in partnership with Marquette University. Kohler challenged Marquette undergraduate students to develop and pitch their own unique ideas for how to design more inclusive kitchen and bathroom products. Efforts kicked off with an innovation session at Kohler’s headquarters to learn more about why designing for inclusivity is important. Students then received coaching and worked in teams to gain a firsthand understanding of physical challenges the aging population faces plus how to brainstorm and pitch innovative solutions. With support from Kohler’s K&B Advanced Development team, as well as experts in marketing, finance, innovation coaching, corporate engagement, and Marquette’s Office of University Relations, each team competed to win the coveted M-Prize.
100 BEST WORKPLACES FOR INNOVATORS
Kohler was recognized by Fast Company as one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators, landing at #10 on the 2022 list, as well as winner of the Sustainability category and a finalist in the Large Companies category. We were also recognized in Fast Company’s 2022 Innovation by Design awards program, ranking in multiple categories. We received an honorable mention in the Design Company of the Year category. The Abstra™ Collection tile was named the winner of the Materials category and an honorable mention in the Circular Design, General Excellence, and Sustainability categories. Our collaboration with artist Daniel Arsham on the innovative Rock.01 3D-printed sink was named a finalist in the Home category. The Verdera® Display mirrored cabinet, available in China, was an honorable mention in the Home and Wellness category.
“I hope to create seismic shifts in the products and experiences I help to create in the world.”
Marketing Manager and member of Kohler BLK Catalyst, our Black community and allies business resource group
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