A shopping list of opportunities

Riikka Poukka, Manager, Deloitte Finland

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Shared value – doing well by doing good – was the buzzword of the early 2010s, after the famous Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer caught the attention of a wide business audience. Their thesis? That sustainability-related challenges pose huge threats to the societies of tomorrow. We can’t afford to leave these challenges unresolved – and, like it or not, perhaps the most lucrative business opportunities of the 21st century lie therein.

Simply put, sustainable business means turning sustainability challenges into business opportunities, be it about solving resource scarcity through circular business models or by providing education services to countries with low literacy rates. We can call it exporting education, we can call it circular economy, we can call it cleantech, we can call it diversity management – really it’s all about saving the planet, people and profit.

Today, I want to make the case for why my country is better positioned than any other to do well by doing good.

In 2016, Finland ranked first in the Social Progress Index, an index highlighting country performance on basic human needs, foundations for well-being, and indicators related to opportunity. The index itself can be seen as a summary of all the smallest common denominators of human beings – what we need to live, prosper and sustain human kind. It can also be seen as a list of global sustainability challenges.

As it happens, Finland not only scores better than the rest on these indicators. In fact, we are also amongst the global leaders in providing solutions to these problems. Take resource scarcity and rethinking waste: companies like Ekokem, Neste, ST1, Enevo lead the way globally. Take eco-efficiency and innovativeness in biomaterials: here we have the likes of Metsä, Stora Enso, UPM, Valmet, Outotec, Metso, Kemira – to name just a few. Take sustainable urbanization and logistics: Kone, Konecranes and Cargotec are among just some of the Finnish firms tacking these challenges. Or take education and opportunity: we have many interesting education-start-ups, Sanoma for example, different universities and more personal freedom than the citizens of any other country. 

I would like to finish with three points:

  1. We Finns have been able to crack on some of the most vicious sustainability challenges for our own part.
  2. Also, we (read: Finnish companies big and small) know how to help others do the same.
  3. Most countries are still struggling with catering for basic needs, creating an extensive, unsaturated market for sustainable solutions.

In that sense, the Social Progress Index is a list of sustainability challenges waiting to be turned into solutions in a joint effort by the local public sector, (Finnish!) business and NGO partners. A high quality of life may never have been so profitable!

- Riikka Roukka, Manager, Deloitte Finland

I am the Manager for Sustainability Services at Deloitte Finland. Our Sustainability Services are offered on the Nordic level, full integration covering Finland, Denmark and Iceland at this stage. My role is to manage projects and client relations in Sustainability Services which covers CR strategy, stakeholder engagement, CR risk and compliance, CR reporting and communications.

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