A shopping list of opportunities

Blog: Riikka Poukka

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 beyond the usual ‘tree hugger’ crowd.

The main point of the article: sustainability-related challenges pose huge threats on 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 by circular business models or by providing education services to countries with a low literacy rate. We call it exporting education, we call it circular economy, we call it cleantech, we call it diversity management – 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 scores number one 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 e.g. biomaterials: here we have the likes of Metsä, Stora Enso, UPM, Valmet, Outotec, Metso, Kemira – and the list continues.

Take sustainable urbanization and logistics: Kone, Konecranes and Cargotec, to mention only a few. Take education and opportunity: we have many many interesting edu-start-ups, Sanoma, different universities and schools and we (still) have Pisa – and more personal freedom than the citizens of any other country.

My three points:
1. We Finns have been able to crack 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, SPI is a list of sustainability challenges waiting to be turned into solutions in a joint effort by the local public sector and local and international (Finnish!) business and NGO partners.

By Sustainable Innovative Solutions United (SISU) Corp.*, I believe.

*aka Finland, the SPI champion #1 2016

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