Sustainability is critical to business success
There is widespread recognition that sustainability is a business imperative given the environmental and social challenges of the world today. According to a recent study by FIBS, Finland’s leading enterprise network to promote financially, socially and ecologically sustainable business, 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive, and another 22% think it will be in the future. With top talent in short supply throughout many industries, sustainability is also becoming an increasingly important factor for attracting and managing talent.
Additionally, investors care more about sustainability than many managers believe. BCG/MIT found that when considering their investment decisions, 75% of senior executives in investment firms see a company’s sustainability performance as materially important and nearly half of investors will not invest in a company with a poor sustainability track record (Source).
International companies are not using their CSR assets in Finland
There are currently around 4,300 foreign affiliates in Finland, many of them industry leaders in their approach to sustainability and corporate responsibility. These assets can be used to gain positive visibility and boost employer branding, however, many of these multinational enterprises underutilize their CSR assets in the Finnish market.
On the 6th of June, Amcham Finland launched its new Country Manager Network (CMN) Breakfast Series with an engaging discussion on ‘How to build your CSR Brand in Finland?’ The session was organized in cooperation with Helsinki Business Hub and conducted by two experienced sustainability strategists, Sari Kuvaja and Jirimiko Oranen from T-Media, Finland’s leading Analytics and Advisory firm in Reputation & Responsibility. The aim was to understand Finland as an operating environment, discuss stakeholder expectations and share best practices among Country Managers across industries.
Corporate sustainability in the Finnish Context
Jirimiko Oranen started his presentation by telling us what shapes Finland as an operating environment; Nordic principles (truth, honor and hospitability), press freedom (2nd place in the World Press Freedom Index), and Finland’s status as a ‘feminine’ country, meaning Finnish society values caring for others and quality of life.
Oranen then walked us through the new government of Finland, whose objective is to make Finland a sustainable society (socially, economically and ecologically) by 2030. The Green coalition is now, as in many other countries, a major governmental force. Social Democrats, the main party, have also adopted sustainability as one of their leading themes. Companies should closely follow the new proposed law on mandatory human rights due diligence, which would obligate companies to map their human rights impacts and take steps to prevent and mitigate possible adverse impacts.
During the session, we also briefly considered global trends in sustainability and the importance for companies to serve a social purpose. Oranen warned us of the ‘wrong kind of contribution’ and reminded us that a company’s sustainability agenda needs to have a strategic link to its business operations. It’s not about charity, but sustainable business conduct.
In terms of stakeholders and their expectations, Sari Kuvaja divided them into five different groups; business partners, consumers, politicians/civil servants, NGOs and Media. She reminded us that dialogue is especially important when it comes to NGOs and media. With the latter, you will have to be able to tell the story of your sustainability efforts and present the links to their impact on Finland society and environment. It has been said that ‘transparency is the new black,’ and that applies to all different kinds of stakeholder groups.
Kuvaja’s practical recommendations for building CSR brands in Finland to attending Country Managers included the following;
International companies rarely have their sustainability managers in Finland, which means that either the Country Manager or another team member responsible for brand reputation and communication, such as a Communications Manager, should be equipped with arguments to discuss their company’s sustainability agenda. Marketing efforts and being able to tell your ‘sustainability story’ in a compelling way to the media is also becoming increasingly important. You must be able to give face to your company in Finland.
Finally, Kuvaja invited Robert Auselius, Head of Country at Nestlé Finland, to elaborate on how they see ‘Creating Shared Value (CSV)’ being fundamental to how they do business at Nestle. He also spoke about how Nestlé believes they’ll only be successful in the long term if they create value for both their shareholders and society. One of their ambitions is to strive for zero environmental impact in their operations and this goal is also very visible in Finland. For example, Auselius mentioned that the children’s food factory in Turku is now a “Double zero factory”. This means that there are no carbon emissions from its manufacturing operations and the plant sends no waste to landfill.
Auselius told us that Nestle published this year, for the first time ever, a summary of their sustainability report in Finnish, including both local and international examples of their sustainability agenda. The goal for this publication is to enable Nestle to share its extensive sustainability operations to its consumers, customers and other stakeholder groups in Finland. Auselius also agreed with Kuvaja on the importance of transparency and engaging in continuous dialogue with different shareholders.
So what are the best sustainability assets in your organization? And to what degree have you utilized them in this market? We invite you to discuss these and other topical issues and challenges with your peers in our future Country Manager Network breakfast events. For further information please contact Rosa Thurman, Director of Investment Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org.