GRUDE, VähäC and Väppi projects arranged together a webinar that gathered some of Finland’s top experts of green industrial life to share their views about green economy. Read a summary of the keynote presentations and discussion in this blog article!
Is business life a cause or a solution to global warming?
The webinar was opened by Petteri Lillberg from Demos Helsinki. In his presentation, he emphasized the role of business life in preventing global warming.
Generally, capitalistic market economy is seen as the main reason for current over consumption of global resources. Lillberg pointed out, however, that over the past few years enterprises have started to change their policies considering societal and environmental responsibility. In fact, these themes are creating new value for businesses and have become essential tools for branding.
In addition to minimizing the carbon footprint, maximizing the carbon handprint has become a key to environmental care for companies. The concept of carbon handprint refers to the company’s actions in decreasing their customers CO2-emissions. In other words, a company should try to influence their customers values and help them make greener choices.
How the municipality of Ii made environmental responsibility a platform of success for businesses?
Noora Huotari from Micropolis Oy, explained that green economy was chosen as a strategic focus in Ii for about ten years ago. According to Noora, the most important factor for success in reaching environmental sustainability in Ii, has been activating people from all age groups. The sense of shared responsibility and cooperation between different sectors of society has also been recognized abroad (watch e.g. the BBC Documentary: Ii, the Greenest Town in Europe). The positive attention, in turn, has encouraged the citizens to continue the good work.
When it comes to sustainability and green growth, the role of business life has been recognized as crucial in Ii. Therefore, the municipality has created a “Paikallista” (=local) certificate which the companies are allowed to use once they have committed to use resources sustainably and reduce their CO2-emissions.
So far, the transition to green economy has been a success in Ii. It has brought dozens of new jobs and businesses to the area, over 200 million euros worth of investments, tax money from the new water and wind power plants, as well as, considerable savings for the municipality. Moreover, the international recognition has boosted the town image and increased tourism in the area.
Case Pyhätunturi Oy – The goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable ski resort
Fortunately, businesses that have acted to prevent global warming, can also be found in Lapland. One of these companies is Pyhätunturi Oy which runs ski resorts in Pyhä and Ruka fells. The facilitator of the webinar Tuuli Kaskinen, interviewed Jusu Toivonen, a CDO in Pyhätunturi Oy, about the company’s environmental efforts.
Toivonen explains that the company started to work for nature conservation already in the 90’s and in 2008 the company set a strategic goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2020. A goal which already became reality in 2011 – nine years before the intended deadline. Today, Pyhä and Ruka are Ski In Ski Out resorts where all the services and accommodation are located within walking or skiing distance.
Ever since the beginning, the company management has had a common ambition to protect the arctic nature. Some of the main challenges that the company has faced, however, have been resistance to change inside the organization, the difficulty of finding partners with the same commitment to the environment and a lack of support in implementing eco-friendly practices from the public sector.
Regardless of the challenges, Toivonen emphasizes that taking care of the environment and transitioning to a more sustainable way of running business is not as difficult or expensive as is commonly believed. In fact, according to Toivonen, environmental sustainability offers many new possibilities for business.
New opportunities for green business
In the concluding keynote presentation Jyri Häkämies, who works as a CEO in the Confederation of Finnish Industries, linked the local viewpoint of the previous presentations to a larger, national and international context.
Global warming and environmental degradation demand urgent measures from companies in all branches of business. Customers and financiers have started to demand businesses to take responsibility for protecting the environment by concrete actions. The change in the common discourse has brought new possibilities for Finland. In fact, Finland is already one of the world’s leading producers of clean technology – creating innovations which help reducing negative environmental impacts around the world.
According to Häkämies, some of the most potential solutions for climate issues at the moment are emissions trading, the broader use of electricity as a source of energy, as well as, maintaining and increasing the carbon sinks created by agriculture and forestry. In addition, the new innovations concerning hydrogen offer potentials solutions in the future.
Starting points for environmental responsibility in arctic businesses
The webinar participants were encouraged to share their thoughts and question both during the webinar and in the arranging projects’ social media channels. The idea was to gather experiences and comments about how green economy could be enhanced in business life. In the discussion participants highlighted, for example, the importance of business clusters, the need to increase awareness of the carbon handprint, as well as, to further develop the measures of calculating carbon footprint and handprint. Additionally, it was noted that municipalities should follow Ii’s example and make environmental protection a strategic goal.
As a conclusion, the keynote speakers shared their advice for environmental responsibility for small arctic businesses:
- Jyri Häkämies: Find partners and network with other small businesses, keep your business customer-oriented.
- Noora Huotari: Proudly communicate even the smallest steps your business takes towards greener economy and consider criticism as an opportunity for development.
- Jusu Toivonen: Keep it simple! Find an electric company which provides electricity that is produced from renewable sources of energy. If necessary, find out options for emissions trading (check out e.g. https://nordicoffset.fi/).
- Petteri Lillberg: Listen to your customers’ needs and dare to set the price of your product or service high enough.
Blog text by:
Henna Kukkonen, Lapland University of Applied Sciences