Could sustainability be profitable?

December 18, 2020
Written by 
Kate Kondrunina

For Kiuas, the last month of this year was the beginning of a new journey, called "Kiuas Trends" - we've kicked off a series of events on the major global trends with the very first event opening up the topic of Sustainability.

The virtual event, which took place on the 15th of December, was exclusively for our community: Kiuas alumni and Kiuas Inside members, aiming to provide ultimate insights on sustainability from the industry experts and thus, helping founders to solve the real grand problems and create more meaningful companies.

Since sustainability challenges are relevant to any industry and should be on a C-level management agenda, we were thrilled to be joined by top-level speakers from large Finnish and international organizations, discussing problems, trends and what is even for more important for startups - opportunities to address those challenges.

Here is a brief recap from the great discussion we had during the event:

The journey to sustainable transformation is one that all organizations must consider now and business leaders should approach sustainable transformation to create long-term value for their organizations. Over the past decade, Microsoft has made significant investments in sustainability and Susanna Mäkelä, Senior Director at Microsoft Finland, overseeing Government Affairs for Finland and Sweden, reminded us about the importance of joint efforts to build more sustainable future together and initiatives Microsoft has to harness the power of technology to build a more sustainable future.

Lauri Järvilehto, Co-director & Professor of Practice at Aalto Ventures Program, emphasised the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (universal interlinked goals designed by the United Nations as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030) as a source of inspiration and opportunities for startups to apply the entrepreneurial mindset, turning this into a profitable venture.

The past decade has seen rapid transformations as countries move towards clean energy generation and consumption. This transformation has been unprecedented and innovations across the energy industry have contributed significantly to this process, with startups disrupting it and bringing new solutions and technologies to the game. VP, Founder & Head, Helen Ventures Terhi J. Vapola shared her insights on how startups can make an impact in the energy sector, including practical successful cases from their portfolio.

What we see today is that sustainability represents a source of innovation. Johan Lunabba, Senior Vice President, Sustainability at Stora Enso reminded about sustainability-driven innovation, a megatrend of our time, as a source to capture new business opportunities. That is definitely one of the reasons Stora Enso already actively collaborates with startups to find the best solutions to address sustainability challenges. ****

The fashion industry is another interesting example of a sustainable "Revolution" - a global movement promoting a more sustainable and transparent fashion industry and better working conditions. The future of global fashion is heading down the road of sustainability and Nordic brands are paving the way. Elina Ibounig, Head of New Business Development & Sustainability Transformation at Marimekko shared their perspective on the "Fashion of tomorrow" with sustainability being at the core of it.

As more investors back responsible businesses and funds, the growth of assets under management that are ESG-compliant, has been soaring in recent years. Moreover, the geographic scope of this market is growing. Katja Einesalo, Director of Responsible Investment at Elo explained how global systemic changes make an impact on the sustainability integration approach from the institutional investor point of view.

COVID-19 has added even more complexity to the sustainability and responsibility of business. For the working life industry, the most important responsibility themes are related to equality, knowledge & know-how development, employment, working ability development. With Antti Möller, Head of Comms & Public Affairs at Barona, we've discussed what changes and challenges the pandemic has brought to the staffing/recruiting/talent management industry and what responsible staffing and talent management in the COVID-19 era looks like.

When it comes to Sustainability in Strategy, Finnair is a great example to refer to. This spring Finnair announced a new strategy to put sustainability at the heart of everything they do. Even after the pandemic hits, Anne Larilahti, VP of Sustainability at Finnair, advocates for pioneering in sustainability as a huge competitive advantage in the future.

Reflecting the topic from the sustainable cities development, Ville Taajamaa, Project manager at the City of Espoo, reminds that startups are extremely important focus group in solving grand challenges when it comes to cities.  Startups and cities should have a very fruitful symbiosis through innovation and co-creation, seeing cities as testbeds, partners and piloting grounds for innovations before scaling them globally.

So, be inspired by sustainability as a business opportunity, don't forget about the Planet as a stakeholder to consider :) and stay tuned for the next events!

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