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Blog 03.11.2021

Invest in a director of accountability: sustainable development is business worth millions of euros

Even the best product or service will not succeed, if your own ecological accountability has not been properly thought out and the skills are lacking to sell it. How to partner up with global brands in order to make business even more ecological?
Author
Marika Ollaranta

Head of Low carbon and Circular Economy
Tel. +358 50 480 4611
marika.ollaranta (at) businessfinland.fi

The demand for sustainable solutions creates new and fast-growing market opportunities. I meet every week with global brands that are looking for and buying solutions to make their business more ecological. The change is driven by a constantly evolving regulatory environment, but even more by investors’ influence, consumers’ demands and enterprises’ own value judgments. Companies want to build an eco-brand promise for their stakeholders, which is not just green washing, but a strategic goal. Once the goal of environmental impact is tied to a company’s strategy, it no longer only affects the company’s own choices and metrics, but also affects their customers’ operations and society as a whole.

Business cooperation requires brightening of own communications

International brands have very ambitious environmental responsibility objectives. The materials to be used must be based on renewable and recyclable raw materials. Also renewable materials must be produced with an appreciation for natural resources, preferable certified, and their origin must be known.

What does this mean for a Finnish company that wants to be a partner of global brands?

  1. The enterprise must be able to explain convincingly how the solutions it produces help the buyer achieve its own environmental responsibility objectives. In addition, the company must have a story that describes what happens to the solution at the end of its life cycle.a
  2. Finnish enterprises must understand that there are country-specific differences between the buyers’ demands; they must be taken into account in the offered solution.

The buyer's director of accountability (Vice President, Sustainability)  plays a significant role in the discussions. He is responsible for building an ecological story of his company and business collaboration that is resold to their own customers. If a Finnish company is unable to answer the questions asked by the other party about the environmental friendliness of the solution offered, the discussions will stop. In other words, directors of accountability act as gatekeepers for all discussion.

Meeting the minimum requirements is not enough

Many companies striving from Finland would be able to help international brands to offer more environmentally friendly products and solutions. For example, Finnish bio-based innovations and circular economy solutions can fully meet the needs of the counterparty and fulfill their ecological requirements. However, it is almost impossible to move forward in discussions if the company's own strategy has not been considered from the point of view of sustainability, and the good effects of the solutions offered and the effectiveness of cooperation cannot be sold.

International brands want bold actors as partners who take the lead and take responsibility for the fight against climate change.

Many companies that promote the circular economy have emerged as ecological, and it is not difficult for them to tell their own story or answer the opponent’s questions. However, the situation is very different for companies that have not previously focused on sustainable development. The challenge for them is real, because international brands are not addressed by the fact that the company offering the solution complies with mandatory regulation.

The time of directors of accountability is now

Becoming a partner of global brands requires a deep understanding of corporate responsibility and a lot of work. That is why one has to ask: where are the accountability directors of Finnish companies? There are still an astonishing low number of them. The number is particularly low in SMEs.

The role of directors of accountability is to guide the formation, implementation and packaging of the company's ecological strategies into an impressive story. In order to bypass the gatekeepers of potential customers ' accountability and to get deep into the business that promotes sustainable development, Finnish companies must wake up, hire directors  of accountability and give them authority. Even the best product or service will not succeed if your own accountability has not been properly thought out and it cannot be sold.

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