We are in the middle of a green transition, which brings with it multiple new business opportunities and innovative business models. Existing businesses are urged to change from linear, take – make – waste – models to circular ones and new businesses need to start designing their ideas into reality with the circular economy principles in mind.
The green transition is not only necessary, but there is also pressure by governments, international and local regulations, the public and investors to challenge current ways of designing, making and using products and services.
Finland is one of the leading countries in implementing circular economy practices and has one of the world’s most ambitious goals with plans to be climate neutral by 2035. Some features to demonstrate Finland's drive in circular economy are that in 2016, Finland was the first country in the world to publish a national roadmap to a circular economy; it has invested significant amounts in innovation and research and, impressively, only one percent of the waste generated in Finland is sent to landfills.
Business Finland, Finnish innovation fund Sitra, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the joint research project CICAT2025 gathered more than 200 participants in a meaningful conversation about the business benefits of a circular economy and the opportunities that come with it. We had the honor to have Jyrki Katainen, President of Sitra, open the program. Patrick Zimet of the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce then provided us the keynote speech. Mr. Christopher Burk, Advisor for Sustainable Growth and Commerce at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C., and Susanna Mäkelä, Sr Director Government Affairs at Microsoft, gathered us a fireside chat.
Further, we presented three successful Finnish businesses that are already part of the green transition and demonstrate that circular business models can be just as profitable as linear ones and can be implemented broadly. All three companies also took part in an academic study that highlighted the economic side of circularity and the findings were discussed by both the company representatives and the professors who analyzed the cases.
After this webinar part, all participants had an opportunity to network with each other. Finally, the Director General of Business Finland Nina Kopola concluded the event.
The webinar was an official side event of World Circular Economy Forum, which was held virtually in Canada this year, and was targeted to all sustainability and circular economy companies, researchers, and policy makers.
Jyrki Katainen, President of the Finnish innovation fund Sitra
Keynote speech: ESG Investment Trends and Opportunities
Patrick Zimet, International Trade Specialist in the U.S. Department of Commerce
Advisor for Sustainable Growth and Commerce at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C. Christopher Burk and Susanna Mäkelä, Sr Director Government Affairs at Microsoft Finland
Stories from Finland: How ecological became economical
Neste Oyj: Petri Lehmus, R&D, Vice President
Kiilto Oy: Raija Polvinen, R&D, Vice President
Touchpoint Group Oy: Noora Salonoja, CEO
Each company case presentation will be commented by professor Leena Aarikka-Stenroos from Tampere University and professor Hanna Lehtimäki from University of Eastern Finland
Virtual networking in smaller groups
Nina Kopola, Director General of Business Finland
President of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra
Jyrki Katainen’s (MSc in Political Sciences) career has focused on analysing societal change, finding solutions and decision-making. Before his appointment as the President of Sitra, Katainen was the European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. Prior to the Commission, he held the positions of Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. During his 15 years as a Member of the Finnish Parliament, he chaired the Committee for the Future among other appointments.
International Trade Specialist in the Office of Finance and Insurance Industries in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration
Mr. Zimet is OFII’s ESG Investment Coordinator and oversees and executes outreach to foreign governments, US industry to develop best practices and identify areas of collaboration and trade promotion surrounding ESG investing. Mr. Zimet serves as the Designated Federal Officer for the Trade Finance Advisory Council, a committee of private sector experts that advises the Secretary of Commerce on expanding access to finance for U.S. exporters. He is also the digital banking lead and supports the payments portfolio as part of OFII’s fintech initiative.
Advisor for Sustainable Growth and Commerce at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C.
Christopher Burk is an Advisor for Sustainable Growth and Commerce at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C., where he concentrates on energy, climate, circular economy, and emerging technology policies. Prior to his current role, he most recently served with the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment. He holds an M.S. in Energy Policy and Climate from Johns Hopkins University.
Sr Director Government Affairs, Microsoft
Susanna currently works at Microsoft Finland office overseeing government affairs. Digital and datapolicies are the core areas of her work but Susanna also coordinates Microsoft Finland’s sustainability activities. Prior returning back to home Susanna worked at Microsoft EU office in Brussels and Microsoft Japan, and has led regional and global teams managing variety of topics from commercial legal to public policy and strategy. She has led transformative initiatives and has first had experience on how technology can shape our work.
Director General of Business Finland
Nina Kopola began her five-year term as Director General of Business Finland in September 2019. She is widely recognized as a pioneering female CEO. She is best known for her time as CEO of the Suominen Corporation and as Business Director at Dynea, and was the only female CEO of a publicly listed company in Finland for quite some time. She has also served on the board of directors of many other listed companies. She is also adept at research, product and business development, and marketing. Kopola holds a master’s degree in engineering and a licentiate of technology.
Neste creates solutions for combating climate change and accelerating a shift to a circular economy. Neste is the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel refined from waste and residues, introducing renewable solutions also to the polymers and chemicals industries.
Kiilto develops, produces and sells chemical industry solutions in four business areas: construction, industrial adhesives and fireproofing, professional hygiene and consumer goods. Kiilto’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2028.
Touchpoint is the Nordic forerunner in sustainable workwear and our passion is to develop circular solutions for the textile industry. Our goal is to offer the widest selection of environmentally preferred materials, carbon neutral workwear by 2023 and already now we’re committed to take back and recycle all our textiles in our own textile recycling facility called Rester.
Each company case presentation will be commented by a research professor from CICAT2025.
Dr. Leena Aarikka-Stenroos is a professor of Industrial Management at the University of Tampere and the leader of CICAT2025 project. She holds a doctoral degree in Marketing, but her work is at the intersection of business, engineering, and innovation. She has studied how circular economy technologies are implemented in society, how they turn into business and how circularity shapes businesses and processes in many industries. Her 100+ publications on technology-based business and circular economy have been awarded internationally. Her collaborative research group CITER CIRQ advances the circular economy transition in Finnish business and society.
Hanna Lehtimäki (Ph.D., Title of Docent), is a Professor of Innovation Management at the University of Eastern Finland Business School and a vice PI for CICAT2025. Her research examines sustainable innovation and renewal with theoretical frameworks on strategic management, stakeholder theory, leadership and networks. Her current research focuses on transition to sustainable circular economy. Her articles have appeared in academic journals internationally and she has authored and co-authored books on strategic management and leadership. She is a vice leader in UEF Strategic Research area “Minerals, Energy and Circular Economy in Sustainability Transitions”.
The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is an accountable and independent future-oriented fund that is influential nationally and internationally and acts as a think tank, promoter of experiments and operating models and a catalyst for co-operation.
A national multidisciplinary research project funded by the Strategic Research Council. The joint project of Finnish Universities, Circular Economy Catalysts: From Innovation to Business Ecosystems (CICAT2025) aims to facilitate the transition from linear to circular economy.
The Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. and Consulate General of Finland in New York focus on enhancing the Finnish-U.S. relationship across the board, including political and economic relations as well as contacts and cooperation in culture, science, research, civil society, and citizens.