How it happened
This essay’s goal is to bring light to the story of how the Sustainable Business team has been created and touch on what has been done and what’s ahead of us. Enjoy!
When I first decided to really go back to study, I was longing for a very progressive and highly aware peer group. That need was clearly the creation of my golden memories from the time when I studied over 10 years ago at universities in Poland and Belgium. Right now, it’s also clear that it was not all that colorful and great. There were many issues, I decided to flee.
In past years I have lived in my own bubble of “good choices” and thinking that it’s the way to go, while when I came to Proakatemia I learned the hard way that my bubble is very small, and it has not that many people interested to be in it. That’s how I at least felt about it at first. That bubble is obviously sustainability and an idea of how everyone should live in order to leave Earth a better place for future generations.
I began to ask questions, what is the paragon of new entrepreneurship? Firstly, I asked a few coaches who spoke about it in our meetings and training sessions. I looked up our website and sent a message to the head coach, Tirri. I didn’t really get any proper answer. I was even once sent to the head of the Marketing team (at the time) who was responsible for the website where I was supposed to find an answer! Bummer, I was left empty-handed.
Before summer 2021 I have posted in Teams about my concerns and that we could perhaps create a new “small team” (for those who don’t know Proakatemia’s structure, read: department) for our community that focuses on widely understood sustainability. I attached Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs where he explains the importance of sustainability in business from the investor’s point of view as well as from companies’ competitive advantage point of view. He has been addressing these issues for almost the past 10 years in his letters to CEOs. It’s good to note that Larry Fink is the CEO and chairman of BlackRock Investment management company with US$10 trillion in assets under management as of January 2022.
Original post from April 2021
My post got roughly 7 comments, but that was enough. Following summer, I have met with two other teampreneurs from Proakatemia who reached out to me to discuss this matter. I must admit, it was really uplifting feeling to get that message! Together with Susanna Mäkelä and Sanni Hujanen we discussed our concerns and decided to start a journey to define what is that new entrepreneurship.
There have been many ideas and it surely took us time to even figure out where to start. Three more people joined us and with a team of six people, we had the first Sustainable Business Team created at Proakatemia. We are still looking for areas where we can make the most impact and influence things in a positive way.
I have learned that even within the team we have different points of view and not to mention the whole community. The level of knowledge regarding sustainability is relatively low, and big scale misinformation provided by social media or dishonest companies isn’t helping the situation. It’s easy to get carried away and judge others, while in reality most people just don’t know better. First, it takes curiosity, then time and effort. I was curious, I had time and I wanted to put effort, but I was not sure where to start, neither was the team. I found many new challenges as a leader of the team. Nevertheless, we were and still are here to help.
Our starting goals were:
- To higher awareness about sustainability.
- Strengthen the Sustainability Business team at Proakatemia.
- Engage in Projects.
These at the moment are slightly modified:
- Instead of setting the level where we want to be, we need want to encourage continuous development. Sustainability is a process that is never over. Research is constantly bringing new aspects to consider as well as society is becoming more aware. A good example is that the not long-ago company could include the word “sustainability” in their marketing campaign and not take any actual action. Now it’s called greenwashing, which is just unethical, but within next years also illegal. European Union is already working on it. Complete information about the initiative is unavailable, although it is likely that EU will request companies to use the Product Environmental Footprint method when making environmental claims.
Diagram credit: Timo Nevalainen and Antti Vuento.
- We didn’t only strengthen the position of this newly created team, but 3 of us are part of Proakatemia’s board (Jory). Now sustainability is one of three pillars of Proakatemia’s new strategy. These pillars in short are continuous learning, networking&community and sustainability. On the last one, we are working hard to integrate sustainability into the core of studies, but also each team’s strategy. To show our presence, we also took the space on the 5th floor, rearranged it, and claimed it as our space. I’m not sure if any other team did that before.
The home of Sustainable Business Team
This might seem unimportant, but I want to mention it as it was a turning point in December. The holiday break was coming, after long and dark November, going into essay deadlines in December, everyone was tired, and motivation was going down. We cleaned the room, rearranged it and made it “ours”. Taking ownership is important, it gives meaning to what we create. In this case, we ended a year on a positive note and created a place where we wanted to come back.
- We wanted to take a practical approach and work with real companies. That has not been that successful since the start in the way we planned it. A lot of groundwork had to be done. Although, we have already impacted on a few projects in Proakatemia to adjust their strategy and did spark a lot of thinking.
This spring we continue our work and specify goals for the fall to help the next leading person to run have something to start with. To further increase the awareness, we are going to organize a series of training sessions for the teams in the fall and spring where we will start from the very basics and slowly go forward introducing a tool kit on how to continue education accordingly to the needs.
Board (Jory) decided just this month that Alumni week in September 2022 will focus on sustainability-related issues.
Along with these basics, we are creating a risk analysis assessment for teams to use when planning new projects. That way we don’t only gain insights, but also it will allow us to start measuring sustainability at Proakatemia to some degree. From short term goals. We are going to change coffee, tea, and other general products to fair trade certified, further promote oat milk and require events to offer also vegan snacks (or only vegan). Like it has been done at the University of Helsinki. A vegan diet goes best with different religions, cultures and diet requirements while it’s easier on the climate.
I personally would like to also challenge TAMK’s goal of going carbon neutral by 2030, by asking what about the supply chain. Climate problems are increasing issue around the world, great example has been set by the University of Berlin which restaurants are going to reduce the use of meat to one option. Berlin’s university canteens will offer a menu that is 68% vegan, 28% vegetarian and 2% fish-based, with one meat option offered four days a week.
There is a lot of possibilities and a lot of ideas on how to go forward. It’s important to remember that this is a process and single action is not enough. While trying to make positive changes in our community I wish we would spark more critical thinking towards the way we currently live and define success. We need to take care of all aspects of sustainability (Social, Cultural, Environmental, and Financial) because our economy is based on society and society is based on the environment. We need to step back and start from the basics.
‘Berlin’s University Canteens Go Almost Meat-Free as Students Prioritise Climate | Germany | The Guardian’. Accessed 19 March 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/31/berlins-university-canteens-go-almost-meat-free-as-students-prioritise-climate.
BlackRock. ‘Larry Fink CEO Letter’. Accessed 18 March 2022. https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter.
Pant, R, L Zampori, European Commission, and Joint Research Centre. Suggestions for Updating the Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) Method., 2019. http://publications.europa.eu/publication/manifestation_identifier/PUB_KJNA29682ENN.
Wigglesworth, Robin, and Harriet Agnew. ‘BlackRock Surges Past $10tn in Assets under Management’. Financial Times, 14 January 2022. https://www.ft.com/content/7603e676-779b-4c13-8f46-a964594e3c2f.