Kirjoittanut: Marjut Palonen - tiimistä Evision.
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Academic essay / 16.12.2021
Marjut Palonen, Tuomas Saarinen
We often think sustainability as a simple “recycle your trash and don’t eat meat” – kind of a theme. Actually, sustainability is divided in smaller themes which form part of a whole. Talking about all these aspects is vital when trying to understand the real meaning and purpose of sustainability. Sustainability is simple keeping all living and non-living things in a good condition. It contains people, animals, natural resources etc. It refers to meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
We focus on this essay on environmental, economic, cultural and social sustainability. We cover these themes broadly and mention some actions your company could take right now to become more sustainable.
Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future in year 1987 demanded new, sustainable development mindset – it should be part of our economy system. First steps were taken already before that in year 1972 in a report called Limits to Growth written by the Roman Club. This report pointed out the problem with the limitless of the natural recourses and pollution. (Borg & Joutsenvirta 2015, 202–203)
We humans have already crossed the limit that the Earth can hold. Humans has used 1,4 Earth sized area for producing wheat, meat, wood, fish, urban areas, and energy. Overusing is possible because some of the produced carbon dioxide is stored in the atmosphere and the oceans. (Borg & Joutsenvirta 2015, 98.)
So as a conclusion, recycle and don’t eat meat 😀
Social & cultural sustainability
How people would be able to live together the best possible way sustainability’s point of view – Creating as equitable society that meets the needs of all citizens and can be maintained in the future. The key words are justice and equality. Eliminating of poverty and provision of social protection systems means ensuring that economic growth benefits everyone; providing social security/protection to all people when needed.
Working conditions for example good workstation is a part of social sustainability. Workstation should be suitable for the job, and noise level of office should be subtle. (Eduhouse 2020)
Cultural sustainability is closely interlinked with social sustainability, as it also emphasizes for example active citizenship, resilience and empowerment of local communities. It is kind of a glue that keeps everything together and working.
Cultural sustainability is in the turning point here in Proakatemia. The aftermath of COVID-19 and year-and-a-half long online learning era seems like coming to an end, and we are growing as a community. Here in Proakatemia, there is a lot of silent information about culture and habits that is being passed from the older students to the younger ones. This has been extremely difficult during the online learning period, because the members of different teams have barely had a chance to meet and talk with each other. When you are sitting all day in front of your computer, hanging out in virtual chat room café is not the most preferable way to spend the leisure time you have. But I don’t see this as an absolute cultural defeat.
Culture is something that exists by default and stays in the perpetual state of change. It’s always being created and shaped by every member of said organization. In Proakatemia, cultural sustainability is in a good state as people from every team tend to get in touch with each other and give a helping hand. This has been a norm in here ever since we started our studies back in 2018, and I don’t see this changing. The pandemic has definitely changed people’s appreciation of community and the way they see the importance of cooperation.
People who graduate from Proakatemia and choose to continue as full-time entrepreneurs, have a versatile set of communication skills crucial in building a culturally sustainable company. And the other graduates who continue as employees have an equally good chance to lighten up whatever company they choose to be a part of.
On the other hand, Proakatemia is a rather unique organization where there’s almost no competition and the amount of support everyone gets is remarkable, and not every principle can be implemented straight into the working environment. But they can be molded and adapted in some form. For example, the values of the company should be clear for the employees, so that they can easily commit to them. Values are one of the cornerstones of a healthy and sustainable culture. In the center of everything are the people: everyone together is what makes a culture and as we mentioned before, it is shaped by everyone. That’s why it’s very important for both the company and the individual employee. When an employee feels at home in the company and accepts its values, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. This yields longer and happier employment relationships and gives the company a cutting edge against its competitors.
People make the culture. Culture helps building a better company. And every company should always prioritize their people over everything else.
Individuals, countries… being sustainable is seeing and planning not only for tomorrow but seeing the bigger picture and thinking not only about yourself but thinking also all the others. Using up to date data to make fact-based plans and strategies is a good start. As an individual it is making sure that the incomes are adequate to afford necessities. As a countries point of view, it means ensuring adequate funds to support citizens.
Economic stability contains innovations and diversity of industries that are profitable. Innovations allows the countries to keep up with technology. Employment level contributes to taxes, and it makes positive vicious circle to keeping the citizens supported. One indicator of countries sustainability is economic growth – GNI increases each year. Trade is way to increase economic growth, focusing on keeping in mind the fair trade.
ACTIONS TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY WE SHOULD TAKE
Where should companies of the future focus on? That depends a lot of the branch your business is operating on, but there are some key actions every company can integrate into their company culture.
As an entrepreneur it is our responsibility to think about natural resources, or at least it should be. Our actions are a way to protect nature, and as a bigger picture the whole Earth. Choosing to be transparent already in first steps when starting a new business might be hard, but it pays off later. Companys transparency is a way to help consumers learn more and choose better. Starting a business or working in a role that gives you power to affect the company’s habits; it is important to think is the business activity sustainable. Customers nowadays are more and more aware of the of their consumption habits, they want to make best choice they can when choosing where to invest their money. That puts pressure to the companies to make more sustainable business.
Environmental actions: Carbon emission scopes
One of the most well-known indicators of sustainability and ecology is carbon footprint. In a nutshell, it means the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. It can be calculated for a company or an organization, a service or a product, or an individual. (Sitra 2021) While carbon emissions are not the only reason for climate change, they create 81 percent of all greenhouse ga emissions in total. That’s why measuring carbon footprint is where we should turn our focus.
Nowadays major media outlets are highlighting the carbon footprint of individual people and encouraging everyone to make greener choices in their daily lives. While this is important and beneficial for Earth, the carbon emissions produced by companies are playing much bigger role in the fight against climate change. And this is where every company can step into the spotlight and be an example for the others. A lot of companies are already carbon-neutral, for example Google from 2007 and Microsoft from 2012.
Carbon footprint generated by a company can be observed through three different scopes, and here they will be explained.
Scope 1 means direct emissions from the company-owned resources, for example company premises, vehicles and fuel. In scope 1 it can be relatively easy to make better choices, especially in transportation business as electric vehicles are getting more popular and ecologically produced fuels are gradually becoming a norm in our daily lives.
Scope 2 means indirect emissions from the energy providers a company is using – electricity, heat and cooling. Scope 2 means the energy emissions “owned” and consumed by the company itself. In other words, the company is the end-user of the resources measured in Scope 2. Electricity is widely green by this year, and everyone is
Scope 3 is the last one, and it means indirect emissions not owned by the company. This includes everything that belongs to the value chain that is not directly under the ownership of the company and is both the major culprit of emissions produced and most difficult to measure, as it spans over a dozen different categories. Scope 3 includes a myriad of things, for example: business travel, waste generated, goods purchased, transport and distribution emissions, investments and franchises.
(Plan A, 2021)
As we can see, there is a lot to think about. When thinking about the whole chain of events from the manufacturing of a product to the final delivery for the customer, there are many steps along the way and each step can be executed in a more climate-friendly way. We don’t have to be carbon-neutral at once, but we have to start somewhere. Once we reach carbon neutrality as a community, we can start working our way towards carbon negativity, which means cutting more carbon dioxide emissions than we are producing.
We have to be the change we want to see in the world. The former head coach of Proakatemia, Veijo Hämäläinen, once said: “The future of this planet is not shaped by political or religious actions. It is shaped by the entrepreneurs.”
And we whole-heartedly agree.
Business credit. 2021. Luettu 26.11.2021. https://www.businesscredit.fi/blog/vastuullisuus-liiketoiminnassa
Borg, P., Joutsenvirta, M. 2015. Maapallo ja me – Luonnonvarat ja kasvun rajat. Porvoo. Bookwell Oy
Eduhouse. 2020. Kestävän kehityksen edistäminen 1-5. Verkkokurssi.
Our common future. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf
Wikström, T. 2021. Luettu 26.11.2021. Social and cultural sustainability for caring and empathic societies. https://journal.laurea.fi/social-and-cultural-sustainability-for-caring-and-empathic-societies/#8f529a19
Sitra.fi sanasto, 2021. Hiilijalanjälki. Luettu 15.12.2021.
Plan A, 2021. Carbon emission scopes. Luettu 15.12.2021.