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23 Jan 2024

What kind of handprint are you leaving for posterity?

Sustainability is the order of the day in business life, but when is a company truly sustainable? Eeva Hellström, Sitra’s senior lead in foresight into the future of the economy, urges us to think about our handprint instead of our footprint. Pioneers of sustainability genuinely stand out. 
 The starting point of sustainability thinking is that sustainability is not simply adherence to the law but that what is done in addition to statutory requirements. Indeed, adherence to the law is the basic requirement. 

– People often think the purpose of sustainability is to reduce the footprint. Instead, I would encourage people to think about what kind of handprint the company can leave on society and the world with their products and services, says senior lead Eeva Hellström from the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. 

– In the best-case scenario, the company can base their entire existence and purpose on sustainability. The company can also be developed regarding sustainability. 

Hellström admits that sustainability requirements can seem like quite the jungle for a small company. Furthermore, small companies do not have the same resources or expertise for sustainability work as large ones do. 

– Sustainability can be evaluated and reported using various standards. There is a tremendous number of these standards, however, and the question becomes: how to choose the right one? 

Curious mind 

According to Eeva Hellström, sustainability standards are often compromises between various interests and thus not overly ambitious. 

– If you want to be a pioneer in sustainability, you should have a curious mind. You should also ask the right questions, such as what does my grandchild expect of me and my business operations? 

Hellström also recommends networking and finding the right partners to help you meet your goals. 

– Sustainability concerns serious issues, such as environmental impacts, conservation of biodiversity and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. All of these issues are connected to complex phenomena that no single company can solve on their own. 

– Therefore, you should combine your forces and seek out networks where sustainability thinking is highly valued.

Even a small company can be a trailblazer when it comes to sustainability, says Hellström. 

– A hairdresser, for example, could think about what kind of energy and chemicals they use. Or they can think about their social responsibility or whether the customer can bring their children with them to the appointment, or how the customer is received and treated in the first place. 

– Everything crystallises with the question: what is the purpose of the company's existence? Is the goal solely to make profit, or could the purpose also include leaving a good handprint on the world? 

  • Footprint calculation is based on the idea that nearly all operations have some kind of negative and detrimental effects. 
  • Above all, handprint thinking strives to produce desirable, positive impacts on the environment, people and society. 

 The interview was originally published in the Keuke Postia customer magazine in December 2023.


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