HelsinkiMissio’s long-serving former Executive Director Olli Valtonen and SMT’s Managing Director Kirsi Paakkari stopped to discuss sustainability, which has been a rising trend around the world for a long time. Olli believes that the corporate world needs shaking up, and Kirsi wishes to challenge her colleagues in other companies to do good.
We are on the verge of a new era. In the future, companies will need to address sustainability more strongly and social responsibility becomes increasingly relevant. If your company wants to succeed in the future, your sustainability must be a real thing, and that takes actions. Sustainability will become more important for decision-making. According to a recent study* Finnish people are quite conscious of all this: The majority will vote with their wallet for sustainability, which will become an even more important factor in decision-making. Is it enough that a company produces goods and services according to the principles of sustainable development, pays its taxes and takes care of its personnel?
“To me, sustainability cannot be limited to a company’s production or practices or to its personnel. The special position of humans as a species is based on our exceptional ability to join forces with others and taking care of the entire herd. Sustainability is about working for the surrounding community”, Olli Valtonen analyses.
For companies, sustainability is first and foremost a strategic choice and something that the management really wants to achieve. Consequently, companies should challenge their personnel to participate in the sustainability efforts. Silent approval is not an option. Furthermore, you should not underestimate the importance of sustainability and its positive impact on the overall attitude, environment and society.
Kirsi is a strong believer in a more comprehensive approach to sustainability by companies: “At SMT, sustainability is directly linked with our ‘higher purpose’; ‘SMT has joined the fight against loneliness’. Loneliness is one of the key issues of our time and everyone feels lonely sometimes – including business travellers. We want to offer other companies solutions that reduce loneliness.”
“One good example of this is our partnership with HelsinkiMissio. Among other things, they run the Resonaari band school with approximately 300 students, most of who are disabled. At the school, they feel the joy of success and a sense of community, make new friends and improve their self-confidence. We support Resonaari’s activities by offering gigs for the bands and using the students in our own events. The SMTcharity concept also makes sustainability a part of our customers’ events. In addition, SMT’s personnel may do volunteer work for HelsinkiMissio during their working hours”, Kirsi explains.
A risk worth taking
Sustainability efforts may not always be associated with just positive things. Both Olli and Kirsi agree that sustainability also requires courage and risk taking. There is no shortage of suitable targets for sustainability efforts. On the contrary. However, the lack of courage poses a challenge, as few companies dare to link their brand to issues with society, such as homelessness, mental health problems or prisoner reintegration.
According to Olli, there are many ways to implement sustainability: “HelsinkiMissio cooperates a lot with various companies. At the moment, volunteer work is very popular. Companies give their employees time off to volunteer and their help is used for arranging parties to senior citizens, helping the life of families with children or having telephone discussions with lonely people. While volunteers are always welcome, the charities also require funding. I hope that companies do not think that monetary donations alone are less important.”
Many companies ponder how much they should communicate about their sustainability efforts. No one wants to brag about their good deeds, but it is important to show your sustainable actions and the company’s values. In the future, Olli Valtonen hopes to see more stories about sustainability: “When more and more people dare to tell about their sustainability efforts, their example will inspire others to contribute as well.“
Everyone feels lonely sometimes – even business travellers and event organisers
SMT has joined the fight against loneliness. A sense of community and taking others into consideration are part of SMT’s service philosophy. We, therefore, want to offer travellers tips for avoiding fatigue at work and during travel and provide event organisers with tools for an easier and more comfortable living that also provides inspiration during everyday life. We aim at becoming the best service company in Finland. We have interviewed people with an ability to touch others. This time, we discussed sustainability with Olli Valtonen, who had a long career at HelsinkiMissio.
*) Miltton’s Responsibility Survey 2017 with 1,002 respondents from Finland.