Hanna Laurén, Director of Trade Policy at the Confederation of Finnish Industries, advises that a company's values must be articulated in a clear and concise manner where individual employees are able to execute fast decisions based on these principles.
In 2021, companies are under cross-pressure: to recover from the pandemic that is shaking the entire world economy, but at the same time maintaining keys vital to success, such as innovation and responsibility. In Finland, the Confederation of Finnish Industries strives to bring the value of social expectations to companies’ attention.
According to Hanna Laurén, Director of the Trade Policy at the Confederation of Finnish Industries, even in a crisis, the company's value base should be clear to the outside world as well.
“Companies are expected to provide value leadership, in the form of statements, for example. These principles must be articulated clearly. If a company’s values are vague, employees will apply for positions for ambiguous reasons. When values are aligned, it attracts better fitting expertise.”
Laurén emphasizes that companies are increasing their investing in employee engagement.
“Employees should feel empowered to the extent that they are firmly committed to the values of the company. In this scenario an employee is ready to make decisions based on those principles. When a company takes care of its employees, innovation is born.”
Companies to identify responsibility risks and to be flexible to change
The declared value base of a company should not be set in stone. Laurén points out that a company can only succeed if it has the ability to critically assess its operations. The responsibility requirement is an excellent example of this.
“In the past, responsibility was seen as a cost and a charity. Today, responsibility is a competitive advantage and a necessity in the global market. It is not enough to maintain solely one manager in this area of a company, but rather it must be prevalent in the daily considerations of every purchasing and sales manager – they must take responsibility into account of their work.”
“Finland is globally known for ethical and sustainable business. However, our work with responsibility will never be completed.”
Laurén points out that each company bears the responsibility requirement according to its ability and size. 96 percent of the members from the Confederation of Finnish Industries – a figure totaling in the thousands are SMEs. Sustainability risks still need to be assessed in order for a business to be on sustainable footing.
“Finland is known around the world for ethical and sustainable business. However, the responsibility goals are never completed. Even a small domestic company can have components from China, for example, in which case it is worth paying attention to the supply chain responsibility. Companies struggle with being present in a market that faces difficult social issues such as child labor. However, withdrawing from the market is not necessarily the most responsible solution. Instead, the company needs to rethink how to act."
There are high-tech companies in Finland for whom it is particularly important to consider responsibility at the end of the supply chain. An example of this is face recognition technology.
"While the product is remarkable, the company needs to evaluate the end-user of the product and whether it could be used unethically, for instance in ethnic profiling."
Internationalization is the future, complaining is the past
The digital leap fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that even in crisis, companies can also see an opportunity to succeed together: they can spar with each other virtually.
For example, the Confederation of Finnish Industries' Covid Digital Game Changers growth project brings together six growth areas identified in Europe that Finland already demonstrates substantial expertise: creating a carbon-neutral Europe, industrial 5G network technology, self-guided and climate-neutral maritime logistics, digital ways of working and responsible health services.
To increase internationalization, another solution enabled by the Confederation of Finnish Industries is the International Directors' Advisory Board. This group consists of the international directors of Finnish companies who aim for close dialogue with foreigners studying in Finland. Their goal is to help international students in finding employment in Finnish companies and thus strengthen the diversity and internationalization of these companies.
Laurén sees that internationalization also requires activity at the EU level. The major issue of Finnish companies is that they mostly deal with other Finns, even in EU circles.
“It is most fruitful in terms of innovation and growth when different cultures, industries, and companies of different sizes meet. Finland is actively working with other like-minded countries so that regulation does not limit the possibilities for internationalization and that must be continued. In my opinion, the most beneficial discussions have taken place when EU Commissioners have heard from business leaders and companies are able to communicate what they want directly.”