Ep 2: Conversation with Salla Ahonen (Neste) and Pia Tanskanen (Nokia)
In this episode, our guests Pia Tanskanen and Salla Ahonen share their sustainability journey with us. They talk about their work in their respective fields and organizations to reduce negative environmental outcomes and increase overall productivity. The conversation then moves on to how sustainability is not just about the environment but actually includes four areas – climate, biodiversity, human rights, and supply chains. They discuss how they see sustainability as not only being about preventing bad things from happening, but also maximizing the good stuff. This means having targets on minimizing their carbon footprint but also maximizing their carbon handprint meaning how they are helping other companies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by using their products. Another important point that was emphasized was how digitalization is tied to going green and going circular for their companies with regards to carbon-neutral goals. At a company level, it is critical that what the sustainability team is doing be seen in the context of working together with the R&D and innovation unit, the production lines, the strategy team, the HR team, the finance team and the communications team. Pia and Salla both feel optimistic about the future even when progress is slow, largely because the field of sustainability has changed dramatically in a positive way over the last 10 to 15 years.
We have two guests on the show, Pia Tanskanen, and Salla Ahonen.
Pia Tanskanen is Head of Environment at Nokia. Nokia is a Finnish multinational telecommunication, information technology, and consumer electronics company. Pia is responsible for Nokia’s environmental programs. She has spent over 20 years working in global ICT, for both B2B and B2C. She is passionate about environmental topics, such as #zeroemissions, #tech4climate, #sustainability innovation and value creation, and recycling & circular economy.
Salla Ahonen is Vice president of Sustainability at Neste. Neste is the world’s leading producer of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel. Salla’s primary focus is on realigning the sustainability focus areas of Neste and ensuring they are fully integrated into the business strategy. Before joining Neste, over the course of more than two decades, Salla worked as a Senior Advisor at the Brussels office of the Confederation of Finnish Industries and as Director of Governmental Affairs at Microsoft. Prior to that she held several positions at Nokia, including being Director for Sustainability & Environmental Policy.
Key moments timestamps
[1:14]- Salla Ahonen’s Sustainability journey
[3:03]- Pia Tanskanen’s Sustainability journey
[5:07]- How the four main aspects of sustainability (climate, biodiversity, human rights, and supply chain) come together
[11:23]- The relationship between industry groups that support climate issues
[14:39]- Dealing with the detours that take you away from the core of your business to address systemic problems
[16:47]- Is sustainability a new thing in business?
[23:11]- How going green is tied to digitalization
[24:34]- Achieving carbon-neutral production in Neste
[30:08]- Big obstacles to the transformations that go on in organizations
[33:00]- Balancing priorities when it comes to decision making
[35:00]- What does the future hold?
We see more and more companies really having a purpose that is beyond making money and I think this is a big change in what we’ve seen as sustainability. – Salla Ahonen
You can’t change the world on your own. – Pia Tanskanen
Welcome to more with less, the podcast that looks at how businesses balance financial growth with sustainability. I am Venkata Gandikota and I’m Jaideep Prabhu.
[00:00:25] Venkata Gandikota: Today we have two guests on the show. Pia Tanskanen, who is Head of Environment at Nokia. Nokia is the Finnish multinational telecommunications, information technology, and consumer electronics company. Pia is responsible for Nokia’s environmental programs. She has spent over 20 years working in global ICT for both B2B and B2C.
Salla Ahonen, Vice president of Sustainability at Neste. She’s our second guest. Neste is world’s leading producer of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel. Introducing also renewable feedstock solutions for various polymers and chemicals industry. Located in Espoo, Finland and with refineries also in Rotterdam and Singapore, Neste’s offering also includes oil products and related services. Salla’s primary focus is on realigning the sustainability focus areas of Neste and ensuring they are fully integrated to the business strategy. Salla and Pia, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Salla, I’ll start with you. You’ve been working in sustainability roles for over a decade, ranging from telecom to transportation. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your personal journey?
[00:01:42] Salla Ahonen: Sure. Thanks for inviting us. And I’m afraid it’s several decades, so maybe two is enough. I studied energy engineering and environmental protection. So sustainability was maybe more seen to be an environmental “how do we get rid of pollution” kind of thing at the time and when I graduated, I actually went straight to, to work with Nokia at the research center, working on what is important in that industry? It was not fully developed. The whole industry was still developing. So defining what good environmental performance meant for an industry that was in its infancy. It’s obviously very exciting. And that’s also where we worked together with Pia.
Did that for a very long time. Also, I moved into doing more of the policy side. So being a lobbyist as well, working in Brussels and Washington, as well as in Finland and then moving on to work with more on the policy side. So working with the Confederation of Finnish industries, and then finally, now nearly three years with Neste.
So looking at sustainability and during that time, I think there has been a tremendous change in how sustainability is seen. So now it’s a much more broad concept. It’s also much more about how can we make business out of sustainability and not just preventing bad things from happening, but also maximizing the good stuff.
So we actually also have now targets on minimizing our carbon footprint, but also maximizing our carbon handprints or how are we helping other companies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by using our products.
[00:03:28] Venkata Gandikota: Now, let me turn to Pia. You have worked for over two decades at Nokia, especially in the sustainability area for them since 2006. Could you tell us about yourself and your personal journey.
[00:03:40] Pia Tanskanen: Okay. So I actually studied chemistry in the university of technology. And when I’m later thinking about my career, everything that I did from the start was to change the chemicals that we use in different industries. So I was working with Marine industry and later we actually did a project for Neste, Salla’s currently working place, to also look at the things that the related to chemicals, all that, and then moved to electronics industry Nokia in 1999 and I started to work with environmental topics there. The whole, really seeing the industries change during these years, it’s really interesting because from the chemicals perspective, all the industries started to make this change to a more, to more safer less environmental harmful chemicals at those days. And then the whole thing grew more into sustainability, more holistic approach on how can we make the best businesses? What’s the purpose of the business and how can we improve the positive impacts on top of minimizing the negative ones. Exactly like Salla explained. And this is the part where electronics industry, telecommunication industries is very interesting place to work where really the digitalization can bring so many benefits to societies and to other industries when we are seeing the digitalization of the industrial processes, those help us to save energy, save waste in all industries.
[00:05:05] Salla Ahonen: And I think that’s something really interesting, sorry. Really bringing in the purpose. And I think this is really important. So now we see more and more companies really having a purpose beyond making money. And I think this is a big change in what we’ve seen sustainability be like and I also really liked what Pia was saying about how are you part of that positive transformation in the world?
[00:05:31] Jaideep Prabhu: was struck by exactly that
[00:05:33] Salla Ahonen: motivates me.
[00:05:34] Jaideep Prabhu: It’s not just about reducing the negative impacts. It’s actually about doing something positive. That’s why I like the footprint, handprint and Pia also emphasize that, not just reducing the negatives but increasing the positive impact. And in fact, my followup question for your Salla is Neste’s sustainability vision has these four issues, climate, biodiversity, but also human rights and supply chain and raw materials. What do these targets mean in practice? How do they come together under a purpose?
[00:06:04] Salla Ahonen: Yes. The purpose of the company is creating a healthier planet for our children. And this is actually something that every single employee knows and we’ve been hiring a lot of people. So when asked, why do they want to work for Neste, a lot of people say it’s because of the purpose. And I think this is quite visible at the company as well, but about the the sustainability vision. Yes. So we’ve had climate strategy for about a year and a half, and it’s actually one of the strategic priorities of the company. It is one of the must win battles. it is something that, we really are very much focusing on, but like we’ve already been discussing, sustainability is getting both wider and deeper at the same time.
In September we actually launched our new sustainability vision, which is adding new components. So we are looking at climate. Yes, but we’re also bringing in sort of aspirational targets for biodiversity, for human rights. And then these are the three subjects and they all need to then move forward also in our supply chain.
And that’s why the fourth topic is raw materials and supply chain. So we’re really looking at how we can work together with our suppliers, with different partners in our value chain, because we believe that if we’re really going to have a big, positive impact, it’s not enough to focus on your own operations on what you’re doing on your own, but really how can you have that scalable impact together with others. We are also hoping to inspire others. Pia, I’ll let you speak in a bit so that they can also find ways to improve what they are doing. So on climate, we also added a new aspect. Previously we said that we are aiming for carbon neutral production by 2035. And that’s the minimizing the carbon footprint, and then we’ve already had this- we want to help our customers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million tons by 2030. So that is that maximizing the carbon handprint. But now we also wanted to introduce the value chains. Leading transformation to force a carbon neutral value chain by 2040, and setting a target for, cutting our emission intensity.
So, these are really concrete steps that we now know how to make. And then we added biodiversity. And obviously that has a lot to do with climate because climate changes is one of the bigger problems for biodiversity. So already there we’re making actions, but that biodiversity is not nearly as mature as a topic as climate.
So everybody knows that when we’re talking about climate, we need to measure our greenhouse gas emissions and we need to reduce them. But when talking about biodiversity, it’s not that clear. So what do you measure? What are the metrics that we need to have? How do we make sure that we’re taking the right steps both, for example, in Finland, around our own facilities, as well as around the world, in our value chains. So what we’re doing now, we’re working together for example, with some NGOs, some research institutes in trying to define how do we measure and what should the metrics be for biodiversity?
And then on human rights I think a lot of people for a long time had this idea that, human rights violations is something that happens somewhere far away. And we really want to talk about human rights as a wider topic. We also want to talk about diversity and inclusion. We want to make sure that we’re helping children get to education, but also we’re working together with other companies in solving, systemic problems. I was like, how do we make sure that everybody is paid a living wage?
So this is now something where we are also looking for others to work together. We can’t solve these on our own
[00:09:43] Venkata Gandikota: So, Pia, do you have something similar at Nokia? Do you also have a purpose that sort of brings together all these different things?
[00:09:51] Pia Tanskanen: We do. And like it’s been discussed, sustainability is such a wide area covering really the different environmental aspects and social things. And the thinking of working across the value chain. It’s really the key here that I was going to say before. Like companies can not only focus on what they do as an individual company, but rather how do you work with your partners?
How do you work with your supply chain? How do you work with your customers? Because every everybody is really needed in order to make a change. And in order to accelerate the change, you really even need to expand your collaboration across the different industries. So not only working in your own value chain, but rather together with other industries as well.
So this is something we really like to see. Salla also did talk about the measurements, targets. Those are important for businesses to really set the scene and see what’s the direction where you need to go important for measuring the way your progress. We have been setting climate targets I S based climate targets in 2017 already. And we did recalibrate those earlier this year to meet the 1.5 degrees global warming scenario requirements. And this is how to minimize the negative impacts of the digitalization of the connectivity. And then on top of that, we work together with other companies in the industry, in the European green digital coalition to look at the positive impact. What is the impact of the digitalization for other industries? And how can we measure that in a better way. Because measurement really is needed in all of these areas to see how you are progressing and take these baby steps on, then the biggest steps as well.
[00:11:30] Venkata Gandikota: I actually have a follow-up to that. As both Nokia and Neste, you’re part of different types of industry groups that support climate related things. I was just wondering how useful is it overall? And then does this really work or is it just about being there in these groups? Or do they really do concrete actions and those actions come out as being part of these kinds of groups.
[00:11:55] Salla Ahonen: Funny you should ask that. We were just discussing this yesterday. First, if I’ll just say that, I think in Pia’s industry, so the telecom and electronics industry, they’d been working together for a very long time with other companies. And I think there’s been some real progress in also, really making things better understood, in also making things move in the value chain.
Cause also when you find other companies that are pushing the same things forward, then that’s always helpful. You can’t change the world on your own. Like I keep saying. But sometimes yes. What are all these different pledges? How are they helping? I think they’re good at raising awareness.
They may be good if there’s some real thought behind it on how do we measure ? What should we be measuring so that we are talking about the same things. Cause there’s so much noise around sustainability these days. So it’s good to maybe understand that this is the framework that we’re all using.
[00:12:52] Pia Tanskanen: It is very important. The one thing there’s so many pledges and organizations asking you to pledge, or commit. So you need to really be careful how to choose the ones you really want to join and make an impact. But in many cases it’s useful for setting the scheme. So talking about the same topics, agreeing the boundaries, agreeing how do you actually measure?
And for example, when it comes to climate targets, science-based climate targets. It’s very useful when we have our customers having the similar targets and us having the same. So the dialogue between us and the customer becomes much better when you say, okay, this is your target, and this is how we contribute. And how do we help you to reach your target? It’s really been important to have the similar language when you talk about these things, when you really want to make the change happen. Because what I see quite often is that you have somebody asking you a question and maybe you don’t even get it because the other person is thinking or the other organization is thinking something totally different.
So when in order to make a change, you first need to understand exactly what’s the question. What’s the direction that the other one wants to go. And then how do you start measuring and how do you start showing improvement and progress there? Some of the projects that we have done together with our suppliers or customers, it actually takes a rather long time to set the scene and really say, okay, this is what we want to do together. These are the limits and the boundaries, and this is the actual topic and action.
[00:14:16] Salla Ahonen: I’m nodding heavily.
[00:14:18] Jaideep Prabhu: Nodding. Yes. Yes.
Say that yes, for Nokia to focus on issues related to technology and telecoms and digitalization makes sense. For Neste to focus on environment around energy makes sense. But then if you get into things that are farther away from your core business, let’s say we start talking about human rights and things like that. No doubt those are very important but that takes you away from your core business. Does that become a distraction? Does that dilute your focus on performance? How do you deal with things that are in a sense taking you away from the core of your business to address these systemic problems?
[00:14:54] Pia Tanskanen: It’s just a value chain and the supply chain is key part of the business. So it’s not taking our focus away from the business. I would say and Salla is nodding again. I can see. How we work with supply chain and our suppliers are needed for our business to be successful.
[00:15:09] Salla Ahonen: I couldn’t agree with you more, Pia. So. I don’t see that distinction. I think this is critically important for the business. And we actually launched our sustainability vision at the capital markets day. It was introduced by the CEO because we actually think that this is a key part of the company’s strategy, making sure that whatever raw material we use, wherever we source it from, we do it following that sustainability vision, our strategy, our targets. So really, I think it’s more of a, what we talked about in the beginning that the expectations for sustainability are growing. Different stakeholders are demanding these things.
[00:15:52] Pia Tanskanen: Something we’ve seen in the recent years. Really the much bigger interest from all different kind of stakeholders. And I would say also a more awareness on topics and more competencies across the different disciplines. Really. So talking with investors and our partners from all different types of partners. There’s dialogue happening every day on these things because the value chain it’s really the key here, including suppliers, customers and all your interest groups and having the dialogue with them on sustainability related topics. That’s really everyday work.
[00:16:26] Jaideep Prabhu: Help us understand that a bit more. Is that a new thing? Is that something that’s coming together now, or is it a growing trend? Because Salla, you were saying you just attended a business conference in Lithuania, which wasn’t about sustainability, but when we’re talking about general business issues, sustainability was a key question. Is this a new thing? Is this a Nordic thing or is this a global thing? Help us understand what’s driving this.
[00:16:53] Salla Ahonen: I think it’s a growing thing. Some people might think that it’s been growing faster in the Nordics, but I think it’s definitely growing globally now. I think it’s been there for a while, but it’s getting more mainstream and the business conference in Lithuania was a good example on how, even on topics that were not meant to be focusing on sustainability, we’re quite much focusing on sustainability because it is such a big thing about running a business these days.
It is vitally important to the investors. I keep saying that my new best friend is our head of investor relations because I spend so much time with him talking to investors who have more detailed, more in-depth questions than ever before. So I think maybe a few years ago, the focus on climate really exploded and now everybody’s expected to have a credible climate strategy.
The possibility to explain “this is what it means for my company, this is what we are doing to make our impact on climate smaller, or this is what we’re doing to help solve the climate crisis”. But additionally, there are these new topics that are also gaining momentum. So like we’ve been discussing, it’s getting both, bigger, wider, deeper, it’s the first, in the 20 plus years that I’ve been working where I really feel that it is no longer, that much pushed by those that are interested in sustainability, but also it’s been
[00:18:30] Pia Tanskanen: That’s maybe that’s a good because I feel the same. I was asking the question this morning from my colleague, like why we are getting these questions now from a one particular party. And then he mentioned okay, are every discussion around our business is has a link to sustainability so it means like there’s all these stakeholders partners there. So we used to have maybe sustainability earlier, but now it’s really, it’s not a pushing, but it’s rather pulling from all sides and having answers and discussion over these things.
[00:19:02] Jaideep Prabhu: It seems a lot of different things have been coming together. Like on the one hand, perhaps we are recognizing the costs of an earlier model that doesn’t take into account environment and society. But on the other hand, we have seen the possible benefits of doing that. Am I right? What’s your take on that?
[00:19:19] Salla Ahonen: Absolutely. I think there’s a general awareness that we need to solve some of these sustainability issues that we’re all facing. We’re all understanding the seriousness of the climate crisis or biodiversity loss. We are putting more emphasis on making sure. Everybody has the possibility to work in dignity and, earn a good living and not work in dangerous working environments.
So there is more of an understanding and that translates also into business opportunities. So if your business can be part of solving these common problems, then there is a real opportunity of turning that into a business. But then even if you’re not, you’re expected to make sure that you’re doing everything to minimize the negative impact that you may have on any of these topics.
And I think this is just, it’s been bubbling under for quite some time. But I think if anything, the pandemic has made it more critical. So now when you see discussions about how do we move forward from the situation of where we are today. It’s about, the green growth or the just transition or whatever, but it’s always looking at how can we move forward in a more sustainable manner and who are those companies or organizations that can help us really, take that leap and who do you need to work together with.
[00:20:50] Pia Tanskanen: But funny that you mentioned pandemic because that’s something that has been here changing our everyday lives. And somehow optimistic when looking at sustainability and how can we accelerate? Because we saw the whole world really changing how we live and work in one week. And it’s been there for almost two years now.
So for me, it was the optimistic sign, in a way saying if we really want to work together and saying something, when it comes to sustainability. That’s possible and yeah, we can, and we can do it really all over the world because I have in 120 countries and whatever discussions since we had over the teams meetings during the pandemic, it was all always like ” how do you see these things in your country? Like how does pandemic affect your daily life?” So really that rapid change. How do you live your daily lives? How do you work? And then if we to work with sustainability climate topics that’s possible. And there’s a really big opportunity for us as humans in all over the world to really do something together and have an impact.
[00:21:54] Salla Ahonen: I agree. And, I think it has given me a lot of hope, all these questions coming from different stakeholders, all this focus coming from investors. Talking to bankers lately. I think it’s showing that we have moved in a phase where people take these things seriously.
[00:22:11] Pia Tanskanen: And bankers, like you mentioned, and our customers, everybody there’s really what everybody is looking is, is to see the potential to change. How can we do something differently and how can we work together to make it happen? So that is something that I also it’s not saying these are wrong and there’s really hope, but rather let’s work together find ways how can we change our business, our collaborations and how can accelerate the change.
[00:22:38] Jaideep Prabhu: I want to ask a couple of questions about what this actually means for your jobs. And I’d start with Pia. Your CEO, Pekka Lundmark, recently stated that going green is tied to technology and digitalization. What does that mean in practice for you as head of environment?
[00:22:56] Pia Tanskanen: What he actually said, there’s no Green without digital. And it really ties into these things that we believe that connectivity and digitalization can really help the world in making things greener. We work together with renewable electricity manufacturing companies, making their processes are more productive, more resource efficient. Brings people every individual really a lot of ways how to minimize your personal, environmental footprint. Many examples of really how can our businesses become more efficient in a data resource efficient when we are using digitalization to support that moment.
[00:23:38] Jaideep Prabhu: Make us more efficient, reduce waste, etc. Salla, I want to ask about Neste. You have in your product portfolio, both renewable and fossil based. But you want to, as you said, achieve carbon neutral production by 2035. What does that mean in practice? Does that mean that you’re going to increase your renewable products while reducing fossil fuel based output? How do you make those decisions on a day-to-day basis?
[00:24:02] Salla Ahonen: The carbon neutral production is something where we have currently more than 80 different initiatives ongoing. So we have people from different parts of the organization. Running things like how do we secure a 100% renewable electricity for the company? So we have the people in procurement looking at how can we do that? We’ve made power purchase agreements because let’s face it, all the companies in the world are saying that they are going to start using more renewable electricity. So we need to make sure that’s actually available. So this is something that we’ve been doing. Of course there’s things like, how can we improve energy efficiency in the production using digitalization? So it’s definitely one of the tools also for our industry. How can we replace some of the raw materials that we are also looking at coal processing in that the fossil product lines so that we are also introducing new types of renewable raw materials in the fossils. We’re also introducing circular soultions. So using waste plastics as a source of raw materials. But really this is something where we have a strategy. We have a roadmap we’re looking at carbon capture and utilization. We’re looking at hydrogen production. Cause that is one of the critical things when looking at where the emissions are coming from in the refining business.
When we set the target carbon neutral production by 2035, we knew that we would be able to reduce a big part of the emissions, but there will always be something left. And for that, we will then be looking at good quality compensation. So these are all under a lot of attention. So we actually report back to the executive committee on a bimonthly basis or that we need to show how we’re making progress.
We have tied these are targets into the long-term incentives for the key personnel, we have changed our investment criteria because some of these things were things that, you’re started wondering why haven’t we done this before? And we realized that it was because our investment criteria were not supportive of this kind of change. So now we changed it. So whenever somebody is hoping to have money for an investment, they need to show its impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, both on the production but also then is it helping us produce more and more of these solutions that will help others reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
So we’ve made a lot of different changes in all the processes in the company. And it’s really important to understand that it’s not about just, what the sustainability team is doing. It’s about working together with our R and D and innovation unit. It’s about working together with, the production lines. It’s about working together with the strategy team and the HR team and the finance team and the communications team. So really you need a lot of different competencies and you need to be able to really tie it in how the company is run.
[00:26:49] Pia Tanskanen: Yeah, maybe I could comment on that. It’s really not about sustainability teams. It’s really how the are other functions, business, everything support functions are also working towards be in there and making these changes.
[00:27:03] Jaideep Prabhu: So, you both of you have stressed how there has to be that working together, cooperation within the organization, but then between organizations and with different partners and stakeholders. Is that a very Nordic thing, the Nordic model of cooperation. And you see also that the state plays a role working with capital and the private sector. I know that Neste has a state ownership, maybe Nokia also historically had some role. Does that model of ownership make a difference, make you more socially and environmentally responsible than if you were just purely a listed company trying to maximize short-term returns?
[00:27:43] Salla Ahonen: I suppose it depends on who the other owners would be. I already told you that we talk a lot with investors. So there’s a lot of expectations coming from all the owners, not just, being partly state owned. So actually the government doesn’t control the company. So it’s not interfering with how to run the business. So Finland has this carbon neutral target itself. We are a big part of that as Neste. So clearly that was an encouragement for us, for our internal decision-making as well. Coming from a small country I think it’s obvious for us that, if we want to change the world, we need to work with others or maybe the collaboration comes from there. But I think there should be quite evident for anybody anywhere. If you’re serious about having a big impact, you really need to work with others. So I’m an engineer, so I’ve made a formula that sustainability equals innovation plus partnerships.
[00:28:40] Pia Tanskanen: Maybe it’s also about mathematics. What can you do alone? So really when you have a possibility to have all your colleagues and all the partners and everybody doing their bit, so it must be a bigger impact than working alone for something. So I think it’s just obvious. I don’t know where the, where that is actually coming from. Is it a Nordic heritage or what is it.
[00:29:02] Venkata Gandikota: I want to just switch slightly and ask you, what are some of the big obstacles to the transformations that you are undergoing in your organizations? What gets in the way of actually doing more of this and doing it faster?
[00:29:16] Pia Tanskanen: I think Salla mentioned that as the topic is becoming deeper and wider, so that’s one thing. So you need to really find out where to focus first because you can’t do everything at the same time.
[00:29:29] Salla Ahonen: The prioritization and understanding your business. So you can’t just copy that this is how you do it, but you really need to understand that these are the key for us. And this is how I will put them on a timeline. This is what we did even with just, the carbon neutral production goal.
So what are the different ideas that we had? And we had more than a hundred, and then we were looking at how quickly can we actually start working on this. So we started putting them on a timeline. So now we need to focus on these things. This is what we can implement straight away. And then we looked at some of these other things where the technology was maybe not mature enough.
So understanding that we might not be able to implement it yet today, but we need to make sure that we start piloting it today so that we will be able to scale it up in 10 years time. So really trying to understand that these are most important issues for your business. And then what is the level of maturity? What needs to be done? Is it just about, just get it or is it about you need further development or is it about you kind of know what to but you might need somebody else to work together with you to make it done. So that’s when you need to stop wondering and finding the right kind of partner, sometimes it might be a university.
If you’re still looking at the perfect problem, or it could be about a smaller company who has the technology, but doesn’t know how to scale it up, or it could be about finding a supplier who wants to start developing together with you.
[00:30:58] Pia Tanskanen: And also making your being critical about the requirements. I’ve been talking quite a lot about our stakeholder requirements and people having their opinions, but really you need to decide what’s important for you going back there, knowing your company, knowing where you sit, actually do the first steps, what are the critical areas and the most important areas for you and then start from there. Need innovation. So that’s thing. It’s things are not ready yet. So we need all the clever minds all over to really think about in a different way, in a new way, and being open to pains.
[00:31:30] Jaideep Prabhu: So you know that’s this prioritization point and how you decide to focus. Maybe I could ask you a quick question on that. So let’s say you have to choose, you have KPIs around environment versus the social. How do you balance those at any point in time when you actually have to make a choice Pia you want to, do you face that kind of dilemma on a daily basis?
[00:31:54] Pia Tanskanen: I would say these areas, many of them are in the different maturity. So some topics you’ve been working like with climate for such a long time. So there’s, our measurements are ready. The reporting is ready. You’ll have your goals, targets. It’s all there. And some others areas is just being developed.
So that’s actually helping when you have something that you’ve done for a longer time, and you can maybe learn from that you learn from your mistakes, you learn how to actually do what’s the best way to take things forward. And then other areas not so mature yet. So they are more under development and you start building the system.
The measurement systems are target settings processes. So in the maturity level in many times, but really looking like focusing on one thing and then looking what’s the next thing. We look at them areas from many different perspectives.
It’s about how the regulation plays one role, stakeholder requirements one role, the impact and how can be what what’s the the topic and so forth. So we look from all different perspectives, risk and opportunities.
[00:33:00] Jaideep Prabhu: Salla. You want to add anything to that? Is it similar for you?
[00:33:02] Salla Ahonen: It is similar. And I think it’s just clear that, you know, things are getting complex. So you need to be able to still find a way forward that is having as big a positive impact as possible without jeopardizing some other aspect. So it’s not like I would be wondering, okay, shall we have a better for climate, but worse for human rights kind of solution?
No, we’re not going to go for what if it has, you know, a negative on, on one of these. But sometimes like Pia is saying, what is the prioritization? Do we want to focus most on these issues because of stakeholder preferences or because this is where we see that there is the most urgency.
[00:33:46] Venkata Gandikota: I just want to ask both of you about talent. You both have been saying how you need people with these new skills and you need to be thinking about these new areas. Are you able to hire people and where are you looking for these people who have this type of specific expertise?
[00:34:06] Salla Ahonen: In different parts of the organization would be a good start. We’ve already been saying that it’s not about just the sustainability team, but you need to be able to work together with those that are really good with finance issues. So typically you’ll find them in the finance department and you need to work together with people who can help you embed these topics in the HR processes. So you need to work together with the people from HR. You need some strategic thinking, but you also need people who have very good scientific background for solving some of the, either the process related issues and you know it’s all about chemistry.
So you really need a lot of very different competencies.
[00:34:45] Pia Tanskanen: Yeah. And that’s the fun part of the work is really get to know people from such different backgrounds coming from such a different disciplines, all being really good at what they do. And then working together, bringing, uh, their in the table for for solving the sustainability related topics.
So that’s at least it’s really, for me, it’s the fun part of the work learning from our colleagues that do have totally different competences.
[00:35:10] Jaideep Prabhu: So I know that the two of you have not just been colleagues, you probably worked in each other’s organizations at various points, but you’re friends and you talk often. So when you talk, what is your view of the future? Are you optimistic? Do you think we’ll be able to hit these pretty difficult targets in terms of climate change and deal with some of these big problems.
[00:35:32] Pia Tanskanen: For sure. Optimistic. So that’s sometimes things are frustrating of course, but the main thing is really being optimistic. And when I’m looking up 10 years, 15 years back, world is so different. So the development is so fast and I’m really optimistic on how we can make the planet better, make our lives better.
[00:35:53] Salla Ahonen: Yeah, I’ve also decided to be optimistic and there are days when it’s a decision that you know and, but I really think that it’s also really good to then when you have those days of frustration and those days come as well, then there’s somebody you can talk to. And it’s really good when we have been working together already in the last millennium that we can remind each other of obstacles that we’ve seen on the way and how far we have come. So, there is really cause for optimism.
[00:36:21] Jaideep Prabhu: Thank you, Pia and Salla for a wonderful conversation.
[00:36:24] Venkata Gandikota: Thanks Pia and thanks Salla. I agree completely with Jaideep. It was very fun, it was very informative. It was a great podcast episode.
Thanks for listening to our more with less podcast. You can follow us also on social media. Our Twitter handle is morewithlesspod and our handles on Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube are morewithlesspodcast.
Venkata Gandikota is frugal innovation and impact investing evangelist and Prof Jaideep Prabhu is a Professor of Marketing at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School and co-author of an award-winning book on frugal innovation.
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