University of Turku facilitates sustainable growth
All of human history has been an incredible tale of growth and development. The power behind this development has been the creation of economic networks and an exchange economy that has enabled people to specialize in specific tasks. However, we have built this success story on the overuse of natural resources, which is causing climate change and extensive loss of biodiversity.
The world has no undo button to take us back to our past.
Even if it had, we probably wouldn’t push the button, because the good old days were not, objectively speaking, that good. Instead of the past, we must look to the future for answers. We can solve our current challenges using the same tools that we’ve successfully used before: specialization and exchange. In today’s terms, this means innovation and ambitious entrepreneurship.
The success and growth of businesses are not in conflict with sustainable development. From a societal perspective, entrepreneurship is at its best when the company’s handprint on the society is significant and its business operations extensive. The company’s handprint on the society means the positive impact its products and services have on a specific issue, such as the reduction of carbon footprint. Without profitability and growth, the scale of a company’s business will remain limited, which also means that its impact on the world is limited – no matter how good and innovative the products or services may be.
We can look at the issue through the term “sustainability”. Sustainability means that the company exists and flourishes for a long time to come. For this to be possible, its business operations must be economically viable as well as aligned with the surrounding world both socially and ecologically also in the future world.
Today’s heroes are the entrepreneurs that are able to create new, sustainable business growth.
Ever-growing sustainable businesses are crucial for the well-being of the society, as they help us solve issues related to the environment and the sustainability gap. The strengths of the market economy can be seen clearly in flexible and innovative growth companies.
The wicked challenges we are currently facing are so huge that we all need to do our part in addressing them. The scale of investments needed for the green transition is similar to the rebuilding efforts following World War II. Companies are at the forefront of this change, but we also need the contribution of the academic world. The purpose of universities is not to promote business, but to create deeper understanding.
We need a scientific understanding of the complex networks forming our environment on this planet, and we need technological innovation to create better solutions. With sociological insights, we can create greater change together, and we need economics research to understand how to create sustainable businesses in a changing world. It’s hard to think of a field of academic inquiry that isn’t part of the equation.
Research and innovation are not achieved through wishful thinking or volunteer work.
Innovation funding is needed for academic research and especially for making the innovations commercially viable. It’s not enough to just throw money around, but instead, we need a clear strategy and vision for moving forward. The alternative is to wait and see what others are developing, but this would mean throwing away a lot of potential for business. Finland is a resource-poor country, which means we need to invest in competence.
The University of Turku deserves some special recognition in this regard, as both the Turku School of Economics and the Faculty of Technology have understood the significance of sustainable business. This has been given a lot of weight in research and education, which gives us a great advantage in these fields. However, even universities face challenges in today’s world of networks, and traditional academic hierarchies may fall prey to a silo mentality against which we must actively fight. This holds true for both internal operations and collaboration between different universities.
Even though the world is throwing challenge after challenge at us, we do have some important capital for the future. Research shows us that people are becoming more and more intelligent all over the world. Change requires a combination of many things, but luckily we are continually becoming more equipped to deal with the challenge!
Professor of Practice: Sustainable Global Business
Turku School of Economics, University of Turku
Professor of Practice: Industrial Engineering
Faculty of Technology, University of Turku