“Responsibility is everything,” says Harri Koponen, Chief Commercial Officer of Nortal Group, when speaking about the principles of sustainability in international business. “Indeed, we have to bear in mind where and how to invest and truly know who our partners are. To make sure everything we do has a positive spin on our lives. To know how raw materials are sourced, how recycling is arranged and to be mindful of energy consumption. So the objective is to act responsibly and to act as good corporate citizens.”
According to Koponen, responsible operations are facilitated by digitalization, which creates transparency from production to logistics to delivery, and to the safe use of the product or service.
Responsibility principles are widely embraced in Finland, especially among pension funds and private investors. In Koponen’s view, accountability is a popular and prevalent topic in that country, and the next level is to offer transparent, real-life examples demonstrating how an organization is tangibly adhering to the principles of responsibility. “At Nortal, we have completed a program showcasing how the entire operational chain works, naming our suppliers, etc.,” says Koponen.
In Finland, sustainability is an important issue since Finns are very environmentally focused and understand the high price to be paid by squandering it. “I haven’t met a single Finn who doesn’t think ecologically. Every person has a sense of devotion to the environment,” believes Koponen.
Harri Koponen: With the help of #digitalization, act responsibly and create a positive twist! #Nortal
Koponen also believes that trust is Finland’s trump card, because internationally, Finns have the reputation of being trustworthy, upstanding and straightforward. “There is a clear understanding that Finns are taking care of business, keeping promises and paying back debts — if there are any. All in all, things will get done as promised in Finland, and this is globally valued.”
When speaking of digitalization, first, Koponen sees startups as relevant players in the field. “We should think about how to take care of startups — if they should be taxed immediately or only once they make a profit, or do we treat them as they do in Estonia where young companies can keep their profits for the first five to ten years. In that time, startups can strengthen their balance sheets and invest in themselves, which means new jobs, and the state can collect its tax income from labor duties,” says Koponen.
Secondly, on the R&D side, he believes product development research requires more attention and increased collaboration between universities and companies.
Koponen highlights Finland’s strengths in digitalization, as the country has a lot of people and experience in the field and education plays a crucial role. “For a long time, Finland has maintained a digitalization agenda, with entrepreneurs who have created Linux SSH. Still, education needs more focus because it is the foundation of strong digitalization.”
Koponen also sees that a few things can be learned from Estonia. “In a way, Estonia abandoned everything traditional and moved ahead with a new approach and new technologies. The systems are working seamlessly and this makes for happy and satisfied end-users. For example, you can obtain Estonian digital citizenship and then operate within the country without a physical presence.”
Digitalization’s biggest upside is that it is not done for digitalization’s sake; rather, it’s for supporting business decisions with the help of IT systems. “I would speak of support intelligence, engaging computers in order to make smarter and quicker decisions. Literally, if something looks like a dark forest, digitalization can show us illuminated spots and quickly orient us. This is why new services have emerged — like Uber and AirBnB — disrupting traditional, hierarchical organizations.”
Harri Koponen, senior partner and head of Nortal's Finland operations, has a versatile background. He's been with Rovio Entertainment (the company behind Angry Birds) and Finnish Army, but also with Royal Dutch Shell and different telecoms. Experienced in international sales and marketing, he has managed people from different cultures and drives business changes in very demanding environments. To schedule an interview with him, get in touch with us via email.