Including sustainability in the strategy: Interview of Nina Kopola CEO and Director General of Business Finland and Elina Björklund CEO of Reima

Sustainability is a matter of all companies in different industries and individuals. We had the pleasure of interviewing two professionals in their fields: Elina Björklund CEO of Reima and Nina Kopola the CEO and Director General of Business Finland. We placed Elina and Nina on Women CEOs in Finland Who Have Impacted their Company’s Sustainability Practices list because they have done significant work in implementing sustainability into the industries and companies they are working in.

Nina Kopola                Elina Björklund

Turning the industries green one step at a time

Nina has been part of developing Business Finland’s strategy to focus more on sustainability because something needs to be done in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The importance of being environmentally friendly has grown all along the further I have gone with my career,” Nina explains. She believes that everyone of us has a role in fighting against climate change at a personal level and at work.

Also, Elina points out that companies are in charge of making changes: “If we [Reima] are not making a change as a company then who will? Brands have authority which needs to be used for the environment. We need to do things right, even if it means investing and relinquishing the profit. I believe that those brands who don’t, will gradually disappear.”

Important steps towards sustainability

In 2015 Reima launched the Responsible Reima corporate responsibility program and decided to hire a responsibility manager. Elina states that those were important steps towards a more sustainable business.

Improvements were started by watching through the value chain and focusing on the core responsible themes: the supply chain needs to be transparent and efficient.

Sustainability is becoming mainstream in Finland

According to Nina sustainability and green values are quite mainstream nowadays in Finland, even the Finnish government has implemented it to its program. Although the situation is quite different than 10 years ago:

The attitudes have changed: nowadays you can make business by being environmentally friendly and it will be a competitive advantage. Back in the days, the industry didn’t see the business opportunities that environmentally friendly products could create. It was only seen as costs,” Nina explains.

Benefits of going green

Being proactive in leading your company into sustainability is not only beneficial for your brand image but it also opens the doors to new business opportunities. According to Nina, a business can gain a wider perspective by having improved sustainability practices.

Nowadays sustainability is a vital condition and it creates business opportunities. There is an opportunity for differentiation when you do something better and different than your competitors,” Nina explains.

Being sustainable can also be beneficial financially. Elina believes that the new innovations and improvements done in sustainability practices have had an impact on Reima’s business growth.

During the past five years, our average annual growth has been 17 %. As the whole industry’s growth is about 3-4 % in a year, we have done something right as the growth has been made in both new and old markets,” Elina says.

Going green may bring new opportunities but it does come with challenges

One challenge to sustainability involves the standardization of measurement in reporting. “In reporting, there are differences in opinions of what kinds of actions are sustainable and how sustainability can be presented,” Nina explains.

According to Elina transparency is a problem that needs to be solved in the clothing industry:
The most critical improvement in the future will be in the industry’s transparency. Consumers will be more aware of the whole supply chain of the clothing. Actors who can’t achieve transparency targets will end up falling off the market.

Sustainability practices create new innovations

Business Finland’s aim is to make Finland a forerunner as a sustainability authority. This is done by cooperating with Finnish companies and encouraging them to seize new business opportunities that come up by identifying technology that is needed in fighting against climate change.

Elina personally believes that new kinds of clothing fibers will come to the commercial market. The fibers will be recycled even significantly: waste and old clothes will be the material for new fabrics.

The second point in her mind is to increase the usage time of garments. This idea of good quality and safety combined with timeless design is central to Reima’s business idea – so, clothing lasts from big brother to little brother. And already today, the circular economy is central in Reima’s strategy: Clothing as a service, called Reima Kit, provides consumers with the opportunity to pay a monthly fee and return the products after the season. Clothes are sold by Reima’s partner in the second-hand market, and the consumer using the service receives the money automatically on her/his bank account. This service makes reuse easy and efficient and so helps consumers to increase the lifecycle of the clothing they buy but turns small to their kids soon.

One new sustainable product that we brought to the market this spring, as the first kids’ brand globally, is the mono-material jacket Voyager. That jacket meets our strategy perfectly as all components are made from one material which makes it easy to recycle. Additionally, every jacket has its own registration code that allows users to follow the product life cycle. Material is so strong and high quality that the jacket can have many “lives” with a different child and at the end of its life cycle it can be recycled,” Elina explains.

Having a positive impact as a consumer

In addition to implementing sustainability practices to the companies they are working in, both Elina and Nina are also green at home.

I believe I can and we all can have an impact as a consumer,” Elina says. Elina’s family has e.g. switched to geothermal heating. Also, the family is focusing on using local products and reducing the amount of food waste.

Nina also believes that there is a lot that an individual can do in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change: “I’m having a positive impact on the environment by recycling, eating less meat, and by driving a hybrid car. In addition, as a consumer, I am making responsible and better choices when it comes to buying consumer items like clothes.

Let’s recognize green achievements

In our Fairforce list, Women CEOs in Finland Who Have Impacted their Company’s Sustainability Practices, we want to honor the following women for their impactful roles in leading businesses to sustainability. We want to share with the world how professionals are making a difference for our planet by working hard to increase sustainability practices in their industries.

Nina and Elina, thank you for taking the time for our interview. It was a pleasure connecting with you and hearing how energized you are about the sustainability practices and future goals in businesses and industries.