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Keynote speaker, Business Director Kaisa Hietala: We lack a definition of the value of nature

About 300 invitees and alumni took part in the lecture bearing the name of Chancellor Jaakko Honko
Jaakko Honko -luennon 2023 pääpuhuja Kaisa Hietala
Business Director Kaisa Hietala gave the Jaakko Honko lecture. The biennial alumni event was held at the School of Business in Otaniemi. Photo: Mika Levälampi

At the event bearing the name of Chancellor Jaakko Honko, Business Director and Board Professional Kaisa Hietala’s lecture highlighted how recent turmoil, such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, has made the importance of sustainability very strategic for businesses. In addition, the Jaakko Honko medals were awarded at the event.

In 1997, the Helsinki School of Economics, the Helsinki School of Economics Support Foundation and the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation set up a Jaakko Honko lecture series to honour the work of the former chancellor and president of the School of Economics Jaakko Honko (1922–2006). The lecture, which became a tradition, was first held to mark Honko's 75th birthday.

Jaakko Kiander
Jaakko Kiander

Jaakko Kiander, Chair of the Board of the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, opened the event by welcoming the participants and by talking about the life work of Jaakko Honko. After this, Dean Timo Korkeamäki greeted the listeners. He asked everyone to rise and pay respect to the work and passing of former president Veikko Jääskeläinen (1931–2023). After the elegant moment of silence, it was time for School of Business news. 

‘Life has returned to the building! As many as 1,050 new students started here this autumn. 585 of them are bachelor's students, of whom around 80 started at the Mikkeli campus. Roughly 300 are new master’s students who have completed their bachelor's degree at another higher education institution, and we also received about 200 exchange students.’ The dean also thanked the school's alumni and friends for their important support.

Timo Korkeamäki
Timo Korkeamäki

Helsinki GSE Academic Director, Professor Otto Toivanen said that Helsinki Graduate School of Economics will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year. ‘Helsinki GSE is aiming for a large number of doctors, and for this to happen, we have hired 19 new professors from nine different countries. The successful work to improve the quality and effectiveness of economic research and education continues. I’m also pleased to tell you that 2,000 people have already completed the MOOC course on economics (online course at talouskurssi.fi), and 60% of them are women.’

Otto Toivanen
Otto Toivanen

Jaakko Honko medals to six people distinguished in economics

The Jaakko Honko medal is awarded to an individual who has played a significant role in promoting research in the field of business or economics and/or who has excelled in the activities of Aalto University School of Business, the HSE Support Foundation or the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation. The medal is made of bronze, and it was designed by sculptor Terho Sakki (1930–1997).

Jaakko Honko -mitalisteja: Juuso Välimäki (vas.), Salla Vainio, Martti Hetemäki ja Virpi Tuunainen
Juuso Välimäki (left), Salla Vainio, Martti Hetemäki, and Virpi Tuunainen

This year, the medal was awarded to Economist, Professor of Practice Martti Hetemäki, CEO Jyri Häkämies, CEO Jorma Ollila, Associate Dean, Professor Virpi Tuunainen, Board Professional Salla Vainio and Professor Juuso Välimäki.

The medals were handed out by Elli Dahl, Executive Director of the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, and Arto Mäenmaa, Executive Director of the HSE Support Foundation. The first Jaakko Honko medals were awarded in 1989.

Traditional economy and nature must fit into the same equation

The Jaakko Honko lecture was given by Kaisa Hietala, who talked about the evolution of sustainability in business.

Kaisa Hietala joined the industry in the late 1990s, when organisations had started producing sustainability reports. ‘I witnessed how sustainable development became an expense for companies. Sustainable development was on the side of support functions, and management teams began to ask how investments in sustainable development would pay for themselves. The marketing directors replied that it could be included in the marketing and branding of products and services.’ 

The next step was to consider how the benefits of sustainable development could be presented more extensively, not just in sustainability or environmental reports. This started the era of certificates, and various green labels began to appear on product packaging.

‘The added value must be created through the strategy of companies, and sustainability needed – and still needs – to be at the centre of it all. We started to talk about the dual challenge more and more; companies are developing sustainable products, but at the time of the purchase decision, customers don’t buy more expensive, sustainable products. Traditional products win in price competition.’

According to Kaisa Hietala, the challenge is that we lack a definition of the value of nature by means of traditional economics. ‘For example, what is the value (not the price) of saving a cube of clean water? Or reducing the amount of sorted waste by a tonne?’

Hietala has introduced the new, unofficial term ‘susformation’, as the scale of change is enormous. ‘Companies find it difficult to bring such a slowly changing element, natural capital, to investment decisions, which results in a lack of control and uncertainty. The question now is to have the courage to look far ahead before it's too late. Those who accept the changes are strong. Companies also need new kind of leadership. Leadership that is measured by the ability to create a capacity for change in the organisation. Products and services can be copied – corporate culture, not so much.’

Kaisa Hietala ja Timo Korkeamäki
Dean Timo Korkeamäki warmly thanked Kaisa Hietala for her excellent presentation.

Finally, Kari Jordan, Chair of the Board of the HSE Support Foundation, delivered the closing remarks and thanked the speakers for their interesting contributions. At the end of the evening, the participants enjoyed the offerings of the buffet and exchanged ideas with both old and new friends.

Kari Jordan
Kari Jordan

Text: Terhi Ollikainen
Photos: Mika Levälampi

Better Business — Better Society Seminar Series

The Seminar Series discusses the current and societally important topics at the School of Business. The seminars will be arranged monthly, generally on the first Thursday of the month, excluding holiday seasons.

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