Graduating as a civil engineer, a Master’s thesis on reducing emission levels at traffic intersections was the beginning of Sari’s sustainability journey.
Now, as Head of Sustainability for Finish food corporation, Fazer, Sari talks to dss+ about how the power of innovation, regenerative farming methods and access to chocolate are reasons to remain positive.
Q: In your opinion, how does the link between leadership, company culture and sustainability encourage innovation?
Sari: I think companies have to demonstrate that sustainability is important by making it an integral part of operations. This approach is nourished by company culture and leadership, both of which have a significant impact on how an organisation addresses sustainability issues. As a leader, you have to embrace innovation and be open to new ideas and encourage employees to take ownership of problems and, importantly, provide solutions. Within this, there has to be an element of trial and error. If employees are not allowed to make mistakes, you don’t get as many good ideas. So leaders need to create a culture that offers a psychologically safe environment to foster innovation and encourages people to try different things.
Q: Sustainability is often linked with good safety behaviour. Can you explain why the two are connected and what other tools and actions are driving the sustainability agenda?
Sari: I think both disciplines derive from the same mindset. I have learned from previous roles in health and safety how crucial it is to express your ambitions through behaviour and positively influence people. So while safety relies on direct and concrete behaviour, sustainability is also about how your behaviour can promote good actions long term. In terms of tools, I think risk management is underused. It focuses on how companies are coping with climate risk initiatives but often lacks details on how they are dealing with opportunities and adapting the business to become more sustainable.
So organisations could use risk management more effectively to drive the sustainability agenda and showcase opportunities and risks to a broader group of stakeholders. When we talk about actions, if a company has outstanding operational excellence practices, these opex savings can improve sustainability, such as energy efficiency or using fewer materials and less water. Small, continuous actions that improve sustainability can often be the most successful. Read full interview