Aerial photo from Katajanokka towards South Harbour. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Making a difference, accelerated

The City, various companies and residents of Helsinki are committed to making an impact. But what kind of impact and how can it be measured? Upright Project studied the net impact of Helsinki's largest and fastest growing companies. The results were very good indeed.

The city of Helsinki has a mission to become a City with HEL of an Impact.

Toni Laitila, Chief Operating Officer of Upright Project, says that Helsinki´s role in local companies’ net impact is crucial.

Upright Project, a startup based in Helsinki, has a mission to incentivize companies to optimize their net impact. In this context, net impact describes the sum of a company’s positive and negative impacts on environment, health, society and knowledge. All these can be counted, followed and reported on.

– The City of Helsinki wanted to create an understanding of how the largest and fastest growing companies in Helsinki impact the world around us, says Marja-Leena Rinkineva, the City´s Director of Economic Development.

According to her, the City aims to enable and accelerate purpose driven business as the companies in Helsinki are paramount in creating a sustainable future and a common purpose for the City and its residents.

According to Laitila the big question is what kind of a platform a city can offer for startups and companies. How does it treat companies that are about to solve the big challenges of the world? What type of concrete support, like attracting international talent to the city or providing peer support for communities, can it offer the companies that are solving the world's biggest challenges? Laitila says.

Laitila says the theme of net impact is a hot topic around the world. People, societies and companies are trying to find out how to be net positive.

According to Laitila Helsinki has already taken the right steps towards the themes of net impact society and has a place on the stage. Fancy speeches on the subject are given in forums around the world, but Helsinki has achieved something real.

Fine examples of this are the studies on net impact of Helsinki's largest and fastest growing companies.

New opportunity for the City

Studying the impact data would create an opportunity for the City to claim the space around net impact theme as the first city in the world.

The big worldwide theme is how the resources should be allocated in order to maximize the likelihood of the survival of humankind and the planet.

The Upright model used in the study contains 19 impact categories in four dimensions. Impacts can be negative and positive. Environment category includes for example GHG emissions and fresh water. Diseases and meaningfulness belongs to the Health category. Society includes for example taxes and social stability and the Knowledge category takes into account human capital and knowledge infrastructure.

Key results of the study revealed that both the largest and the fastest growing companies in Helsinki perform well in terms of net impact against Nordic and European peer groups.

The businesses in Helsinki are net positive regardless of their size. Many of Helsinki´s largest companies provide professional services and digital solutions. They use relatively little environmental resources. For example in Norway the top 50 includes companies in the oil and gas industry and in Sweden, heavy manufacturing and constructing.

Fine results in Maria01

The study was also conducted in the Maria01 startup cluster.

– Usually we observe the companies’ economic indicators, which is important, of course. However, we wanted to bring into focus the broader impact of startup companies.

That’s how Ville Simola, CEO of Maria01, describes the beginning of the co-operation through Upright Project.

Net impact of the Maria 01 companies was studied for the first time in 2019. The study was repeated a year later. Simola is very pleased with the results. They showed that startups contribute towards health, knowledge creation, taxes, and jobs.

– Within a year we have made advances in all fields. Participating companies may have changed, but the overall positive impact has grown.

Simola says that the development of Maria 01 is directed towards the goal where net impact is one gauge for the recruiting process of companies and teams.

Success only together

Upright Project’s current customers include institutional investors, pension funds and large banks. They want to track, improve and report the net impact of their investments.

For the public sector, City of Helsinki for example, Upright Project offers understanding of the local companies' net impact.

The public sector has a myriad of ways to nudge private companies towards a positive net impact.

Laitila contemplates that all relevant means have probably not been even discovered yet. It is clear, however, that it takes teamwork to change the world for the better.

Join us!

City with HEL of an Impact is an event to discuss how to build a shared purpose for people, business and the city. During the event we talk about the roles of stakeholders and how do we make an impact on the shared sustainable future. We will also delve into questions like: How do companies mold the city? In the race of cities, what makes a winner? How can Helsinki make an impact to the sustainable future?

Join us on March 29th, 5 pm–7.30 pm (EET)!

The event is held in English.

Text: Kirsi Riipinen