This piece is the third entry in the Comprehensively Sustainable blog. The blog discusses sustainability-target-driven business and is founded primarily on the observations made in my dissertation Conducting sustainability target-driven business.

In addition to sustainability science, sustainability-target-driven business draws upon and profits from ethics. Ethical values stand as the helmsman and the guiding principle for a company’s business. Therefore, sustainability must be integrated into company values before it may truly guide the company’s sustainability vision and the setting of the company’s sustainability targets and, in the end, make it possible for the company to reach its sustainability goals.

In my previous blog entry, I introduced systemic sustainable development goals that all companies striving for comprehensive sustainability should integrate into their business strategies to guide their work. The next challenge is weighing these sustainability goals against the economic ones. A company in sustainable business sees the economic, social and ecological aspects as parallel. The different dimensions of sustainability must find a balance so that ecological and social goals are not reduced to instruments paving the way to economic success. This is where company values will be of assistance.

Company values determine what the company goes for. Behind the values, we naturally find a group of people – owners, managers and workers – whose values are reflected in the values of the company. Sustainability should be integrated into the values of these people so that it can function as a guiding principle for the work of the company. Values motivate us to function in certain ways; they guide us when we must make decisions and they lead us toward the desired sustainability goal.

This is how you estimate whether or not your company values are taking you into the direction you want

If your company wishes to be in sustainability-target-driven business, you may study the company values with the following questions and consider whether or not they are taking you into the direction you want:

Figure: A set of questions to examine company values.

With this set of questions, you may reflect on the values that guide your company’s decision making. It is essential to consider whether the pursuit of economic benefits guides the setting of sustainability targets excessively. In such a situation, there is the danger of social and environmental sustainability goals becoming subordinate to economic ones. If such is the case, sustainability has not been comprehensibly integrated into the company values, and the direction of sustainability-target-driven business has been lost.

Pioneering enterprises have internalised the recipe of success for sustainable business

The expectations prevalent in our society as well as our political system increasingly guide companies to the right direction regarding their sustainability. They set the standard for sustainable operation and specify what to strive for regarding sustainability. At the same time, the number of pioneering enterprises is growing that work genuinely and comprehensibly in a sustainable way. Such enterprises function as engines of sustainability: they shape markets and societies, taking them toward more and more sustainable practices. When businesses at the mere beginning of their journey to sustainability see the successes of the pioneers, they want to come along, too.

Sustainability-target-driven business draws upon and profits from both sustainability sciences (sustainability goals) and ethics (values), but it requires perceptive business skills to integrate them into business practices. Even though profit-oriented companies are driven by their business-related and economic targets and the respective benefits, pioneering enterprises understand that in the long run, these benefits can be obtained only through sustainable business practices. The recipe for success has been put together and next, it is time to apply it in practice.


To learn more, check out part 1 and part 2 of the Comprehensively Sustainable series!

Kaisa Manninen, the author, works at Korkia in a managerial position and is especially enthusiastic about projects in which she gets to develop new, sustainable business models. She spends her free time on agility tracks where she practices her agility skills with her Spanish Water Dog Irma.

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