I prefer to talk about sustainability rather than responsibility

Antti Niskanen
Antti Niskanen

In his very first blog post, Asuntoyhtymä's head of sustainability, Antti Niskanen, looks back at the first four months in his new job and explains why he prefers to talk about sustainability rather than responsibility.

When I joined Asuntoyhtymä in August, I wasn't given an exact and specific job description or a to do list, and that was fantastic! I could just start to examine the company's work from different points of view and make up my mind about what sustainability and sustainable development in particular should look like at Asuntoyhtymä.

Of course I've also had lots of practical things land on my desk – like different kinds of energy issues – over the autumn. It's become very clear to me that my job will involve constant time travel between the now and the distant future, as distant as I can begin to imagine. We can envisage a wonderful, sustainable future, but the decisions within the company on how we'll get there need to made now. Now, right now, and always now.

Thinking of sustainability broadens your horizons

This job can easily make your head spin. That's why, to clarify both what's happening and what I want to happen in the future, I need to distance myself from all the various external pressures, current trends, and corporate responsibility frameworks. Talking about responsibility actually feels too narrow to me, though it's definitely a positive concept.

On the other hand, I find the ideas of sustainable development, or just sustainability, more holistic and unconstrained. They help me analyse how all kinds of things and systems work as well as to determine where this company belongs in the world.

What do I mean by this? If we take sustainability as just something or someone's capacity to exist or thrive in the long run, it will be considered important by all those who desire longevity. In that case, we don't need to wonder or argue about the limits of corporate responsibility, or whether responsibility even needs to be in the picture.

Instead, we can start building an action plan, first in our minds and then in practice, of operations that can be successful in the long term in variable circumstances and therefore become part of a sustainable system – and a sustainable world. Of course money needs to be considered, too, but only as a part of a bigger whole.

We can build on this basic idea of sustainability when we think of what's most important in our own, our colleagues' or our neighbours' lives, the values, processes and strategies of the company, the operations of the property and building industry, and eventually the entire society and the world. Sounds really nice and easy, right?

Antti Niskanen vastuullisuusblogi kuva

Sustainable development must be embraced by all

Making decisions in as long a term as possible has always been at the core of Asuntoyhtymä's thinking, so in that sense sustainability is nothing new here. However, once we start to more consciously analyse things on all different levels, from individuals to the entire planet, we can see the company's role as part of a broader system and its sustainable development from a new perspective. It takes a lot of hard work to bring all these levels together, as well as skills and knowledge that I believe no one in the world has quite yet.

If there's something we know already, it's that we all have to take responsibility for sustainable development, both within the company and beyond. I encounter things I'm unfamiliar with every day, but I've accepted that and I try to find as many wise people and organisations to help me and us as possible.

So, if you meet me one day, be ready to answer questions, follow-up questions, and follow-up questions to follow-up questions. Hopefully we can have an interesting chat, too. By building networks everywhere we can, we'll all become wiser together and achieve things beyond our wildest imagination.

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