Taking the Circular Way to Sustainable Development: Interview with Outi Suomi of Business Finland

Sustainable Development

Finland leads the comparison tables in attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and is ahead of its European rivals in taking up digitalisation. Business Finland‘s mission is to leverage the country’s position to create sustainable solutions for both domestic and international business. Head of the Bio and Circular Finland Programme Outi Suomi tells us more. 

In a few words, how did you begin your career in this industry? 

My background is in natural sciences; I have a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Helsinki. Before joining Business Finland, I worked for a start-up company focusing on social responsibility. I have a big passion and ambition for creating an impact on the well-being of our society through promoting bio and the circular economy. 

Finland is showing the way in solving global challenges and Finnish bio and circular solutions are utilised globally. How would you describe Business Finland’s core purpose and activities? 

Business Finland is committed to solving the global challenges by supporting the development of transformative circular-economy solutions. At the heart of Business Finland’s mission are various activities, from creating new knowledge to providing global business, including ecosystem building, piloting, and demonstrations, resulting in international business for Finnish companies.  

Finland has been at the top of the “competitiveness and innovation” class in the EU in recent years. What are remaining challenges, if any, for Finland? 

As Finland has quite a small domestic market, we are aiming for international business opportunities in order to maximise our country’s presence. 

Finland offers a favourable environment for tech start-ups that care about the social side of business as much as the profits. How is Business Finland taking advantage of this? 

Finland was ranked first (2021) in an international comparison of sustainable development, which means that Finland has achieved or is close to achieving the UN SDGs. Finland is also the most advanced country in the EU regarding the utilisation of digitalisation (DESI 2022). Our goal is to help our customers leverage this environment to create sustainable solutions that work both inside and outside the country. 

Finnish brands are in over 40 countries worldwide. Why do you think international investors want to bring these concepts to their home countries? 

Our goal is to help our customers leverage this environment to create sustainable solutions that work both inside and outside the country. 

Finland is known for embracing demanding challenges and in the field of bio and the circular economy, skilled in utilising waste and side streams in an innovative way. Our competitiveness is built on high proficiency, sustainable development, open-mindedness, and collaboration.  

I understand that Finns have an expression related to learning as you go along: “Työ tekijäänsä neuvoo”. How important is this attitude or philosophy for a new brand? 

The Finnish mindset is to look for practical solutions and deliver innovations to both industries and everyday life for people. This requires boldness, agility, quick trials, customer discovery and feedback from the end customers, and understanding that local solutions require local adaptability.  

You were appointed the Programme Manager for the Bio and Circular Finland Programme in 2019. How has the company changed during the years you have been involved? 

In the field of bio and circular, the global mega-trends have become even stronger and the pace in which new solutions are needed has accelerated. In Finland, we have seen industrial renewal because of circular materials and solutions, and we have developed recycling technologies and created new innovative circular products.  

Sustainability underpins Business Finland’s 2025 strategy and operations, as we look to incorporate sustainability in everyday actions and follow international sustainability standards. 

How do you judge success now? 

Success in the bio and circular field comes through creating new innovative circular business models, for example through cross-industrial renewal aiming to increase cross-industrial material flows.  

For me, success means that Finnish innovations are solving global challenges. 

Executive Profile

Outi Suomi

Outi Suomi has been the Program Manager for Bio and Circular Finland Program at Business Finland since January 2019. Outi has been leading the program which aims to make Finland a forerunner in the circular economy and support the acquisition of foreign investments.

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