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When being less bad is not good enough

What does it mean to be Net Positive? In this week's column, Oras Tynkkynen explains the concept and its benefits for companies.

Serious businesses have invested heavily in responsibility for years. Much of the focus has been on reducing harm, such as pollution or injuries.

But is being less bad good enough?

A bold new concept called Net Positive challenges traditional thinking on corporate social responsibility. Like the term suggests, companies can have a net positive impact on the world.

We can understand impacts in terms of footprints and handprints. A footprint is the negative impact a company has on, say, the global climate or water resources.

A handprint, on the other hand, is the positive impact a company has in its whole value chain. An appliance manufacturer might help its customers reduce their energy use and a coffee company could try to improve the labour laws in a producer country, for example.

Handprints open whole new horizons for companies. Whereas a footprint can never be reduced to zero, a handprint can, in principle, grow indefinitely. The best companies can have handprints vastly larger than their footprints. In other words: be strongly Net Positive.

The world needs Net Positive because just reducing the harm you cause is not enough. To solve burning global challenges such as the climate crisis, we need to restore damages already caused.

But striving to be Net Positive is not only about saving the planet. A growing number of companies show that it can also be a new way of doing business, creating added value and new revenue.

Some Finnish companies are already exploring how they can be Net Positive. For example, machinery manufacturer Outotec uses handprints to estimate the climate benefits of its products. Meanwhile, building materials company Rudus has been pioneering tools to be Net Positive on biodiversity.

Net Positive can be a powerful tool. Companies at the forefront can use it to transform their business while solving global challenges.

Published on 04.05.2017