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Finnish companies are speeding up towards circularity

The transition towards a carbon-neutral circular economy is an opportunity for all businesses to develop new business models and create sustainable growth.

Mikko Törmänen / Keksi

In just a few years, Finnish companies have taken great leaps in embracing circularity. It has gone from the niche initiative of a few pioneering companies to a widespread and profitable business phenomenon, writes Riku Sinervo, specialist for sustainability solutions at Sitra.

This boost in circularity can be easily spotted when looking at the list of the most interesting circular economy companies in Finland. Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, started maintaining the list in 2017 to encourage companies to develop smart business in the circular economy. Since then, many products have evolved from the development phase into commercial innovations that are at the leading edge even by international comparison.  

The textile industry has been one of the frontrunners. Let’s take Helsinki-based startup Infinited Fiber as an example. The company makes a high-quality regenerated textile fibre called Infinna out of cotton-rich textile waste. In 2022, it announced a 400-million euro investment in Finnish Lapland, where it will convert a discontinued paper plant into a circular textile fibre factory.  

Similarly, compelling examples are Spinnova and Rester. Spinnova makes fibres from bio-based materials without harmful chemicals, and Rester is Finland’s first large-scale textile recycling plant. It provides recycled fibres for the textile and construction industries to use. 

Two other Finnish success stories, Swappie and Foodello, give a more consumer-facing angle to circularity. Swappie buys, fixes, and sells refurbished iPhones. By doing this, the company provides the phones a second life. On the other side, Foodello focuses on reducing industrial food waste. The startup buys surplus food from manufacturers and sells it online to consumers at affordable prices.  

“Finnish companies have strong expertise in resource recycling, materials and renewables.”

However, while startups often make the headlines, we shouldn’t ignore the significant steps bigger corporations are taking towards circularity. In particular, circular business models have gained interest in the manufacturing industry, where many business opportunities exist in selling services for the whole life cycle of a product. 

This is precisely what Finnish lifting equipment company Konecranes has done. It designs its cranes and lifting products to be durable, repairable, modular and resource-efficient. By doing this, the company aims to extend the life cycle of all of its products. 

Another area of great interest for companies is the product-as-a-service business model. It allows companies to make money by offering outcomes instead of a product. This model can increase resource productivity during a product’s life cycle and enable closer customer relations. 

But there is always room for improvement. The fact is that curbing the climate crisis and halting global biodiversity loss cannot wait. While Finnish companies have strong expertise in resource recycling, materials and renewables, there is still work to do regarding new digital circular solutions and service models. The silver lining? This might be where the most prominent business possibilities lie in future. 

Riku Sinervo
Specialist, Sustainability solutions for the economy, Sitra