Sustainability and social responsibility at Sofokus

Our 11 sustainable development goals

Our core values are focusing on people, learning, being brave, creating value, and building trust. Although these values certainly guide our daily actions and choices, it would be too easy to claim that we make sustainable and socially responsible decisions automatically and no specific documentation or plan is needed. Thus, we ended up setting ourselves clear goals and guidelines that we can truly stand behind and be proud of.

We decided to lean on “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and created our very own Sofokus Ethics Strategy, our response to corporate social responsibility, diversity & inclusion, and sustainability goals. The 2030 Agenda is adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. 

At the heart of the Agenda is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. 

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030 program
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030 program
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

We started with appointing a person to look into these goals and take an online course organized by the Finnish government, which includes UN and other NGO’s specialist and researchers’ view and perspectives on the topic and ideas on how one can act on each goal. Next, we gathered all the things we are already doing under each goal as well as listed our ideas and execution plans. We took some liberties to take these global goals to a local, manageable level and of course to challenge ourselves to think about what more we could do. We did this by engaging the whole company in internal sustainability workshops.

We also want to be active towards our stakeholders, including clients and partners. We decided to ask about their views on sustainability. We have worked together with Work Ahead in building a sustainability survey for our network.

The results of a survey conducted with Work Ahead show that responsibility is an important value also for our stakeholders.

In the following paragraphs, you’ll find a short introduction on how we’ve approached 11 of these SDGs. If you wish to get more information about the goals, you can visit the UN’s website. 


Sustainable Development Goal 1: No Poverty

The global goal is to decrease the number of people living in extreme poverty from 10% to 3%. Supporting and accelerating entrepreneurship is one of the key action points to end poverty. We believe this is something where we are making a huge contribution compared to our size.

We do seminar speaking, judging, and coaching every year systematically:
– Kasvuopen.fi (2015-). The biggest start-up competition in Finland.
– Boostturku.com (2010-). University student entrepreneur society of Turku.
– Boardmangrow.com 2014-). Growth-oriented entrepreneur community.
– Sparkup.fi (2013-). Turku start-up community.

Our belief in innovation has led us to co-found 10 new start-ups which have created more than 150 jobs and over 15 million euros in yearly revenue. Two of the start-ups have been acquired.

The era of Digital Hearts is just dawning, and we feel confident that we can lead the way to the next step of the platform economy. We have founded an investment company, Sofokus Ventures, that helps start-ups take the next step. Sofokus Ventures provides financing and networking for early-stage growth companies. We plan to invest in 20 new digital heart companies in the next two years.

We are aware of the devastating fact that the highest number of people living in extreme poverty (38%) are based in Africa’s sub-Sahara. We are looking into our current partners to start cooperating by sharing our knowledge and skills to accelerate entrepreneurship next in Africa.

We can also do smaller things to help someone close by in a difficult situation, such as by building a website for a local NGO (Veikko Hursti), donating our towels from Sauna Ferries to local The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, or giving our corporate Christmas gift budget to the Salvation Army.


Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger

According to research, strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacity of small-scale and family farmers, whose productivity is systematically lower than all other food producers, is critical. Also concentrating on zero loss or waste of food is something that we all can be better in developed countries.  

This goal of fighting hunger is close to many of our clients’ hearts as well. For instance, Kauppahalli24, with whom we’ve been working since 2012, is challenging the traditional food chains in Finland by offering an alternative for consumers to get groceries delivered home straight from local food producers. With their world-class logistics system, they have been able to tackle the last mile dilemma to deliver fresh local food to urban homes in the capital region of Finland, which is exactly what Goal 2 is looking for with strengthening the resilience of small-scale farmers. Also, Venner Oy, to whom we have created the ordering and redemption systems for their popular Seasonal Food Boxes, is deeply committed to guaranteeing every Finnish family the right to healthy and nutritious food. 

At our office, we are concerned about what banana and coffee qualities we order and prefer sustainable, local, and organic alternatives. We take recycling very seriously and sort everything we can (electronic waste, paper, bio, plastic, cardboard, and combustible waste). We also strongly encourage our staff to maintain these good habits at home as well. 


Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Our operations are based on our founder’s original vision of creating digital services that matter and the values our people have mutually agreed on. These values work as a strong foundation for our unique company culture, where people come first. Sofokus has a People Happiness Officer, Milla Heikkilä, whose job is to take care of the work-life balance and educate people on how to become the best version of themselves. 

We are not the only fans of our happiness culture; others love it too. Our culture is widely recognized in local media and we have given multiple interviews about our innovations in leadership and people happiness, while continuously attracting more top talents we can hire. We believe happiness is one of the best competitive advantages. 

We are also proud of our cooperation with the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry, University of Turku. Their programs include a treatment program for depression during pregnancy and after childbirth, a positive parenting program for parents of 3-year-olds, a treatment program for play-aged children with conduct problems, a treatment program for anxiety in school-age children, and a mental health literacy program for first-year university students. 

OUR PROMISE TO OUR PEOPLE IS SIMPLE: BETTER MONDAY. 

Better Mondays are created by looking at people as individuals, not just employees. Our Sofokus Life 360° program aims to maintain the work-life balance of our people in every aspect of their lives. Making sure people know the importance of recovery, sleep and proper nutrition, our People Happiness Officer works tirelessly to increase the overall wellbeing of our people. Weekly Better Monday newsletter, monthly Sofokus Life challenges, Family-at-work days, workshops on giving and receiving feedback properly, walking meetings, and smoothie workshops are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Little things that we do to make our employees’ Mondays better are making remote work possible, ensuring flu vaccination for our employees, as well as providing broad occupational health services and free massage and exercise sessions. 

Recently we broadened the view of Better Monday to touch our stakeholders as well and we started an international podcast interviewing top brands worldwide on how they make their employees a better Monday. The themes vary from well-being and gender equality to attracting talent and so on. In the future we continue to broaden the perspective of well-being and deploy it as well for the stakeholders in addition to our employees and this work has already started with the podcast. Stay tuned to see what happens next! 

 


Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality education

One of our five values is focusing on learning. We understand that keeping up with the world is only possible through lifelong learning. Sofokus Freedom is our concept of letting everyone spend one day per week to improve themselves, Sofokus, or society however they like. As learning is one of our mutually set company values, we encourage everyone to use one day per week to develop themselves.  

IMPROVEMENT AND INNOVATION ARE IN OUR DNA. 

Better Mondays are accelerated by a digital heart. While we put people before numbers, we back it up with our in-house built Digital Heart called Wiila. It is an organism-management system covering personal and business development. With Wiila, one can order a culture discussion with Teemu, a massage, or a career discussion. Everyone can also check what flock their colleague belongs to and see their skills and responsibilities. Having a sad, bad, or good day? By tracking a smiley face poll every day we know what to improve. Just in case, Wiila even has a “big red button” for alerting if something is wrong. 

We also steer learning by enabling part-time working for student-employees. Approximately ten people are currently doing part-time studies while working, and one of them is writing their doctoral thesis. Smaller things that we do to encourage learning is ordering the books employees want to read to the office. We also want to do our share and are currently participating in planning relevant education programs. For example, we have a representative in Turku University of Applied Sciences’ advisory board.  

In addition, we have done a lot of guest lecturing with Finnish schools, during Q4 2019 we hosted an event for teachers concerning the future and work revolution in education and gave 5-7 guest lectures. In 2020, we kept on participating in educational programs even though we weren’t able to meet the students face to face due to the Covid-19 situation.

During the next years, we are looking to deepen our cooperation with universities to participate in creating courses about platform economy or platform business models – and why not come up with new online course material free to use. We have great access to the university through our current employees who are active in student associations. 


Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender equality

Empowering women and girls is crucial in the tech industry since it’s one of the fields with the most gender division. We believe there are lots of things that can be done together with homes and schools to provide the tools by which girls and women could see the opportunities of the tech field.

What we’ve done is held a few Django Dames workshops (coding schools for women). They were first held in 2015 and were overbooked each time due to popularity. The idea originally came from Lauriina Holmström who now works as our Digital Business Consultant. We have also collaborated with Mothers In Business organization and invited its members to our office to discuss different topics. 

We are lucky to say that we have several amazing ladies working for us in seriously responsible roles. For our employees, the most important factor to consider is the person’s interests and motivation. Gender and age are no factors to be taken into account while recruiting someone or supporting them in their career.

One of our main strategic objectives for 2020 was to raise discussion around why women don’t find themselves in the technology field. This goal wasn’t unfortunately fully reached due to the Covid-19 situation, so the battle continues. Our work has already started through our podcast that has interviews with women who can be seen as role models of the technology industry. We are also focusing on creating more conversation around this topic by using social media and other digital content.

We’re also looking into paternal leaves, especially ones given for our male employees, to see if we could better embrace them in our company culture. We wish to keep participating in schools’ parents’ evenings and other events and talk about all the cool things in the technology field. Through this work, we want to teach parents ways of encouraging their children to seek a career in tech if they want to without considering their gender as an obstacle.


Sustainability Goal 6: Clean water & sanitation

We work together with Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY. HSY is a municipal body, which produces waste management and water services, as well as providing information on the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and environment. HSY’s mission is to act as an enabler for clean and sustainable urban life. Cooperation between Sofokus and HSY focuses on creating an investment counter for evaluating water services investments for a million inhabitants in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.


Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable & clean energy

As an information technology company, we have fewer alternatives to do concerning energy choices, since we don’t have a heavy supply chain. The most energy-consuming activities in our business are hosting our clients’ solutions. Sofokus is a certified Google Cloud Platform Partner enabling our clients’ data storage in Hamina, located in southern Finland. Google states that it commits to staying at 100 % renewable energy by purchasing the electricity for its data centers from local renewable energy producers. The cooling system in Google’s Hamina data center is the first of its kind in the world. It uses the seawater from the Gulf of Finland, which decreases the energy consumption and makes computers act reliable.


Sustainable Development Goal 8Decent work & economic growth

Turo Numminen from Sofokus Ventures is an advocate for Junior Achievement Finland (Nuori Yrittäjyys). They provide tools and programs for schools on young people’s workforce readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship skills. During the first year, they reached 500 students, and 2018–2019 academic year they reached already over 70 000 students. One program is the company program concept, where students run their mini-company with real money and learn entrepreneurial skills, such as project management, budgeting, innovation, etc. After the company program, students feel more secure about their future.

We truly believe in young people and we don’t evaluate potential employees based on their CV, previous working experience, or age. We want to see the potential, motivation to learn new things, and if they fit in our company culture.


Sustainable Development Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

We believe in innovations and measurable value, whether economic, social, or environmental by nature. We also constantly seek something that hasn’t been done before. Thus, we have thrown away the traditional executive board and innovated transparent, equal, and companywide steering and decision-making model called The Expandables. Besides, we encourage everyone to utilize their Sofokus Freedom days to develop themselves, Sofokus, or the community. Innovations are many times the outcome.

We also co-founded a new company (Coventures) building start-ups for corporations as a service. We believe that no single company can hold all the best talent, so we co-founded the company with our colleague companies. Customers get a broader talent pool, Sofokus and other service providers find new business opportunities, and employees get new exciting venture building opportunities.


Sustainable Development Goal 10Reduce inequality within and among countries

As a software company, we operate with some amount of electronic waste that could be reused. We are looking for an organization to help us deliver these electronics, such as laptops, mobile phones, computers, and screens, to African schools where they could be used for teaching.


We are looking into different facilitated Freedom projects where our people could participate once a year to help in some sustainable act or goal.


Sustainable Development Goal 11Make cities and human settlements inclusivesaferesilient and sustainable

We enable remote work and don’t expect people to come to the office every day. We are all currently working from home due to the Covid-19, but since distance working has been part of our culture for quite some time, this transition went rather smoothly.

To conclude, we want to remind you that reaching all of our sustainability goals is a work in progress and shall continue until 2030 (you can check the current status from this page).