Sustainability and social responsibility at Sofokus

We have identified our core values, which are focusing on people, learning, being brave, creating value and building trust, and taken them into our everyday life. So, it would be easy to say we make sustainable and socially responsible choices within all these themes by heart, and no specific documentation or plan is needed.  

Every day we do dozens of smaller and bigger decisions guided by our values, but it still feels hard to communicate the Sofokus Ethics in an understandable way for our people and other stakeholders. So, we ended up creating something we haven’t seen before and something that we can really stand behind and be proud of. 

We decided to lean on “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and take it as a base for our Sofokus Ethics strategy, our response to corporate social responsibility, diversity & inclusion and sustainability goals.  

The 2030 Agenda is adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. 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.

So what we did is, 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 to the topic and ideas on how you can act on each goal. Next, we gathered all the things we are already doing under each goal and ideas and execution plans. We took some liberties to take these global goals into a local, manageable level and of course to challenge ourselves to think 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 Ahed in building a sustainability survey for our network.

In the following paragraphs you will get 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 UN’s website. Remember, this is a work in progress and shall be until the 2030 (you can check the current status from this page). 

Sustainable Development Goal 1: No Poverty

The global goal is to decrease the number of people living in an 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: 

– (2015-). The biggest start-up competition in Finland. 
– (2010-). University student entrepreneur society of Turku. 
– 2014-). Growth-oriented entrepreneur community. 
– (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 Internet. We have founded an investment company, Sofokus Ventures that helps start-ups to take the next step. Sofokus Ventures provides financing and networking for early stage growth companies. launched in 2019. We plan to invest in 20 new digital heart companies in the next two years. 

Small things helping someone close by, in a difficult situation, can be building website for a local NGO (Veikko Hursti) or donating our towels from Sauna Ferries to local The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters. 

Going forward we want to tackle this goal in a totally new perspective and really make an impact. We are all 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 with sharing our knowledge and skills to accelerate entrepreneurship next in Africa. 

Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Within this goal we found 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.  

One of our clients, that we have been working with since the beginning of their business 2012, is called Kauppahalli24. They are challenging the duopoly of two huge food chains in Finland and offering an alternative choice for an consumer to get food delivered home straight from local small food producers and within 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 of Finland. Helping them go global and make their platform business model successful is something close to our heart and exactly what Goal 2 is looking for with strengthening the resilience of small-scale farmers. 

At the office we are concerned what bananas and coffees we order, to make sustainable local and organic choices. We take recycling very seriously and we recycle everything we can (electronical waste, paper, bio, plastic, cardboard and burned waste), this is also great way for our young employees to start doing the same things at home. 

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 us 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 Research Centre for Child Psychiatry, University of Turku. Their programs include treatment program for depression during pregnancy and after childbirth, 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 workshop are just a tip of the iceberg. 

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, 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 own employees and this work has already started with the podcast. Keep on following us to see what happens next with this! 

Little things that we do is make remote work possible for everyone, ensure influence vaccination for our employees, broad occupational health services and free massage and exercise sessions. 

Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality education

One of our five values is we focus on learning. We understand that keeping up with the world is only possible through lifelong learning. Sofokus Freedom is one full day per week for everyone to use however they like to improve themselves, Sofokus or society. While 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. Order a culture discussion with Founder, a massage therapy or development discussion. It even has a “big red button” for alerting if something is wrong. Wherever you are, check what flock your colleague belongs to and see her skills and responsibilities. Having a sad, bad or good day? Click a smiley face and we know how and when to improve. 

Ignited by the founder’s dream, grounded on values identified together, steered by unique transparent and equal leadership model and accelerated by our Digital Heart, we stand to face the biggest social, economic and environmental challenges the world offers. 
We steer learning also by enabling part-time working for student-employees and there are approximately ten people doing part-time studies while working, and two out of them doing their PhD research. Small things that we do on learning is ordering the books employees wants to read to the office. We also want to do our share and we are currently participating in planning relevant education programs, for example we have a representative in Turku University of Applied Sciences’ advisory board.  

We have done a lot of guest lecturing with Finnish schools, during Q4 2019 we are hosting an event for teachers for Future and work revolution in education and we are giving 5-7 guest lectures.  

During next year we are looking to deepen our cooperation with universities in order to participate in creating the courses about platform economy or platform business models and why not to come up with new online course material free to use, we have great access to 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. Why women don’t find themselves in this particular industry? We believe there are a lot of things that can be done together with homes and schools in order to provide those environments 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 2015 and were overbooked each time due to popularity. The idea originally came from Lauriina Holmström who now works as our Digital Experience Specialist. 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 amazing ladies working for us at the moment, even in seriously responsible roles. For our employees the most important factor to consider is the person’s own interests, their development 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 is to raise conversation around the theme: why women don’t find themselves in the technology field? The work has already started through our podcast that has interviews with international 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’ll also be looking into paternal leaves, especially paternity leaves given for our male employees, to see if we could better embrace them in our company culture. In 2020 we wish to keep participating to speak at schools’ parents’ evenings and other events about technology as a career. 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.

Evaluating investments based on analytics and data will add value throughout our investment process.”,
says Henna Luukkonen, Senior Specialist, HSY.

Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable & clean energy

The renewable energy share of total final energy consumption gradually increased from 16.6 per cent in 2010 to 17.5 per cent in 2016, though much faster change is required to meet climate goals. 

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 the 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 first as its kind in the world. It uses the sea water 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 and advocate for Junior Achievement Finland (Nuori Yrittäjyys). They provide tools and programs for schools on young people’s workforce readiness, financial literacy, entrepreneurship skills. He was one of the first employees and during the first year they reached 500 students and 2018-2019 academic year they reached already over 70 000 students. One program is company program concept, where students run their own mini company with real money and learn entrepreneurial skills such as project management, budgeting, innovation etc. After the company program, student feel more secure about their future (getting a job, trusting their own skills). 

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 are a culture fit.  

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

Whether it’s ours or customers operation, we constantly seek something that haven’t been done before. Thus, we have thrown away traditional executive board and innovated a transparent, equal and companywide steering and decision-making model called The Expandables. And we encourage everyone to take Sofokus Freedom, a one day per week to develop their self, Sofokus or the community, innovation is many times the outcome.  

We 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 broader talent pool, Sofokus and other service providers new business and employees new exciting venture building opportunities.  

We believe in innovations and measurable value, whether economic, social or environmental by nature. 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.  

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, 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 we don’t expect people to come to the office every day. We are also looking into providing an office bike for people to use when they have meetings nearby, so that they wouldn’t need a car.