Beyond a sustainable environment

When someone says sustainability, many of us directly think of the environment and other aspects get less attention, including social and economic sustainability, even though it’s worth broadening the perspective.

The presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates among the member states of the EU, and since July 1st this year, Finland is in charge for the next six months. The theme of the presidency is “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future,” and I’m welcoming the broad focus on sustainability that is reflected throughout the program:

“Our emphasis must be on taking full advantage of research, development, innovation and digitization. By fostering skills, education and training, regional and social fairness, and gender equality, the EU will create sustainable growth and wellbeing for its citizens. The common denominator for all EU actions should be sustainability, which includes implementation both within and beyond the EU of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

When it comes to social and economic sustainability, the development of the labor market plays a major role. And as we all know, the labor market is much affected by digital development. As in many other contexts, there are reports pointing in different directions. A report from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research shows that every other job will be automated within 20 years. That’s revolutionary and may sound scary to some of us. However, this doesn’t have to affect the proportion of jobs. A major report from the World Economic Forum shows that AI will lead to 75 million jobs disappearing until 2022, at the same time technology is expected to create 133 million jobs, so, a net of 58 million jobs.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the labor market has undergone several major changes during the latest centuries, and we still have jobs. However, this doesn’t mean it will be a smooth change for everyone, and we may have to reskill to meet new requirements.

Learning is key

If the industrial revolution is described as the muscle revolution, AI could be described as the brain revolution. In short, the machines took over heavy jobs, while AI will take over the traditional smart jobs. Professionals that were previously spared from machinery are now exposed to greater competition from AI-powered applications and bots.

In connection with Finland’s presidency, Technology Industries of Finland has written a report with perspectives for the European Union’s Industrial Policy towards a more sustainable digital economy. This is an interesting read with several concrete action points when it comes to, for example, innovation and taxation within the EU to tackle our shared challenges.

Research and innovation have a crucial role in shaping the future, and in the report, the EU and the member states are encouraged to prioritize R&D in their budgets to stay ahead of the main competitors such as USA, Japan, South Korea and China. However, it’s not only on a macro level where learning about the new is rewarded. Reskilling and upskilling of the work force of all ages will be necessary to face challenges such as aging societies, brain-drain, etc. Here, the EU has an important role to play in setting the frameworks, but also companies have a great responsibility to encourage their employees and offer study programs. And finally, as individuals, we must get used to lifelong learning to handle a sustainable future.

Stefan Reijonen
Stefan Reijonen
As Head of European Customer Profitability focusing on sales, contract and structural pillars, I have the unique opportunity to observe and contribute to the changes that digital and data transformation brings to us and our customers. By combining my broad experience in sales, change and people management with Nordic and European leadership and driving regional profitability programs, I am able to find innovative solutions to meet customers' business needs.
In my spare time I love singing in a choir and sailing a classical yacht in the Finnish archipelago.