14.12.2020 16:55:39 //
Heli Koivuniemi
Timo Porthan

In pole position for global solutions

According to Professor Arto O. Salonen, ports play a key role in Finnish survival.

“Ports are like veins that connect us to the rest of the world.”

Our ordinary, everyday lives were put to the test with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. 79 per cent of Finland’s security of supply is linked to water traffic.

“Before the crisis, very few people realised that our world is completely global, and how dependent we are on foreign connections.”

Criticism and a demand for sustainable operations have, in his opinion, been increasing all across the world – and cannot be ignored. Finland’s advantage lies in its wise, forward-looking decision to be at the forefront of clean shipping. Salonen says that, when it comes to sustainability, emissions are not the biggest stress factor in cargo shipping. 

“The big question is how to make logistics and production chains transparent. The further consumers are from producers, the less transparent the business becomes.

If ports are veins, customs services are a sieve that protects us from incoming poison.

“It’s great,” says Salonen, referring to the pesticide residues that Customs finds in raw materials and foodstuffs.

He thinks that succeeding amid both international and domestic competition requires a particular kind of face-first approach. In a connected world, concealing your production chains and presenting a faceless image will quickly pose a risk to your reputation. Blockchain technology that detects fraud has been touted as a solution, but getting this technology into wider use has run into more challenges than expected.

Salonen, who is also a member of the Finnish Expert Panel on Sustainable Development, believes that raw material production and product manufacture will, to at least some extent, move closer to consumers. Local, domestic production ensures transparency and safeguards employment. 

However, Finland cannot ever become completely independent.

Opening the gates to the outside world

Finland’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative very soon after. Salonen’s belief is that we are heading towards a world in which there will no longer be a need for the concept of waste or dirty energy. Reaching this goal will require global solutions and influence.

“Someone needs to create these solutions – either proactively or when forced to. Proactive players will be asked about these solutions – solutions that have the potential to be scaled up to cover the entire planet. This is a major opportunity for Finland.”

Salonen is now demanding Finland to show some resolve and make a long-term plan: what do we want to be?

He reminds us that the purpose of human life is to flourish, not to succeed.

“Opening the gates to the outside world is the solution – not tinkering away alone.”

The major flaw in the Finnish character is often said to be wallowing in problems. But Salonen says this is no time for bickering.

“Let’s not chain ourselves inside a cage of no alternatives. If we have the opportunity to take pole position in the race for global solutions, we should take it.”

Salonen thinks that Finland’s competitive edge lies in its meticulousness. Finland has the opportunity to profile itself as a Scandinavian wellbeing society. Helsinki, as a globally recognised city, would be its driver.

“If we look at the Swedes, even they can be a bit lax at times. We have a reputation for getting things done. We are part of neither the West nor the East.”

These characteristics are even more important in a world mauled by the coronavirus. Salonen regrets that a visionary, future-oriented approach is often labelled as idealism.

“Idealism is required. We need to have ideas on which to build Finnish society. More than coders, we need people who can recognise what kind of a world we should be building with code. When routine practices are suspended as a result of the coronavirus, we have the opportunity to adopt new ones.”