Anne Riihimäki of Taigawise: Avoid Information Overload to Conquer Your Sustainability Targets

Sustainability has never been more important than it is today. With companies facing increasing pressure to improve, that importance will only become more urgent every day. Anne Riihimäki, Senior Business Advisor at Taigawise provides practical steps to overcome information overload on the way to achieving your sustainability goals.

Sustainability has evolved from an emerging concern into a top priority for CEOs during the 21st century. Nowhere is that clearer than in the IBM Institute for Business Value’s 2022 report “Own Your Impact: Practical Pathways to Transformational Sustainability.” That report discovered that 37% more CEOs class sustainability as a top priority in 2022 compared to 2021. 

Despite this prioritization, many companies struggle to overcome the common barriers standing in the way of becoming sustainable organizations. 

What are those barriers? 

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The Barriers to Achieving Sustainability Goals

Many small hurdles can trip CEOs up. Lack of funding, stakeholder expectations, change management challenges, and lack of employee motivation can all cause problems. But when it comes to major issues, three key barriers have been identified by the Network for Business Sustainability: 

  1. Lack of relevant information 
  2. An unclear link to the core business 
  3. Competing priorities 

Though finding ways to break through each of these barriers is crucial, let’s focus on the first one. A lack of relevant information is a barrier almost all CEOs run into when beginning their sustainability journey. And that barrier leads to a phenomenon I call “Information Overload.” 

What Is Information Overload?

Relevance is key when it comes to the information gathered and acted upon. We live in a business world where we have access to far more data and information than we’ve ever had before. The result is that rational decisions become impossible because it’s impossible to analyze the sheer volume of information flowing into a company. 

Many are drowning in a figurative sea of data. 

Worse yet, the information keeps on coming. As the sea gets deeper, it becomes even harder to find information that is correct, trustworthy, relevant, and compact. There’s simply too much information to parse through. 

Hence, information overload. 

Almost all companies, no matter how far they are into their sustainability journeys, recognize this issue. Most have stories of researching the concept of sustainability on the internet, only to run into pages upon pages of resources created by “experts” on the subject. The Web is practically bursting at the seams with information about sustainability. As a result, it’s increasingly difficult to understand if the piece you’re reading is comprehensive and offers a full grasp of the overall picture. 

At the same time, the pressure placed on businesses to act responsibly is increasing. If CEOs are drowning in data, that external pressure can feel like the hand that’s holding them beneath the waves. 

Olli Hietanen, who is the Head of Development and Vice Director of the Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku, sums the problem up well: 

“There is much less objective information in the world than we might think. What we do find is a number of well-founded alternative viewpoints.” 

Information overload can cause paralysis to the point where you do nothing at all. Instead of taking a proactive approach to pushing your business forward, you wait until you’re forced to react.

Anne Riihimäki,
Senior Business Advisor, Taigawise

Anne Riihimäki 2022 mp

What Happens When You Suffer From Information Overload?

As any good business leader knows, you can’t rush strategic decisions. You need sufficient and relevant information to make intelligent choices that make the best use of a company’s resources and time. 

Information overload makes it impossible to make those intelligent decisions, which leads to many leaders acting in one of the following ways:  

  1. Doing nothing 
  2. Copying from others 
  3. Delegating sustainability issues to the Marketing or Communications departments or an external partner 

In theory, each of these alternatives can be actionable. But the reality is that there are several reasons why each is a poor idea to implement during your sustainability journey. 

1. Doing nothing
Information overload can cause paralysis to the point where you do nothing at all. Instead of taking a proactive approach to pushing your business forward, you wait until you’re forced to react.

As a result, you place your business at the mercy of others.

Other companies. Other customers. Other stakeholders. They end up determining the timing, pace, and scale of the changes you eventually implement.

2. Copying from others
You will always be a follower if you take your ideas from other companies. They’re the leaders because they’re using the relevant information they gather to make decisions. Your company becomes another face in the crowd following the loudest voice.

Copying others comes with challenges. After all, every company is different. The sustainability issues your company faces may be unique, and not applicable to the company you choose to copy from. In this sense, relevance applies both to the information you gather and the specific challenges you need to overcome. By copying others, you risk overlooking or ignoring critical sustainability issues that specifically relate to your company.

3. Delegating
Strategic sustainability issues belong on senior leadership’s desk. When you delegate to an in-house team or external partner, you essentially wash your hands of the entire issue. You wouldn’t do that with other key challenges, such as business deal negotiations or selecting investment projects.

So, why do it with sustainability?

It isn’t a communications or marketing department’s job to create your company’s sustainability strategy. They exist to deliver the message. You exist to create the strategy that lies behind the message.

What Can You Do About Information Overload?

If delegating, doing nothing, and copying are not acceptable strategies, then what can you do about the information overload challenge to becoming a sustainable organization? 

Taking a step back and investing time into understanding the big picture is crucial. It’s only by taking some time that you’ll recognize that any small step in the right direction is still better than doing nothing or wasting resources. Here are some of the small steps business leaders can start taking today. 

1. Get started right away
The longer you wait to begin your sustainability journey, the greater the risk that you’ll do nothing until you’re forced. Start updating your knowledge base by seeking legitimate experts who can educate you. A CEO doesn’t need to know everything about sustainability before they start moving. What’s important is that they learn enough to take the first few steps, allowing them to build momentum.

2. Get focused
You need to come to grips with the issues that are most important to your organization and its stakeholders. Conduct a materiality analysis to determine what those issues are. Prioritize seeking the solutions to those problems and you’ll place your company on the right path for its sustainability journey.

3. Cooperate with internal and external partners
Delegating sustainability challenges can become problematic. However, cooperation isn’t the same as delegation. By talking with your external partners, supply chain, and experienced business units, you can gather information relevant to your company and the organizations it works with.

Internally, consider recruiting a person or team to oversee corporate responsibility. This team can act as your information hub, serving as a filter that catches excess information, so you only receive relevant data. Communicate with this team regularly and leverage its understanding of the issue when making strategic decisions. 

4. Develop a sustainability mindset
The motivation for sustainability must extend beyond your management teams. If your people on the ground don’t share your mindset, they’re not motivated to follow through on your strategic decisions. Employee motivation is crucial to success with sustainability. Leverage your communications and marketing teams to deliver your message internally to create a company-wide sustainability mindset. 

Everyone Begins Somewhere

It’s okay to admit it if you’re at the beginning of your sustainability journey. Most companies are. It’s also okay to admit that you don’t know everything there is to know about sustainability. Most CEOs don’t. 

By accepting where you are in your journey, you can develop a sustainability roadmap that moves you in the right direction. 


Anne Riihimäki
Senior Business Advisor, Taigawise

Anne Riihimäki is an enthusiastic and highly experienced Business Development Executive with a skill set developed over 20 years across strategic and operational roles.

Holding a Master’s degree in Economics, she has worked with strong, international brands in a variety of industries, including Accenture, Reader’s Digest, Telia Company, and European Dynamics S.A. Anne has broad experience in ICT and for the several years, she has been working for global SaaS companies. Currently, she serves as a Strategic Business Advisor at Taigawise, an expert partner in sustainability, business strategies and communication.