Interview Nordic Business Forum 2023 Sustainability

Advocating Sustainability and Change with Maryna Saprykina

We interviewed Maryna Saprykina, the CEO of CSR Ukraine, founder of Ukrainian Women Entrepreneurs Hub, and Winner of Speaker Contest 2023, on the work she has done on sustainability, women’s entrepreneurship, and supporting Ukrainian companies during the war. She gave an inspiring account of how she’d like the world to change and how we can all be a part of that change.

“Everyone can change the world for the better for those around them… One just needs to look around.”

Ukrainians Create Change

We asked Maryna what kind of change she would like to see in the world in the near future. She prefaced her answer by explaining the resilience and bravery of Ukrainians and how they managed to lead change in the midst of war:

“I believe that everyone can be a leader who changes the world for the better. Volunteers in Ukraine have proven this. During the full-scale invasion, the number of volunteer organizations in the country increased ninefold. Volunteers helped those who needed help in a state of emergency. Recently, Russia blew up the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region, creating a major humanitarian and environmental disaster: 40,000 people lost their homes, nature reserves, and unique flora and fauna went underwater. What did Ukrainians do? Many went to rescue people, gave away their boats, and donated as much as they could—for example, a man at the cash register paid for sweets for children from the Kherson region. In two days, Ukrainians covered the needs of volunteer organizations in that region. So I’m sure that everyone can change the world for the better for those around them… One just needs to look around.”

She also shared with us her personal goals related to women’s entrepreneurship:

“My personal goal is to train 1 million Ukrainian women in entrepreneurship over the next 5 years. And I understand that this training will be important not only for women but also for the communities and countries where women live and where they were forced to leave after the full-fledged invasion.”

Finally, Maryna concluded how she’d like the world to look in the next 5-10 years:

“A world with fulfilled Sustainable Development Goals, a world without war, where the values of sustainable development have won over commercial profit, and companies make decisions based on their values. But this requires everyone to look around and change the world for the better for those around them. With a nice word, a donation, or an action.”

Sustainability in Times of War

Maryna’s winning keynote was titled “Sustainability in the Times of War,” and we simply couldn’t pass the opportunity to ask her about the main characteristics that help companies overcome crisis situations such as war. She introduced us to the 5-component War-Time Sustainability Model based on the experiences of Ukrainian companies:

  • Continuity: availability of a business continuity plan
  • Safety: a focus on employees’ safety, both physical and psychological
  • Army: support for those who are on the front line – and this is our army
  • Unity: pooling efforts and resources
  • Community: support for community-based organizations

According to Maryna, this model can also be applied during natural disasters: “The only component that should be changed is component 3. At the first line, there could be environmentalists, rescuers, etc.”

“All these components are important. Of course, first and foremost, for companies, the business continuity plan and consideration of various scenarios were important. As part of this, it is important to support staff with both security and mental health issues. The large unity of companies, including competitors, is also a new sign of the times that helped us to survive. Many Ukrainian companies have paid taxes in advance, and many of them have supported communities with tens of thousands of dollars.”

“We see great strategies on paper and on websites but no real action by the company.”

The New Face of Sustainability

Maryna has worked as a sustainability consultant for a long time, so we asked her how sustainability as a field has changed during that time:

“During this period, a lot has changed for the better. I no longer need to prove and convince companies of the need to implement sustainability strategies, ESG, and the like. Many experts also believe that the development of sustainability concepts also led to the fact that many companies left Russia in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion.”

Despite the positive news, she pointed out a new issue:

“Over the years, the cases of greenwashing, bluewashing, and various forms of washing have increased. Because we see great strategies on paper and on websites but no real action by the company. For example, many German, French, and Austrian companies have not yet left Russia. So, on the one hand, their websites have nice sustainability strategies, but on the other hand, their taxes are sponsoring the most brutal war in Europe since the Second World War. Is this about sustainable development? Hardly.”

Speaker Contest Winner 2023

Since Maryna won the Speaker Contest 2023, we asked her to describe her experience in the contest and with our partner MySpeaker’s Rhetorich coaching to conclude our interview: “I can describe this experience in three words: surprising, interesting, and supportive.”

“It was surprising because my speech was evaluated by artificial intelligence, which avoids subjectivity. And during the coaching between the semifinals and the final, I improved my score from artificial intelligence.”

“It was interesting because it was the first time I worked with a coach on public speaking. And when your coach is a mega-professional in public speaking, like André Noël Chaker, these meetings were a true pleasure. Also, I’m sure that working with André helped me to make those important accents in my speech, which, in my opinion, worked. And thanks to working with the coach, I have refined my 5-component war-time sustainability model, which we encourage companies to follow under any negative scenarios, and coined the term that most clearly describes Ukrainians, including Ukrainian businesses – extreme resilience.”

“It was supportive because working with a coach was about motivation, as well as about support at an event where you don’t know anyone, but there was a person who believed in you. It was important.”

Maryna will be giving a keynote on Sustainability and Resilience in Times of War at Nordic Business Forum 2023. Join over 6,300 leaders to learn from her and other world-class experts on the 27th and 28th of September in Helsinki!

PS. Over 95% of the tickets have already been sold, so act fast!

Join NBForum 2023


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