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When I think of impact companies, I think of companies like Tesla, accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Or Northvolt, build green batteries for that transition. But what is the impact of the company setting up our sewer system? Or famous startups like Spotify and Uber? Or old telecom giants like Nokia and Ericsson?
This is something that has occupied Annu Nieminen’s mind for years, and over the last four years, she has built the Upright platform. An open database that measures the impact of today 15 000 companies.
“My hope is that this helps humanity to understand what really creates value and direct our efforts, capital, passion and energy into those things,” she says.
The original plan was music
But her original plan was to become a composer or conductor. The first 20 years of her life were all about music.
“In high school I had an identity crisis. I understood that if I were to pursue a career in classical music, that meant narrowing my life. But I was just beginning to understand all the things out there in the world, and I understood there is so much I don’t know.”
Instead of narrowing her life, she wanted to expand and broaden it. Learn about things, especially the things she didn’t like.
“Because when I don’t like something, it is usually because it is something I don’t know anything about.”
“So I choose two topics that sounded boring and stupid to me: Technology and business.”
Math was her secret best friend
To understand technology she used math.
“If music was my best friend, math was my secret best friend. It tickles the same part of my brain as music.”
But she still doesn’t understand business, she says with a smile.
When she studied technology and business at the Helsinki University of Technologyi lots of companies came there trying to recruit the students to work for them, after finishing their degrees.
"Why should I use all of this education given to me, just to make myself more comfortable?"
“Their pitch was all about how you could have the best possible working life. I’m one of the most privileged people that have ever lived on this planet. I was born in a country of peace, I have enough food, free education, and free health care. Why should I use all of this education given to me, just to make myself more comfortable? There must be something more I can do for the world, than become a high-paid IT consultant.”
“Of course, my own well-being is important. But I feel so much better when I can contribute to helping the world make more sense.”
Her way of helping the world to make more sense is by understanding the real impact of companies.
How to understand the impact of a company
“I talked to a lot of smart people, but they were like ‘That’s impossible. You can’t calculate the net impact of a company. There are so many different values, like what is the value of a fork compared to an apple?’”
Annu Nieminen didn’t buy that argument.
“Why couldn’t we build that into a model, the same way we calculate the GDP of a country?” she says.
She decided to build that model.
Measuring the impact of 15 000 companies
Now the Upright Project has 15 000 companies in the database. A neural network, an AI, collects much of the data.
It is free for everyone to use, but they also have a premium service for companies and investors. Investors can use the platform to evaluate the impact of individual investments, model the net impact of their portfolios, and address the reporting needs. If you want to maximize the impact on for example climate change, you can find those companies in the database. Companies can quantify their net impact, UN Sustainable Development Goals alignment, and EU regulatory metrics, and use the platform to communicate about their impact.
What can the Warp community do to help?
“Go to our platform. Find a company that you think is interesting and share its impact to someone, whether it's on social media or in a professional context and help us spread the joy of open access impact data.”
If we do that, we will learn more about what really creates value and be more effective in making a better future come sooner.