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Sustainable together

The event that started something

Sustainability development now plays a central role in every corporate strategy, but since the concept is relatively new, there is no ready-made map by which to navigate the field. This means that many people struggle with more or less the same type of issues, but in different ways. As an entrepreneur in this situation, you can choose different paths, elbow your way to the front of the line and leave as many competitors as you can in the dust, or you can choose instead to offer a helping hand and reap the benefits as we all move forward. At Proton Finishing, we chose the latter. Through inspiration and networking, we wanted to offer a place of community. This was the inspiration for “Sustainable Together”, an event that we pulled off in true Proton spirit – Enjoy Succeeding Together!

I think everyone who participated in the event in one way or another felt the sense of nervousness in the room. I don’t just mean the nervousness emanating from us organisers going in, but a nervousness that was rooted in need. The need for information, guidance and participation. Quite simply, the need for confirmation that you’re not sitting alone in a boat in the middle of this vast sea of sustainability issues that can be so difficult to navigate.

That’s what it boiled down to: You’re not alone, we’re all in the same boat, and we’ll all get to our destinationfaster and safer if everyone is rowing in the same direction. It was this need that gave rise to the idea for Sustainable Together.

To launch the concept, on 19 October 2023, Proton Finishing held its biggest event to date.

Being helpful instead of giving pointers

A great deal of thought went into finding speakers who could share something interesting and concrete from their sustainability work. To go up on stage and dominate, self-aggrandise, and put all your energy into pointing out how great you are… Even a nobody can do that. We wanted to include folks who were not afraid to talk about things that went wrong, as well as highlighting activities that went well. We wanted our speakers to focus on being helpful, not giving pointers.

After a number of conversations and discussions about the purpose of the event, we finally had the speakers we wanted Volvo, Scania and MP Bolagen. It was a good mix of voices, with big “gets” that gave us an adrenalineboost when they said yes, as well as the smaller but very interesting and ambitious participants. There was someone and something for everyone.

When the invitations started to go out, we had butterflies in our stomachs. What if no one wants to come? What if we’re the only ones who think this is a good idea? What if….

We soon had our answer; 3 hours after we sent out the e-mail, 13 people had signed up. Then it was 18, 26, 32… The registrations rolled in, and before long we were up to the numbers we had hoped for.

Perfect timing

“Perfect timing”, “I don’t usually go to these events, but I’m looking forward to this one”, and “Can I bring a colleague?” were among the messages we received. With so many kind words even before we had held the event, we knew we must be on the right track. On 19 October, the participants started pouring in and checking their names off the attendance list. One by one, the name tags disappeared from the welcome table.

Brimming with nervous anticipation, we kicked off the event.

Proton Finishing opened with a presentation of our sustainability journey, how we got started, our choice of focus areas, the development of our GHG protocols, what went wrong and what we did then.

At the lunch after our presentation, the tablescrackled with energy. The conversations were loud and cordial, new acquaintances were made. So many people who had never met before were now sitting together, discussing the issues and inspiring each other. That’s exactly what we wanted to create: a permissive forum where inspiration flows and sustainability is simplified and taken down to a relatable level – one we can all work with.

“Would you like to come to our company and tell us more?” was one of many comments we received during lunch.

We all spent of the meal answering questions about our work, mindset and goals for the future. It was probably right then and there that I got the feedback that gave me more energy than a zillion cups of the ridiculously strong coffee I’d drunk during the wee hours of the morning…” How wonderful that you’re so transparent”, “I love that you also show what went wrong”, “I just saw the solution to the problem I’ve been struggling with”, “Would you consider coming to our company and telling us more?” “. The feedback veritably vibrated with positivity.

The afternoon continued in the same vein, as speaker after speaker conducted their presentations brilliantly, answering questions and inspiring conversations and subsequent reflections.

We observed the participants on and off during the day, and it was wonderful to see how many sat there with a pen and paper, taking notes, asking questions, or clarifying their point of view.

After all this, we thanked our speakers for the time they so generously contributed, our participants for the important role they played during the day, and our colleagues for their admirable efforts. Then it was time for a quick survey of the participants’ views on the day. A QR code and 4 questions would determine if the event was a slam dunk – or a bust.

Already at the quick check of the feedbackit was clear that “Sustainable Together” had delivered what we wanted, and more. So many positive voices pointed out the value of the day. It went far beyond our expectations.

When the room started to empty of people, I dare say that we all breathed a sigh of relief. Slowly but surely, it dawned on me: “Oh my God, we did it! The day went according to plan, the technology held up, no one fell off stage, and our participants are happy. We did it!”

Or as our CEO put it, “If we can pull off something this big, imagine what else we can do!”

For us at Proton Finishing, this was the start of something, something bigger, something more.

“That’s exactly what we wanted to create: a permissive forum where inspiration flows and sustainability is simplified and taken down toa relatable level – one we can all work with.”

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