Half-eaten bun is bigger than its size

What is the essence of sustainability in 2020s?

I had deviated from my principles and found myself in a panel discussion (which I hate).  The reason was simple. The topic was and is dear to my heart. "What is the essence of sustainability in 2020s?"  The stage was shared between myself, a professor and the sustainability director of a large, listed company.  The professor, with a slightly arrogant smile, was in full speed.

"It's ridiculous that people care about what happens to the half-eaten rolls in the conference rooms, whether to throw them away or not. It shows a complete lack of sense of proportion. Bun has zero significance in the big picture, none whatsoever."

A chorus of nodding heads was clearly visible in the audience.

Yes, exactly!  Couldn'´t agree more! You have to focus on what's important!

I noticed myself getting slightly irritated. Of course the BIG things – large-scale acquisitions, construction materials, transport, energy – are a lot more significant than buns.  All of these areas above alone are probably a lot more significant issues than the whole issue of food waste in total.

But what if we are missing the point, what if the half-eaten bun is more meaningful than its size?

Think of a politician who says he "strives to be honest in essential matters"? Or a spouse who strives to be “faithful in important situations”?  How is this different from a person who commits to be responsible in big things but not in small ones? Is that even possible? Can you be partly responsible?

Or is the way you do one thing the way you do all things?

I am worried that this kind of arrogant thinking starts from the basic assumption that we are generally reckless people who can, with a focus and willpower, make only few exceptions and that is why we have to decide carefully what we concentrate on.

Is that really the case or could there be another way? And what if that way would actually be a lot simpler and easier? What if we tried to be responsible in every area of our life, in big and small things accepting that we make mistakes, accepting our imperfections.  Start telling a story that this is who we are, or at least who we want to be – responsible companies, responsible human beings.

According to the elementary school textbook, value is a "permanent way of choosing". This means that in the best case, our actions come from the spinal cord, without thinking.  Why couldn´t responsibility be like that? Something that holds true in everything we do. For acquisitions, construction, transportation energy – and for half-eaten rolls.


Saku Tuominen

  • Entrepreneur / Innovator / Board Member / Olive oil Farmer / Award Winning Author & Keynote Speaker

Saku Tuominen is a Finnish entrepreneur, education innovation specialist, restaurateur, olive oil farmer and award-winning author and keynote speaker. He is also a board member of Nordic Hospitality Partners, one the leading restaurant groups in Northern Europe.

He has been teaching creativity and innovation in Aalto University in Helsinki and in more than a hundred companies around the world.

He has written 12 books – about innovation, the future of office work, good life, human belief systems, everyday creativity, decision making and Italian cuisine. During his 20 years in television, he has produced thousands of hours of programs and created almost 100 TV formats.