DBA Dissertation: Financial Sector Driving Sustainability

Sustainable finance supports the establishment of companies' ESG practices, but the institutionalization of new practices has not reached its full potential yet. This is evident from Jukka Honkaniemi's new DBA dissertation.

Jukka Honkaniemi's DBA dissertation examines the integration of sustainability issues into business practices in the financial sector and small and medium-sized enterprises. Photo: Junnu Lusa


Jukka Honkaniemi's DBA dissertation examines the integration of sustainability issues into business practices in the financial sector and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in three essays. The first of these examines how ESG is integrated into the equity analysis of large companies (OMXS-30 companies) in a Swedish bank. ESG – the concept of environmental and social responsibility and good governance practices - is used especially by businesses in measuring and reporting sustainability. In the bank's pilot project, experienced analysts calculated the impact of ESG on the share price transparently in a way that had never been done before.

"Two-thirds of Sweden's 30 largest listed companies would have experienced a reduction in the share price recommendation, while one-third would have seen their share price recommendation increase if ESG analyses had been fully taken into account," says Honkaniemi.

According to Honkaniemi, institutional investors are in a unique position: they can drive market development to a new level. If brokers and sell-side analysts are given the right incentives, they can meet this demand from investors.

The second essay of the DBA dissertation is a systematic literature review that analyzed what existing research said about the relationship between ESG and financial performance in the context of SMEs. SMEs represent over 99% of businesses and account for over half of GDP, employment, and the environmental impact in the EU. The green and sustainability transitions cannot be achieved without having SMEs onboard.

One of the findings was that only 36 of the 1,600 scientific articles reviewed and published by the end of 2020 dealt with SMEs. Only five studies covered European SMEs; no research was found on Finnish SMEs with selected keywords.

"In large companies, the most significant ESG issues are industry specific. SMEs have different characteristics, and in addition to the industry, cultural and local context-specific ESG factors can also be financially material. Climate change or the role of owners had hardly been examined in the studies," Honkaniemi describes.

The third part of the dissertation is a case study of a Finnish technology SME. The interviews and examination of other material focused on examining sustainability through a review of the company's strategic strengths and weaknesses. The researched company focused on its economically material stakeholders and anticipated future demands from them in its strategic planning. In addition, responsibility issues were strongly linked to the company's value base, which in turn reflected the owner's influence.

"The research revealed that some customers had asked sustainability-related questions from the case-study company, but this had not yet impacted the actual business negotiations. Most customers, banks, or suppliers had not raised the issue of ESG, but in their planning, the company anticipated that this would happen."

Honkaniemi's research is the eleventh doctoral dissertation to be completed from Aalto EE's DBA program. The work has been supervised by Professor Hanna Silvola from Hanken University and University Lecturer Hedon Blakaj from Aalto University. DBA has the same premise as other doctoral dissertations: to produce scientifically reliably obtained and valid information. The DBA is based on working life and has the objective of contributing to business practices.

Honkaniemi works in his own consulting company, which specializes in promoting sustainable business in companies and the financial sector. Before running his own firm, he had a long career as an executive in international banks.

"The dissertation has a huge significance for my work; it broadens and deepens my knowledge. The company I founded consults and helps financial institutions and companies in marshaling ESG and having new practices implemented in their organizations. The goal of my second company is to provide banks and financiers with accurate information on the ESG risks of SMEs and to involve SMEs in the green transition as widely as possible," Honkaniemi says.

You can read the dissertation here!

The DBA defense

The DBA dissertation of Jukka Honkaniemi " Money Matters: Essays on Sustainable Finance and the Institutionalization of ESG" is examined by Aalto University School of Business at 2 pm on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Osipow Hall at Aalto University Töölö.

Professor Sami Vähämaa, University of Vaasa, is the opponent, and Academic Director Dr. Mikko Laukkanen, Aalto EE, is the custos. The DBA defense will be held in English.

The defense can be followed via Zoom. Attendance on-site is for invited guests.

Meeting ID: 891 6014 3293

For further information on the research and orders of the dissertation:

Jukka Honkaniemi
DBA Candidate
Tel. +358 50 597 0034

Aalto University Executive Education and Professional Development

Aalto University Executive Education and Professional Development (Aalto EE) offers impactful education, development, and training services. Aalto EE combines a wide range of practical expertise with the latest research from Aalto University. We aim to provide a sustainable platform for lifewide learning at different stages of a career. Furthermore, we operate as a strategic partner for organizations, enabling renewal in a rapidly changing business environment. Our unique portfolio of programs offers concrete solutions, intellectual capital, and professional head start for both individuals and organizations.

Aalto EE has two strongholds: our main office and learning facilities are in Helsinki, while our operations in Asia-Pacific are led from Singapore. In addition to Finland and Singapore, Aalto EE offers education programs worldwide. As a part of Aalto University, it holds three most respected business university accreditations – AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS – which places it among the top 1% of institutions in the world.

What is the Aalto Executive DBA - Doctor of Business Administration program?

The Aalto Executive DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program is designed for experienced executives who wish to complete a doctoral degree alongside their work. This working-life oriented program involves applied research. The DBA, which is recognized around the world, is offered by several leading institutions, such as Harvard Business School.

Like the Aalto Executive MBA and Aalto MBA degree programs, the DBA is not part of the Finnish degree system. However, it is conferred by the accredited Aalto University School of Business. The Aalto Executive DBA program can be completed, alongside work, in three to six years. This fee-based program was launched at the beginning of 2013.

Henrikki Tikkanen, Professor of Marketing at Aalto University School of Business, is the academic director of the DBA program. Read more on the program website.

Further information on the Aalto Executive DBA program

Patrick Furu
Director of Customized Design, PhD.
Aalto University Executive Education and Professional Development
Tel. +358 10 837 3719

Henrikki Tikkanen
Professor, Department of Marketing
Aalto University
Tel. +358 50 573 4174