KALASATAMA TEMPORARY: AN EXPRESSION OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

By: Nathaly Guzmán Figueroa

Kalasatama Temporary is one of the most ambitious urban planning projects in the city of Helsinki. An area under construction has been opened up to different cultural activities that have attracted thousands of citizens. The construction companies play a crucial role in the project, as they highly influenced the initiative. The companies are promoting activities that are not directly related with their business activity and they are bringing benefits to the community by enhancing values such as unity and freedom of expression. This, certainly, is a representation of corporate social responsibility.

The area of Kalasatama has been converted into scenario of wonderful cultural events, where people gather with many different purposes: to share artistic work, to enjoy of exhibitions and concerts, to hang out with friends, or to have a quick look of the area. In former years, this place used to be a harbor. In 2009, Kalasatama was given to construction companies who started building a new city district that will become a big housing and commercial complex.  As the construction work was projected to last for around 30 years, the Helsinki Planning Department and the construction companies decided to undertake a very ambitious project in this place. Since 2010, this zone would serve as center of temporary cultural activities.

Kalasatama temporary is certainly a complex social system. In this project there are different stakeholders involved: constructors, City Planning Department, Organizers of the cultural activities, participants, visitors. Every one of them has different interests, some share certain goals and they all relate with each other in several ways. The construction companies play a central role in this complex structure, and their decisions and behaviors have contributed to shape the current dynamics of the system. The constructors’ main interest is to promote the area among the citizens to be able to sell the houses and offices they are building nowadays. Therefore, the cultural activities undertaken in the area can serve as a way of advertising the building projects that are going on. At the same time, the construction companies show their social responsibility by getting more involve with the community and by encouraging activities that are not directly involve with their economic goal .

However, the construction companies could have decided to leave the area away of any cultural happenings, and instead carry out normal advertising activities to promote the place and give information about the future projects. In this scenario, the system would have been totally different. The main actors would have been the constructors and the visitors attracted by the constructors through normal advertising and marketing activities. Most likely, the construction companies were able to identify leverage points in the old version of this system, and modify rules and practices that served as elements of total change of the dynamics of this system . A higher expression of corporate social responsibility was certainly a way to intervene and to make the new scenario a reality.

Therefore, how can we explain this corporate social responsibility initiative? Is this only the representation of self-interest of the construction companies? As mentioned before, constructors know that the activities undertaken in the area will attract potential buyers, which will contribute to maximizing profits. In addition, the image of the constructors and the construction projects will be very positive among the public, and this may attract even more buyers to the area.

However, there might be also ethical and moral reasons involve in this initiative. Construction companies recognize the community as one of their stakeholders, which means that the wellbeing of the community becomes a responsibility for the companies. The cultural activities undertaken in the construction area, are giving value to society. Citizens are given a space to leave a mark on the city and to express themselves freely. Even though the construction companies realize that many of the current visitors will not purchase the future houses or offices, this cultural activities keep being promoted. This shows their great commitment towards the wellbeing of society and their bigger involvement with stakeholders that seemed not to be as important in the past.

In conclusion, there can be many reasons to explain the social responsibility initiatives of these construction companies. To discover if the construction companies decided to open this space because of self-interest or because of moral or ethical motives is a complicated task. Nevertheless, regardless the nature of the companies’ choices, everybody has witnessed the positive effects of Kalasatama Temporary project. Thus, the decisions taken by the constructors in this case, might serve as example for other companies to participate in similar projects while developing their corporate social responsibility framework and while adding value to society.