Taking the Leap across the Rationale Gap: The Role of Emotions in Making the Transition to More Sustainable Materials and Technologies

Research summary

The objective of Finland's national bioeconomy strategy is to facilitate economic growth and to create new jobs in bioeconomy-based business. Next to technological knowhow and willingness to innovate, firms aspiring to transition to more sustainable materials and technologies need the ability to identify new business opportunities. Courage and commitment to persevere in seizing these uncertain opportunities, and tolerating the uncertainty and the possibility of failure in pursuing them, are equally important. Therefore, the decision to transition to the bioeconomy involves both rational and emotional elements.


Economic cost and profitability considerations are often perceived as key motivators behind strategic business decisions. Business decision makers aspire to make - at least in their own opinion - rational decisions to secure
the success and continuity of the company. Prior research also talks about 'rationalisation' of uncertainty by using different decision-making tools.

The objective of this project is to generate an understanding of the rational and emotional aspects of decision making in relation to transitions towards more sustainable, bio-based materials. In particular, the project focuses on investigating how emotions support, hinder, and perhaps override rational considerations in decision-making situations involving considerable degrees of uncertainty, such as in transitions to new materials and technologies.

This research contests the notion of information processing and comparison of alternatives only being based on reason. Specifically, we investigate how emotion can complement reason under uncertain conditions. For example, we explore how specific emotions such as excitement and fear can complement rational evaluation and serve as a compass when strategic change decisions demand a comparison of different hard criteria. If switching to novel more sustainable technologies and materials did not stir any emotional reactions, such transitions would be easier to ignore altogether. As such, emotion can help the decision maker to better understand their own priorities and values, as well as the social environment. Emotion can help in choosing
the alternative that feels right and fits to company values. Successful transitions to more sustainable production not only enable the company to do well, but also indirectly generate positive externalities to society.

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Project information

Research info

Research title
Taking the Leap across the Rationale Gap: The Role of Emotions in Making the Transition to More Sustainable Materials and Technologies

Research timeline
1.1.2017 - 1.12.2020

Bioeconomy Bioeconomy transition Sustainable materials and technologies


Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, United States

Aalto University
Management studies
Helsinki, Finland

Funding instrument
Ministry for Foreign Affairs (ICI, HEI-ICI, N-S-S), Academy of Finland

Head of research
Teemu Kautonen

Research team
Teemu Kautonen Aalto University, Henri Hakala, University of Vaasa, Katariina Salmela-Aro, University of Jyväskylä

Aalto University, Entrepreneurship, University of Vaasa, Management, University of Jyväskylä, Psychology. International partners from Singapore, Switzerland and USA.

Contact information
Teemu Kautonen

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