Designer’s Work survey 2023: Environmental responsibility not in significant role in business operations

Designer's Work 2023 header

According to the Designer’s Work survey 2023, a labour market survey amongst Finnish designers, many companies proclaim environmental responsibility, but do not seem to list it as a top priority for corporate responsibility. In the survey, designers working as employees evaluated corporate responsibility measures of their employer companies. The survey was answered by 306 designers from different industries. Executive Director of Ornamo, Salla Heinänen, points out that Finland has internationally renowned expertise in sustainable design that companies should utilise to their benefit.

For the first time, responsibility was now surveyed amongst employees in the design sector, whose employers are mainly medium-sized and large enterprises in industry, services, construction and education. The results show that companies in the sector emphasise data protection in their social responsibility, which 84% of respondents considered important. Respect for human rights and equality in the work community were considered the second most important issues in employer activities. 

Ecology is relatively less important for the companies. In fact, only 47% of employees stated that ecology plays a major role as a competitive factor for their employer’s operations. 

According to Executive Director of Ornamo, Salla Heinänen, companies cannot afford to forget the importance of ecology in a situation where sustainable product policy and materials are at the core of the circular economy in the internal market of the European Union. According to Heinänen, companies should wake up now, at the latest, as legislation changes.  

– As the policy of sustainable products and materials will be both guided and steered from an understanding of sustainable design, using design thinking to solve sustainability issues can become a competitive advantage as well as promote new competitive innovations and ecological sustainability, says Heinänen.

According to her, designers play a key role as professionals in sustainable solutions, from design tasks to product development, and from strategic planning to learning. 

Ecology, such as promoting sustainable consumption and circular economy as well as mitigating climate change, received less emphasis in the survey. At least 50% of employees considered these factors very or fairly important in their employer’s activities. Preserving biodiversity received the least attention.   47% of respondents said that environmental responsibility plays a very large or major role as a competitive factor in the employer’s products, services and marketing. 49% of the respondents stated that their workplace has guidelines in place or has set goals for working with corporate responsibility. As many as a third of the workplaces did not have said guidelines and 21% did not know what to answer.   

The view of employees in the design industry regarding the significance of factors related to corporate social responsibility in companies within the sector, percentage of respondents (Source: Ornamo's labor market survey 2023)
Labour market survey visualised

Labour market still lively for designers, even though confidence in the future has weakened 

The labour market survey also revealed that employee confidence in the future has weakened slightly from the previous year. Despite societal crises, the worklife of employed designers has remained relatively stable, even though the outlook had weakened slightly at the beginning of the year.  

Despite the slight decline in confidence, 81% of employees in the sector still considered their job secure in early 2023. Another positive thing, according to the survey, is that there are three times more employers who have hired employees than employers who have had lay-offs. 

Of the factual economic adjustment measures, 14% per cent have carried out dismissals and 11% have carried out temporary dismissals. In addition, every tenth workplace has carried out co-determination negotiations. 9% of workplaces have reorganised work assignments. Some workplaces have resorted to taking out annual and extra leave in advance. 

Moderate growth in designer salaries  

In early 2023, the average total earnings of design professionals who responded to Ornamo’s survey amounted to EUR 3,930 and the monthly median was EUR 3,800.  

On the annual level, pay rises are usually small and have mainly resulted from general increases. In 2022–23, pay rises were more clearly based exclusively on general increases than in previous years. 

Designers work with wide-ranging design tasks in various industries  

306 designers responded to the survey, which was conducted in early 2023. Close to 80% of employees work in private enterprises or non-profit organisations in various industries. According to 2023 surveys, the largest employers in the private sector as a whole were interior architecture companies as well as engineering and architecture firms. These are followed by specialised design agencies as well as companies within real estate and construction, technology and software.  

The survey respondents consisted of interior architects, designers, industrial designers, service designers, user interface designers, teachers, and clothing and textile designers. Nearly 40% of employees worked with consulting and design tasks, while a good one-fifth worked in product development and a good one-tenth with education and teaching tasks. The rest worked in e.g. managerial positions, strategic planning, sales and marketing. Ornamo’s survey was carried out by researcher Pekka Lith.  

Press release and report online (Finnish). 

Additional information and interview requests:

Communications Manager of Ornamo Elina Perttula,

tel. +358432110755,  elina.perttula(at)

Finland’s largest multidisciplinary design community Ornamo advances the profession of designers and promotes the role of design in society.  Founded in 1911, Ornamo has 3,000 members.