Skip to content
Blog 07.10.2021

Business Finland Becomes a Change Agent: Trainee's Experiences of Working in Sustainability

Is sustainable development just rhetoric and greenwashing? What does a traineeship in sustainable development involve? In her blog, Business Finland’s Global Growth Trainee Olga Vartiainen describes her journey from disruption funding to sustainable development tasks. Olga also shares her own concerns about sustainable development, which have been partly allayed by her new duties.
Olga Vartiainen

Global Growth Trainee
Business Finland

I entered the BF house virtually in mid-June last year with no idea where this road would take me. I was applying for a summer job during the infamous coronavirus spring and, by a stroke of luck, I got a job that was not just for the summer, but a year-long plus stint in coronavirus-related financing, i.e., disruption funding.

This spring I did a U-turn, or at least came to a completely new crossroads, with the opportunity to work with sustainable development, which is something I feel passionate about. For the past four months, I've been following my new BF path as a trainee on a project called CASB. CASB stands for Change Agent for Sustainable Business, which Business Finland is ambitiously striving to become through its new strategy and operations.

Typically for a millennial, I suffer from chronic climate anxiety. I've often been upset to find that capitalism is broken and that the building of prosperity is based on violations of both human rights and environmental regulations. It's therefore very natural for me to be interested in sustainable development, which could even be optimistically described as a cure that safeguards the chances of my generation and future generations to live on this planet.

Empty rhetoric or concrete action? 

Last year, while working on coronavirus-related funding, I closely followed the work to renew Business Finland's strategy. I was excited to see that sustainability was about to be put at the center of the strategy for the first time. However, I must admit to feeling a little sceptical about it. Having come across greenwashing and clever rhetoric many times before, I was afraid this would be yet another case of paying lip service to sustainability. I had many thoughts about the strategy renewal, questions especially, but also an interest in the changes and the concrete actions to be taken.

As an agent for change, Business Finland aims to help its customers become more responsible ecologically, socially, and economically by raising awareness and encouraging customers to pay attention to sustainable development.

How is sustainability actually shown in the new strategy? In many ways. The organization's core mission has been formulated in a way that accommodates sustainability aspects. Alongside economic growth and competitiveness, sustainability is at the heart of the strategy. And to achieve the sustainability goals, the strategy emphasizes our transformation into a change agent for sustainable business.

As an agent for change, Business Finland aims to help its customers become more responsible ecologically, socially, and economically by raising awareness and encouraging customers to pay attention to sustainable development. In addition, Business Finland aims to support and help its customers to produce solutions that have a positive development impact. In addition to all this, Business Finland must also ensure that it operates in a sustainable manner itself. But what concrete actions does this mean?

In my own work, I've mapped the state of sustainable development in Finnish companies, worked on a customer survey for our SME customers, and helped to think of suitable training courses for our personnel on the topic of sustainable development. I've also interviewed my colleagues and had the opportunity to observe ongoing projects, pilots or core business activities related to sustainability. In other words, I've had the opportunity to witness that Business Finland is already taking concrete action instead of making empty statements.

An Experience Beyond Expectations

Although my first contact with Business Finland involved the media attention to the financing provided in connection with the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020, my expectations have been far exceeded since then. In addition to doing interesting tasks, I've been able to challenge myself, and my voice has been heard. I've been able to make a difference and have been given responsibility. In addition, I've had the opportunity to work with a wide range of highly-skilled professionals in different fields. Best of all, my own climate anxiety has been alleviated.

Although I still don't have a clear idea of where my path will eventually take me, the door has been opened, so to say.

Read more about work opportunities at Business Finland