Henni Savolainen had options to choose from; she had been offered a place at the University of Vaasa and LUT University. Savolainen, who is completing her Master's degree, says that she chose LUT because of the university’s focus on sustainability. Savolainen is from Imatra, so Lappeenranta's location near her family also influenced her decision, but she says:
"I had worked in customer service for ten years, but the child of nature in me needed something more. I understood that I can also make a difference through my work. Corporate responsibility, sustainability, diversity and human rights issues are really important to me. LUT's focus on corporate responsibility aligned with my own interests," says Savolainen, who has a background in business administration.
Sustainable business and corporate responsibility are included in all LUT School of Business and Management programmes. Anyone who wishes to explore these subjects in more depth than what the compulsory courses allow can choose a Sustainable Business study module for their minor studies.
Savolainen believes that LUT has plenty of interesting content in their minor subject offering in corporate responsibility.
For example, a core studies course in Business Ethics, which is compulsory for some programmes, examines data ethics and the limits of growth. The course also touches on topics such as the loss of biodiversity, forced labour and the ethics of robotics. In the intermediate course in Business Ethics, students will study responsible data, human rights, forced labour and human trafficking in supply chains, employee diversity, and responsible and ethical investment.
"Everyone can work just as they are"
Henni Savolainen, who entered LUT School of Business and Management in autumn 2020, progressed in her studies at a fast pace. She says that distance learning has been a great option for her, as the students have been able to take all exams remotely.
Savolainen's Master's Programme in International Business and Entrepreneurship focuses on business startups and growth entrepreneurship, but Savolainen does not yet see herself as an entrepreneur. Instead, she could imagine herself working in a company's corporate responsibility team, integrating responsibility and diversity into the business strategy.
"Previously, I thought that working was, in a way, a disconnected part of my life. Now I think I want to make a difference so that everyone can work just as they are, regardless of skin colour or sexuality."
Dream internship with a focus on sustainability
As part of her studies, Savolainen has been working since June as an intern at the Finnish Business & Society FIBS, the largest corporate responsibility network in the Nordic countries. Savolainen says that she became interested in FIBS due to its strong social media presence.
"FIBS's social media updates reflect their expertise and commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility. And many large Finnish companies are members of the network. So I decided to apply for an internship at FIBS when one came up. The values of those working at FIBS and the network's partners align with mine."
At FIBS, Savolainen contributes to corporate responsibility communications and reporting. She helps organise events, edits seminar videos and updates the website with content and the latest news. FIBS closely monitors corporate responsibility news and articles and shares them across the organisation. Savolainen also reads as much literature in the field as possible, and not only because of her upcoming exams.
"My learning at LUT and training at FIBS complement each other well. I have learned a great deal about the concepts and frameworks related to corporate responsibility reporting. However, no one can be an expert in all areas. And I have been anxious about the state of the world for a long time," says Savolainen.
Nevertheless, Savolainen is not discouraged; on the contrary, she says that fact-checking helps alleviate her worries.
"The more you know, the better you can participate in the conversations with experts."
Savolainen's dream job would be to work in corporate responsibility at a civil society organisation.
"In that sense, I have already achieved a small part of my dream through this internship."
Mentoring programme helped beat impostor syndrome
Savolainen was admitted to a mentoring programme run by the LUT School of Business and Management student association Enklaavi and the Finnish Business School Graduates. Savolainen says the six-month mentoring programme has given her a great deal to think about. Her mentor works in the HR department of a large Finnish company.
The mentor made Savolainen rethink her future position in working life and consider whether she would prefer a specialist or a managerial role.
"At first, I thought that I’d choose a specialist role, without a doubt. But as a manager, I would be able to promote the sustainability and corporate responsibility issues that are important to me perhaps even more effectively than as a specialist."
Savolainen and her mentor also discussed impostor syndrome.
"In my experience as a woman, it's sometimes hard to believe that I can do this. I still think it's a bit of a man's world. Men seem to walk anywhere exuding confidence, even arrogance. But my mentor gave me so much encouragement and support that I no longer doubt myself."
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