Interested in corporate responsibility? UPM might be looking for you

Responsibility is both a truly intriguing and demanding field of work. Even for UPM, who was named as the most value-adding company in Finland last year, communicating its value creation to surrounding communities is a true challenge. To tackle it, UPM has now paired up with Helsinki Think Company to find new courses of action as well as potential employees.

“Corporate responsibility” and “community relations” are some very trendy words. It’s easy to forget these themes actually date back way further than the age of modern public relations, green wash scandals and company Facebook pages.

Take the Eastern city of Lappeenranta, Finland, for example:

Year 1894 was big for the small town of Lappeenranta. As the Kaukas integrate started its engines – which still run today – the future direction for the city changed for good. The standard of living improved radically for the people of Lappeenranta as the forest industry company UPM served almost the role of the state that we know today. Like most mills back then, the Kaukas mill provided workers with hospitals, childcare and education, for example.

As we know, the state later took on the wellbeing of citizens and companies’ roles changed.

”Today, the most important role of a company is to secure profitable operations that enable the company to employ, develop operations, invest, pay taxes and create value. But how can this value we create be communicated to the surrounding community in the modern age? This is what we need bright, young experts from multidisciplinary backgrounds for”, explains Sami Lundgren, Vice President of Environment and Responsibility at UPM.

Students over professors

This autumn, UPM and Helsinki Think Company have joined forces to bring together UPM and students interested in corporate responsibility and community relations building in a weekend long hackathon-like workshop.

”We know that not all knowledge can be found inside our walls. We’ve also reached out to university professors for new points-of-view but quite often the focus in discussions is only on carbon dioxide emissions or any other specific environmental topic. But this isn’t enough anymore, we need to do more than that. Many still see us as nothing more than the big paper company we were 50 years ago. We need young people to help us to change how we are seen as a company”, Lundgren says.

UPM is very much looking forward to spending the weekend with students from diverse academic  and other backgrounds.

”There are more than 19,000 people working for UPM. There are engineers, foresters, chemists and economists, of course. These people are very important for us but the whole world can’t be run by them. We need multidisciplinary knowledge, like communications people, social and political scientists and humanists, too, in our public relations and responsibility teams for example”, says Lundgren, a biologist by academic background himself.

The best solutions are local, yet scalable

During the weekend UPM will present the participants with two real life cases, one of which is built around the Kaukas intregrate. As UPM has production in 12 countries, they hope to see solutions scalable worldwide during the weekend.

”We’ve been in Lappeenranta for over 100 years, for example, and we promote community involvement all the time. For example, we recently organized day trips to forest for all six graders in our mill sites in Finland to learn about sustainable forestry. But it’s a whole different story when we take our business abroad and start building a new mill for example. I feel like it’s very important to win social acceptance for our operations from the communities.”

True value to be shared

The value UPM creates is not just talk but a cold numeric fact. According to Etla, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, UPM was the most value adding company in Finland in 2016. The research took into consideration direct added value (taxes and salaries paid) and combined these to the value UPM creates through wood procurement, harvesting and transport chains.

But for UPM, responsibility lies deeper than just in the money.

”Responsibility is integrated in all of our operations. It’s about taking care of the Finnish forests so they that serve both as a means for economic growth and as carbon sinks. It’s about managing our company in a responsible way. It’s about making sure none of our 35,000 suppliers worldwide use forced or child labour. It’s also about making sure all of our employees have the same opportunities to succeed, regardless of their age, background and sex.”

Read more about our Mini Challenge with UPM here.