Alina Pathan, Manager of Wärtsilä’s Corporate Relations & Sustainability team, discusses her career path and sustainability and explains why achieving goals is a joint effort.
I read about global warming for the first time in my geography book during high school more than 20 years ago. I was about Greta Thunberg’s age at the time and remember thinking: “This is terrible, why isn’t anybody doing anything about it?” At that point, climate change was still a rather marginal issue in terms of public debate.
I’ve had an interest in environmental issues and social justice since childhood. I had “Save the rainforests” and “Stop acid rain” stickers as a child and was concerned about endangered animals. In my early teenage years, I helped my mum collect signatures and campaign for a local forest area to be declared a nature reserve – which led to a successful outcome. My dad frequently discussed political issues at the dinner table, alerting me to the injustices occurring around the world. With a Finnish mother and an Indian father, it was always clear to me that people should be respected and treated equally no matter their background.
After two degrees – one in business and environmental management, and another in development studies and environmental policy – and more than a decade spent as an expert in a sustainability consultancy, I joined Wärtsilä at the beginning of 2016. This was not just any company to me. Throughout my career, I’d wanted to work for a firm I truly believed in, and Wärtsilä, as a forerunner in clean technology, was an appealing choice.
I was extremely proud when we launched our “Enabling sustainable societies with smart technology” purpose in 2017. During my consulting years, I often felt that sustainability had to be pushed within organisations and highlighted through the advantages of acting sustainably. When our CEO Jaakko Eskola spoke about how we need another purpose other than just making money, I felt that we had entered a new era in sustainable thinking.
In our Corporate Relations & Sustainability team, we are involved in environmental, safety, security and corporate relations initiatives, as well as monitoring ongoing policy developments. We also coordinate, for example, university relations, plan Code of Conduct training and report our sustainability work in the Annual Report and external sustainability ratings.
Preparing our Sustainability Report as a part of the Annual Report requires a lot of work. For example, we must write the text, collect the data, proofread the final version and also take care of the external assurance. However, once the report is published there is an immense feeling of satisfaction. I recommend having a look at it. Did you know, for example, what the approval process for Wärtsilä’s suppliers entails or what its main innovations and partnerships in 2019 from a sustainability perspective were? Further, what role does Wärtsilä play in contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and by how much we reduced our business travel emissions in 2019 (spoiler: 15%)? All this information, and a lot more, is included in the report.
In a large organisation like Wärtsilä, sustainability and ethical behaviour cannot be advanced by one team – it is a joint effort. I am glad to be doing my share and believe our purpose pushes all of us forward. Sustainability is a journey and we must all play our part in it.