Kaisa Alavuotunki, Director, Impact and Sustainability
“I got interested in social sciences as an exchange student in the United States when I had an opportunity to study sociology in a local college. I ended up doing my master’s in Economics while also working for a student organization and arranging traineeships for Finnish students in developing countries. This work also took me to India, my first trip outside of Europe and North America. Slowly but surely, I realised I wanted be part of finding solutions to global and local development challenges.
I wrote my dissertation theses on development economics and I have also worked as a consultant. I believe my background has prepared me for my current job: My competence is a combination of the characteristics and skills of a researcher and a consultant and I have an analytical and project-based work approach.
Impact is currently well integrated in Finnfund’s investment process and is considered central to our mandate. During my time at Finnfund, we have brought forward the first impact assessment in the investment process, conducted several wider surveys on the impacts of our projects and, in general, strive to obtain more in-depth systematic impact information about our projects. I find it inspiring to work for a company that approaches development from various perspectives. Visits to project countries help better understand the realities of our investee companies.
In recent years, I have also focused on gender lens investing. Finnfund has been paying attention to impact of its investment on gender equality for a long time, but we lacked a formalized approach. In spring 2019, Finnfund published its gender statement, which compiles the measures Finnfund takes to guide its investment decisions to better promote gender equality.
One of the cornerstones of development is inclusion of women in the workforce and decision-making positions. Education and employment are vital elements of women empowerment. There is a well-known positive relation between gender equality, women empowerment, and social and economic development. We emphasize to our potential investees that gender equality is one of our priorities and we analyse all the investments through a gender lens. Naturally, we also have to ensure gender equality in our own organisation.
As a mother of three relatively small children, I appreciate flexibility at work. Although the job involves travelling, I have been able to reach a good work and home life balance. Flexibility of work, such as working from home when needed, helps manage daily routines with children. My children have also participated in the Bring Your Child to Work Day and look forward to the next time they get to visit the office.
Not long ago, I participated in a seminar that considered the question: “Can money save the world?”. The panelists agreed that ONLY money can save the world. I am inclined to agree with them. As an investor, we have the opportunity and responsibility to choose our investments wisely and discuss issues we consider important with our project companies. I think that Finnfund is an extraordinary workplace and probably one of a kind in Finland. And to top it all, I often have genuinely fun at work thanks to my energetic colleagues!”