Students helped the Finnish Meteorological Institute develop its sustainability work

The content and working methods of the project could also be adapted agilely during the project according to newly identified needs
Ilmatieteen laitoksen projektitiimi
Hannele Korhonen (Meteorological Institute, left), Frans Astala (Aalto), Seppo Ikäheimo (A), Ella-Kaisa Luoma (A), Vilma Lindqvist (A), Juhana Hyrkkänen (MI), Nina Kukkurainen (MI), and Tommi Vihervaara (A)

The Finnish Meteorological Institute commissioned a student project from the School of Business to develop the institute’s sustainability reporting and other related work. The project was implemented by master’s degree students Frans Astala, Vilma Lindqvist and Ella-Kaisa Luoma. Academic support in the early stages of the project was provided by Assistant Professor Emma-Riikka Myllymäki, and in the latter half by Professor Seppo Ikäheimo, bothfrom the Department of Accounting.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute published its first sustainability report in 2021 based on the State Treasury’s guidelines. The main goal of the project was to create concrete recommendations that will enable the Finnish Meteorological Institute to develop its sustainability reporting and to use it in sustainability management. 

‘Although the activities of the Finnish Meteorological Institute itself support responsibility and sustainable development in our society, we wanted a more systematic approach to managing and developing sustainability,’ says Juhana Hyrkkänen, Director at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The project lives and changes along the way

The project was launched by developing sustainability reporting. For this purpose, the students carried out a comprehensive benchmarking analysis of sustainability reporting in different organisations, familiarised themselves with topical literature and interviewed internal and external stakeholders of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. 

‘Organising stakeholder interviews was an especially rewarding experience, as it was interesting to discuss the theme of the project with experienced professionals and to hear different views on the themes of sustainability,’ the student team explains. 

By the midpoint meeting of the project, the students had produced an extensive report with concrete recommendations for developing sustainability reporting. The client deemed this interim report so comprehensive and successful that, unlike they had originally planned, it was decided to focus the project on developing sustainability management. ‘It felt great to see that our team’s contribution was considered successful and useful even though the project was only halfway through,’ says Ella-Kaisa Luoma. 

Excellent feedback on the organisation of a workshop

Thus, the rest of the project focused on sustainability management, and the students organised a workshop on strategic sustainability management for the Management Group of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. 

‘When planning the workshop, we really got to challenge ourselves and learn many new things. Our team had little previous experience in designing or facilitating such workshops,’ says Frans Astala. According to Vilma Lindqvist, leading the workshop was the highlight of the project for the entire team. ‘I felt that we really had an opportunity to influence important issues.’

The content of the workshop was heavily based on literature on the topic and interviews conducted during the project. The tight two-hour schedule included interactive assignments and discussion as well as presentations by the team. ‘The workshop had been carefully prepared and excellently scheduled. Facilitation was smooth and natural. The workshop did not feel rushed despite the intensive schedule. The workshop had a great balance between theory and background information as well as participatory methods. There was also plenty of time left for the discussion,’ the Finnish Meteorological Institute praises the team. 

Sustainability in everyday decision-making

The student team is very satisfied with the implementation of the project, cooperation with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and continuous support provided by their academic advisors along the way. The students praise the opportunity offered by the business project to utilise knowledge acquired during studies in practice. ‘This project did indeed help me learn many things that would be difficult to grasp by only attending lectures,’ Frans Astala says. 

‘The project allowed us to combine our competence and previous experience with the knowledge and skills gained from education. All our three team members have diverse skills and different abilities and traits, and we were able to utilise everyone’s strengths. This is exactly why the project went so well. Of course, learning new things always motivates a great deal, and in this project, we really learned something new – not just on the theme of the project, but from other team members as well,’ adds Vilma Lindqvist.

According to Juhana Hyrkkänen, the student-led project met the criteria of the original assignment well. Interviews with staff and stakeholders and benchmarking other institutes and companies combined with a synthesis created by the students produced a very comprehensive report in a short time. 

‘The content and working methods of the project could also be adapted agilely during the project according to our identified needs. Despite their student status, the students were already professionals in the field, and new views and ideas provided us with plenty of input to further develop the sustainability theme. The preparation of a separate sustainability programme and clarifying the management model were selected as the key measure. This makes the sustainability viewpoint a more acknowledged part of our strategy and everyday decision-making,’ comments Juhana Hyrkkänen.

‘Cooperation with the Finnish Meteorological Institute concretely shows how sustainability is internalised both in an organisation’s communications and especially in management. With this project, the student team got to the heart of the matter and in such a way that the client could use the team’s ideas almost immediately. Such projects are great opportunities for team members to see how the operations of organisations can be influenced. It was really easy to be this team’s academic advisor because the team acted proactively and in a self-directed manner, and I could not but admire both the students’ attitude toward work and their visionary and solution-oriented work,’ says one of the project’s advisors, Professor Seppo Ikäheimo. 

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