Advocate for Change: Good Governance and Sustainability

Q&A with Hanna-Mari Manninen, Head of Strategic Advisory

Q: How do you want to influence society in your role as an attorney?

“Businesses are perhaps the greatest global force for change today. As an attorney, I help companies promote sustainable development and make their operations more responsible. I also take a stand on social issues and share my expertise beyond my professional duties. For many lawyers, sharing their expertise is the most natural way to make a difference. Serving on the boards of organisations that do meaningful work is also a natural extension of my commitment to positive change. I currently chair the board of UN Women Finland, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights, and collects funds for UN Women’s worldwide programs. I also sit on the board of Ylva, a company owned by the Student Union of the University of Helsinki and on the board of Scout Foundation. In addition, as a committee member of the Finnish Bar Association, I get to contribute for example to the preparation of the Housing Companies Act in the Ministry of Justice’s working group.”

Q: Beyond your primary role as an attorney, what drives you to pursue ambitious social advocacy?

“I am motivated by the opportunity to influence socially important issues and to do meaningful work. My passion for good governance makes this work rewarding, whether it is training the boards of client companies or making decisions as a board member. I find energy in helping others and working with diverse people. I am particularly driven by the need for continued progress, such as promoting women’s leadership in business, including in Finland. Seeing tangible results from our collective efforts inspires me to keep going.”

Q: How do you see the role of corporate activism in today’s business environment?

“Corporate activism and social advocacy both play a critical role. Corporate activism involves companies taking a stand on social and political issues and using their influence to drive change. Today, we can see more and more companies taking a stand also in Finland. It’s powerful because companies can quickly influence policy and public opinion. But traditional social advocacy, often led by NGOs and grassroots movements, is equally important because it drives systemic change from the bottom up. As an attorney, I see my role as carefully bridging these efforts whenever possible. Stakeholder governance is related to the development of the new role of the private sector, as this type of corporate governance requires companies to take into account the interests of all their stakeholders when making decisions, for example by consulting with NGOs – often leading to positive change that benefits both shareholders and society at large.”

“My passion for good governance makes this work rewarding, whether it is training the boards of client companies or making decisions as a board member.”

Q: How do you expect companies to be affected by regulatory pressure on human rights issues and how do you see your role as an attorney in this development?

“Companies are indeed facing increasing regulatory pressure to comply with human rights standards. Legislation such as the EU’s forthcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) requires companies to actively identify and address potential and actual adverse human rights impacts in their global value (supply) chains. This regulatory landscape is forcing companies to adopt more systematic, transparent and ethical practices related to the management of both human rights and environment issues. As an attorney, my role is to guide companies through these complex regulations, ensuring compliance while promoting a culture of respect for human rights, which is criticall in itself, and therefore strengthens the company’s reputation and social licence to operate.”

Q: How would you encourage other lawyers to make a difference both professionally and in their personal time?

“Lawyers can contribute to a better society in many ways, and I believe our professional training gives us an obligation to give back. I would encourage you to find an issue you’re passionate about and a way to make a difference that resonates with you. Have the courage to speak out – people will listen. Every firm should also be involved in pro bono work. It sends an important message within the professional community.”

 

Read more: Sustainability Report 2023 (pdf)

Businesses are perhaps the greatest global force for change today. As an attorney, I help companies promote sustainable development and make their operations more responsible.

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