ForTheDoers Blog

In an unpredictable world, Fortum is ready – and here’s why

Arto Räty  ·  31 May 2021

For over five years, I have had the opportunity to work in an innovative, rapidly developing company – and now for a year the biggest company in Finland. During this time, Fortum has shown its ability to evolve, changing its corporate culture to meet today’s needs. The global energy business landscape continues to change, but I have strong faith that Fortum Group and its skilled people are ready to face tomorrow’s challenges and succeed.

arto räty

I started my journey at Fortum five years ago, in a company that was utterly different from today’s Fortum. Fortum had recently sold its electricity distribution businesses in Finland, Sweden and Norway for over nine billion euros. There was money in the bank and ideas about the future, but the corporate culture was in need of an overhaul. Things began to change when Pekka Lundmark, with his digital mindset, took over as CEO. Fortum’s leadership culture, in particular, underwent a transformation. The head office in Finland was moved and renovated in under a year and our major offices in other countries followed soon after.

To prepare for the move, we initiated the Fortum Way of Working, or WoW project, which changed our culture profoundly. In addition to the previously distant top management making itself more accessible, we levelled out the way of working throughout. This led to a comfortable, empowering and less tense working environment that encouraged innovation. It also gave us a push towards our strategic goal which was to broaden our business portfolio and operational flexibility and speed up the energy transition in Europe.

Hybrid working requires a new approach

COVID-19 was a wake-up call to the world, challenging every company to examine and reshape their ways of working. Fortum has been one of the top companies organising and carrying out Group-wide steering actions from the early stages of the pandemic. Now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve turned our attention to a hybrid working model. In our Workforce 2.0 working group, we believe that hybrid working will be a key element in tomorrow’s working life.

This means that leadership culture must again change. Leading people in different locations, variably online and face-to-face, simply cannot be done in the same way as you would lead people who are all constantly at the office. Individual KPIs and support, attention to well-being and self-leadership are all vital factors of success in a hybrid working environment. So are life-long learning, re-skilling and up-skilling. The world is changing, and we will change with it, of that I have no doubt.

Responsible energy transition means looking at the big picture

We are working hard to create an emission-free world, and sustainability is something we all believe in. However, there are different players in the energy sector. Some have chosen to sell off the parts of their business that cause environmental concern. Others have jumped on board with solely renewable production. We chose to focus our efforts on a controlled transition, taking equally into account sustainability considerations, security of supply and the affordability of energy.

If we build on these three factors, we will make great progress in the transition. I come from a military background and find that a similar idea to the Cadet Oath holds true here, as well: those who carry out the transformation responsibly, with attention to the needs of the people, nature, the concerns of the state leadership and the society, will ultimately win.

There are still many uncertainties in the energy transition. Coal is a done deal and will be phased out, we all agree on that. Natural gas as a fossil fuel is a challenge that is still partially unsolved. The best solution candidate right now is hydrogen. There are issues with commercial viability, but I strongly believe that society will solve them. In ten to twenty years, hydrogen will be a major factor and Fortum Group will be in a strong position through its expertise in the area.

Motivated, skilled people are the heart of Fortum

What surprised me when I transferred to Fortum after 40 years in military and state administration was the incredibly high work ethic of everyone working here. The amount of know-how we have across our operations is immense. There is a constant drive forward and high trust between the personnel and the top management. Credit for this must be given to CEO Markus Rauramo’s focused and strategic but also humane leadership.

What I believe I have brought to the company is the importance of situational awareness and clear governance, which sets mandates and coordination points, providing freedom to work independently within this framework. I’ve done my best to bring about a more relaxed way of working and stronger trust between people. Chairing both the WoW project and the Workforce 2.0 project has been a rewarding experience, showing me that if there is a will, a surprisingly quick change in the culture is possible.

These five years have seen a massive change process at Fortum. It was a change that the world required from us, but I am genuinely proud of what we have achieved together. As I retire from Fortum, I am confident that the company will continue to succeed, guided by modern leadership based on situational awareness, working with a hybrid model, building a responsible energy transition. I leave all this in the capable hands of my colleagues and wish everyone a wonderful summer.

 

Arto Räty

Arto Räty

Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communications
Member of the Executive Management team