ForTheDoers Blog

Finnish Transparency Register: A step towards increased transparency and more consistent internal practices

The Finnish Transparency Register Act came into force at the beginning of the year and has been on the lips – or at least in the back of minds – of lobbyists in recent months as companies and other actors have considered what the law means for their own organisations and how to comply with the reporting requirements. I and my project team have also spent a fair number of hours preparing for the implementation of the law, but we have also learned a lot. Now that the first reporting period is underway, it’s a good moment to share some reflections from the journey and to also look at international discussion forums on ethical lobbying. 

Finnish Transparency Register brings transparency to state-level decision-making  

The purpose of the Finnish Transparency Register Act, which entered into force at the beginning of this year, is to increase transparency in the decision-making process of the Parliament and ministries, as well as the ability of citizens to follow the dialogue around political decision-making. Legal entities (e.g. companies and associations) that engage in lobbying or advise on lobbying activities targeting the Finnish Parliament and ministries are now obliged to report their lobbying activities to the Finnish Transparency Register every six months. 

It was clear from the start that the Transparency Register Act would apply also to our lobbying activities. We have welcomed the preparation of the transparency register legislation and have actively participated in the process of implementing and discussing the new legislation. The reasons for this are clear: 

  1. Fortum’s lobbying activities are wide-ranging: dozens of people in different business units are involved in lobbying. We strive to create a good and supportive environment for our businesses in all the countries where we operate, and, as an energy industry expert, we promote our views on energy and climate policy, sustainable development and the circular economy. We also influence policy and legislation through various organisations, coalitions and networks, and we are committed to meeting investor expectations on climate actions and transparency. 
  1. Our own lobbying principles are well aligned with the objectives of the Transparency Register Act: we are committed to promoting open and transparent interaction with decision-makers and other stakeholders. We see lobbying as an essential part of the democratic decision-making process, and we want to ensure that our activities are ethical, responsible and transparent. 

So, we took action well in advance to make sure that we have the processes in place and that the information flows to management, professional lobbyists and business experts when the time comes.  

Who does the lobbying in our company, to whom and on what issues? 

The implementation work has been very demanding, but we have found that the new transparency requirements also support the coordination of lobbying activities within our company. Numerous meetings, briefings, management team meetings and digital channels have helped to build a community of Fortum lobbyists that helps us to lobby as one Fortum. 

The cherry on top is that we also developed our own register tool for coordinating and reporting on our lobbying activities. The tool has been implemented in Finland and in our other key operating countries. It not only makes it easier to meet the requirements of the Finnish Transparency Register Act, but also improves the coordination of our advocacy activities and thus the dialogue with our stakeholders. 

Developing this tool took major effort, and we want to make it freely available to other organisations to facilitate the smooth implementation of the new legislation. I am happy to tell you more about the tool, and for more technical information I recommend the excellent article on it by my IT colleague Terho Antila: 

Transparency in lobbying is growing in importance also at the international level  

Currently, Fortum is the only Finnish company involved in the international OECD’s Getting Influence Right project. The aim of the work is to define the key principles of responsible political engagement for the private sector. The principles to be developed will provide companies with guidance on how to implement, monitor and report on political lobbying activities in a way that does not raise concerns about the transparency and inclusiveness of the public decision-making process. 

In my participation in the OECD preparations, I have noticed that the dialogue of representatives from different continents focuses on very different issues. For example, some of the things we take for granted in a democratic society are criticised in countries where corruption is more prevalent. These differences are particularly evident when discussing the movement of workers from the private to the public sector, or vice versa. Another challenge is to define principles that promote responsible political engagement and are appropriate for companies of different sizes and at different levels in their lobbying activities. 

Lobbying is part of democratic decision-making  

The Finnish Transparency Register is public and can be browsed by anyone interested. It will be interesting to see how its introduction will affect the work of different actors and how lobbying will be perceived in our society in the future. I think it’s important that there is a positive attitude and favourable communication about the Finnish Transparency Register and its content. It is essential to ensure that the already open process of preparation and decision-making in Finland continues, in other words, that the introduction of the Finnish Transparency Register does not reduce the willingness of officials and decision-makers to meet with representatives of different stakeholders. The Finnish Transparency Register should increase understanding of the role of lobbying as an important part of the democratic decision-making process, and not increase potential criticism of lobbying activities. 

Fredrik Blomfelt

Senior Manager, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
Tel: +358 40 705 7389
fredrik [dot] blomfelt [at] fortum [dot] com