10.3.2020 Article

Lea Rankinen started as Paulig’s Director, Sustainability & Public Affairs in the beginning of March. Her mission is to build stepping stones towards an even more sustainable Paulig. “I have a great feeling about Paulig as a company as well as the people and values. The top management’s commitment to sustainability has impressed me. However, we still need to take new leaps forward together.”

Lea Rankinen experienced an environmental awakening as a child when her family lived in the countryside. Rankinen’s parents were faced with tricky questions from their daughter: Who do people use so much fertilisers? Isn’t there some other way of doing things? 

Rankinen is still intrigued by seasons and nature’s cycles. She believes that seasonal thinking will become more prominent in food industry companies, too, as part of their sustainability ideology.

“In my heart, I’m a country girl. I have great appreciation for primary production. In spring, I have to put my green fingers to work in my garden where I grow everything from garlic and chili to potatoes,” says Rankinen.

She started as Paulig’s Director, Sustainability & Public Affairs in March, and she is excited about her new employer. Paulig’s goal is to grow into a European food industry giant by strengthening its sustainable business operations. 

Rankinen has followed Paulig’s sustainability work and the management’s attitudes with a keen eye.

“I have a great feeling about Paulig as a company as well as the people and values. The top management’s commitment to sustainability has impressed me. The current operating environment has been understood well. However, we still need to take new leaps forward together.”

“The level of ambition will rise”

At Paulig, ambition in sustainability will be further expanded and reinforced in the future. 

How would Rankinen summarise her role at Paulig?

“My job is to build a credible and ambitious roadmap to how Paulig can achieve the status of a sustainability pioneer. I will build the stepping stones and set concrete objectives as well as ensure the execution of the plans,” describes Rankinen.

In addition, Rankinen says that she actively investigates what is going on in the operating environment. 

“I think a lot about the things an actual sustainability pioneer would do.”

According to Rankinen, Paulig has engaged in great and systematic sustainability work, in particular with coffee. The next step is to make the sustainability work intersect the entire group’s operations in a more in-depth manner. Rankinen has a long career and strong expertise in sustainability work and business development in the retail and service sector.

“I believe that in me, Paulig will also have an internal challenger, change leader and networker. It’s also essential what kinds of internal management indicators we define for our sustainability work. How do we measure effectiveness and report the impacts of our operations in a transparent and open manner? We work together for the common good.”

“I want to challenge people to rise to the next level, to see even further.”

Sustainability work must continue even if the talking stops

When Rankinen was appointed as SVP Sustainability of S Group in 2013, not many Finnish companies had directors working with the same title as her. Recently, fashion chain H&M announced that they will appoint the group’s former sustainability manager as their CEO. 

According to Rankinen, the corporate world has also awoken to the significance of sustainability also from the perspective of business operations.

“The corporate world has only awoken to sustainability in the past five years. It has understood that this is a serious matter also for business operations. Every self-respecting corporate leader must understand that even if the talking stops, the work must continue. Systematic work combatting climate change and human rights violations must continue, regardless of trends.“

Peaceful countryside helps wind down

Rankinen holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Technology. She describes herself as “an engineer interested in humans” who values everything related to people and humanity. 

“I believe that my educational background can be seen in my systematic and analytical approach. It helps me understand the mechanisms of climate change. This, in turn, helps me understand different structures and patterns of influencing and build understandable frameworks based on which the stepping stones towards the desired goal can be built.”

Rankinen is inspired by achieving great things in her work. The most rewarding thing is to see changes for the better.

“During my career, I have been outside my comfort zone many times and faced threatening, even scary situations. The most important thing is that you feel that your work is meaningful and in sync with your values. On holiday, I leave work behind and relax at our summer house, our old farm.”

Lea Rankinen

Job: Director, Sustainability & Public Affairs at Paulig

Career: Rankinen had a significant 18-year career in the sustainability work and business development of the retail and service sector at S Group where she was the SVP Sustainability in 2013–2019. 

Hobbies: cross-country skiing, CrossFit, vegetable patch

The last book you read? David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth – A Story of the Future