Green careers in Finnish cleantech

Man at workplace

Michael Brunner works as a Sustainability Manager at Jervois Finland.

What if you could use your career to help the environment? Michael Brunner does just that in the Finnish cleantech sector.

Finland is a leader in cleantech – with a fast-growing electricity supply which is already over 90% CO2-free. In large part thanks to the country’s technological expertise and circular approach.  


With Finland’s growing supply of competitive CO2-free electricity, international companies are increasingly seeking to expand into Finland when it comes to battery value chain production, hydrogen production and e-fuel production (including ammonia, methane, methanol, ethanol, e-LNG and more.) 


According to Bloomberg, Finland is the top European country – and ranked fourth worldwide – for lithium-ion battery value chain development. That’s because it’s the only European country that can mine all key battery minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel) domestically – which also means it’s home to some of Europe’s most extensive mineral and chemical processing know-how.  


In Finland, digitalization, AI, blockchain and data optimization intersect with and support key cleantech industry segments. Including clean energy production, batteries and energy storage, hydrogen and e-fuels, and decarbonization solutions.  


Ultimately, Finland’s strength lies in its smart use of resources – something that’s been recognized by the UN, which has ranked Finland the world leader in sustainability for the past three years.  


So, what’s it like to be an international talent in a global business based in Finland – and what’s the outlook for cleantech in our Nordic country? We asked Michael Brunner and Thomas Slotte from Jervois and Johanna Hylkilä from Kokkola Industry Park to share their insights.   

Supporting the green transition

After years of banking in Switzerland, Michael Brunner decided to shift his career to cleantech in Finland. He began working at Jervois as a Sustainability Manager in August 2022.  


“I wanted to work with cleantech, because the industry has a great future and growth prospects, especially in Finland. Another reason for choosing cleantech is that it’s a line of business where you can do good for the environment by advancing the green transition of heavy industry.” 


Jervois is an Australian-based company operating in mining, while Jervois Finland is the global leader of refined cobalt products. In Kokkola, Finland, the company hosts the second largest cobalt refinery outside Asia. The refinery in Kokkola Industrial Park KIP is an ecosystem of 80 companies, many of them working with the green transition. They expect significant growth and are seeing important investments in the green transition bring returns.  


Ethical, ecological, and social sustainability are increasingly important in business. That’s something Brunner has noticed on his career path at Jervois. Besides the company’s own ambitions, he also sees rising demand from stakeholders in the supply chain, such as clients, partners, and end customers who want to know things like where the cobalt in their electric vehicles comes from and be assured that three were no human rights violations along the supply chain.  


“Factors like human rights, environmental due diligence and chain of custody carry a lot of weight, and that’s increasing all the time. For responsible sourcing, the necessary laws don’t even exist yet. So our industry often needs to develop the standards that we act upon. At Jervois, we want to be a front-runner ahead of legislative development, because we want to be the best in our industry”.

Jervois headquarter in Kokkola.

Jervois headquarter in Kokkola.

Working in Finland is just like playing ice hockey

Compared to Switzerland, where the opportunities to realize large-scale cleantech projects are limited by the nature of available suitable plots, Finland has a strategic advantage due to the country’s size and natural resources. 


“You may get technology from Switzerland, but the country is small. It would be hard simply to find space for a facility as big as Kokkola Industrial Park.” 


So far, Michael has been pleased with the work culture in Finland. Finns are attentive, detail-oriented and accurate in their work. His experience is that Finnish workers are true to their word, and integrity is embedded in the culture. Work is also well-structured. In Finland, everybody enjoys a high degree of personal responsibility and employees are trusted to work independently. 


“This is what I see at Jervois too. It’s just like the Finnish idea of how to play ice hockey. There are lines in the team and within the lines, every player has their own responsibility and role, where they can do what they do best. The coach defines the playing system and the roles of each player, but each player has a lot of freedom to interpret his role. If the coach gets lost in micromanagement, it does not work for Finns, and the joy of playing is gone. The same applies to work.” 

It’s all about communication

Brunner praises work-life balance in Finland.  


“It’s really good, especially for families. This is a big difference compared to Switzerland, for example. It doesn’t mean that business and work are not important to Finnish people, there’s just a better balance.” 


In the workplace, Brunner says he communicates across multiple languages – for example, this interview was conducted in fluent Finnish. He says the Finnish language is not simple, but being able to talk helps him integrate in social life and at work. However, for those who are daunted by Finnish grammar and vocabulary – English skills are more than enough to succeed at work and in daily life.  


Brunner says that when he started working in Finland, he wanted to understand how Finns interact at work and how they communicate, and knowledge of the Finnish language helps. 


“I’d say the most important thing is communication and interaction. You must understand the soft factors – like the significance of the coffee break in Finland. I must say that the Finnish way of conducting conversations is extremely nice. People wait for you to finish your sentences and only start talking after that. It’s respectful and I find it a daily challenge to do the same.”

Thomas Slotte, Director of Plant Support Administration at Jervois, and Michael Brunner, a Sustainability Manager at Jervois.

Thomas Slotte, Director of Plant Support Administration at Jervois, and Michael Brunner, a Sustainability Manager at Jervois.

Jervois Finland – a global leader

Thomas Slotte started his career at the company now known as Jervois in 2007, and he is currently Director of Plant Support Administration. Across his career, he has been fortunate to see a few changes in ownership and learn a lot from it. The company has been known as Jervois since September 2021. 


Jervois is at the forefront of the green transition in Finland, and therefore the whole world. That means growth, investments, and jobs. 40% of the company’s products go to the battery business, supplying batteries to everything from consumer electronic devices to electronic vehicles. On the west coast of Finland, the materials are produced with clean Finnish energy. 


Slotte is responsible for all support operations required by the business, including safety, environment, security, quality, and HR in the largest cobalt refinery outside Asia. 


How does the future of cleantech in Finland look to a seasoned professional?  


“Finland meets all the requirements of succeeding very well in cleantech. Why? Simply because we’re Finns. A strong work ethic is built into our culture. We do what’s right, we are hardworking and very systematic thinkers – which is in high demand in this sector.” 



Green transition drives growth

The future of Jervois in Kokkola is bright for two reasons. There’s a global demand for sustainable battery chemicals. Jervois Finland has committed to best practices in responsible sourcing frameworks and has been recognized as a conformant downstream facility by the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). The Kokkola region is growing strong thanks to the green transition, and in 2022 it saw the announcement of large-scale international hydrogen investments. This intersects with the Kokkola Works project, which involves Jervois in cooperation with schools. The project is expected to bring 1,600 new jobs to Kokkola Industrial Park. 


“That’s an underestimation, the real number is bigger.” 


Kokkola Industrial Park gathers 80 different businesses together. Johanna Hylkilä, Executive Director of KIP Association, says that these range from traditional Finnish industries such as metal refinery and chemical industry to modern start-ups. In addition to Jervois, there’s also Umicore Finland, which works with battery precursory materials. If the company’s investment plans are realized, it will generate hundreds of open jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Hycamite, which explores production technology outside of the traditional electrolysis method. They currently have 25 employees but are looking to double that number by the end of 2023 by recruiting internationally. 


“The common denominator across all these companies is that they are all contributing to the green transition.”  


Hylkilä says that KIP is an ecosystem. At the EU level, “cluster” is the term used to refer to companies concentrated together. But Kokkola Industrial Park goes beyond that definition. 


“The collaboration within KIP intersects across many sectors and happens in many ways. We’ve been utilizing the byproducts of other production facilities for more than 50 years, so we’re true front-runners of the industrial circular economy when it comes to producing minimal waste. We also have a lot of creative collaboration. For example, we facilitate forums where leaders, employees and officials can meet.” 


According to Hylkilä and Slotte, the overall impact of the Kokkola Works Project on the region is huge. The city needs to build more kindergartens and schools as more people move into the region. Public transport, city planning, and the way businesses operate will change.  


“This is all a positive impact.” 


Slotte points out that there are not enough people on the west coast of Finland to fill the 1,600+ jobs. There’s currently a strong need for engineers, managers, leaders, and financial administrators. He says that in Kokkola Industrial Park, companies closely collaborate with each other and exchange ideas. In one effort, they counted the number of job titles in the park. There’s over 100. 


“In order to get enough educated people in, we need to start recruiting systematically. We need people with international experience. This reflects the Finland of 2023.” 

Johanna Hylkilä, Executive Director of Kokkola Industry Association.

Johanna Hylkilä, Executive Director of Kokkola Industry Association.

Different kinds of people drive innovation

What are the benefits of recruiting international talents? Slotte doesn’t hesitate to answer: 


“Versatility and diverse ways of thinking. The cultural differences enrich the work community.” 


This ties in nicely with the company’s mission to innovate. 


“These interactions and exchanges are the home of good ideas. They are also the breeding ground for innovation, because they take people somewhere they haven’t been before and that’s when your brain starts ticking.” 

Finland: the front-runner in cleantech

Finland holds the top spot in the Sustainable Development Index 2023 – for the third time in a row. Finland is currently the greenest country in the world and ranks seventh in the global cleantech innovation index. Finnish companies have already succeeded in developing significant solutions and innovations to tackle the global challenges we are facing. Distributed energy production and intelligent power management are combined with high-level digitalization.  



Finland has also developed world-class solutions for electricity grids into high-performance smart grids and even off-grid island networks. The country’s Arctic environment has been a great testing ground for the next generation building materials and technologies. Respect for nature is embedded in Finnish culture, which is why Finns are passionate about sustainable development.  


Here are a few factors that make Finland a front-runner in sustainable development: 

  • Ambitious climate targets. Finland aims to be carbon-neutral and the first fossil-free welfare society by 2035.

  • A high-trust society. Sustainability stems from trust. 85% of Finns agree or strongly agree that they can trust most of their fellow citizens – the highest trust rate in the EU.  

  • Reliable energy production and transmission.  

  • A strong cultural emphasis on integrity 

  • The Finnish welfare model. Finland is ranked as the most stable nation in the world and has the best governance in the world measured by voter turnout, legislative independence, and the number of women in Parliament. 

  • Finland is also ranked as the country with the world’s most political and civil freedom. 

  • Finland is rich in natural resources.  

  • A low degree of corruption. 

  • A cultural connection with nature, inspiring Finns to protect it. 

  • Finland’s unique geography shapes the way Finns think, work, and innovate.  

  • Persistent long-term efforts: public and private sector collaboration. 

  • Cutting-edge cleantech expertise has helped us succeed in protecting our nature.  

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