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A series of portraits of VINCI Energies employees. They hail from a whole range of backgrounds and personal career paths, and work around the world in one of the multiple business activities that allow VINCI Energies to prosper.

Maarit Koivupalo, HSEQ Manager for VINCI Energies  Finland, is responsible for developing various issues: health, safety, the environment, and quality of work. Her mission is all the more crucial since external growth recently doubled the business’ size.

Maarit Koivupalo has a passion: orienteering in the forest. “I love to set myself a target, to go from Point A to Point B with only a compass for guidance.” This activity is a neat metaphor for her work. As HSEQ (Health, Safety, Environment and Quality) Manager at VINCI Energies Finland, her mission is to ensure that the business units are constantly improving in the areas of health, safety, environment and quality.

But in recent months, the challenge facing Maarit Koivupalo has scaled up considerably. In late 2022, two years after she arrived at Omexom, VINCI Energies purchased the Finnish group TLT. The acquisition of TLT, which specialises in solutions for electricity and telecoms network operators, from design through to implementation and maintenance, caused VINCI Energies to double in size in Finland.

“Enabling business units to develop a positive culture of safety, sustainability, responsibility and well-being at work.”

“We now have about 500 employees,” she confirms. “We are implementing an integrated HSEQ management development plan in support of this new stage in the business unit’s development. The aim is to introduce the excellence of the VINCI Energies safety and environmental culture into every business unit.”

Developing a positive safety and sustainability culture

Raising awareness, coordinating, training, supporting, and above all, talking with people are Maarit Koivupalo’s day-to-day tasks. “Besides working on our HSEQ strategy for the future, I work closely with managers from the different business units to help them with safety and environmental issues,” she explains. “Different business units are at different maturity levels in these areas. I have to tailor my approach with each of them to enable them to align with the standards with the aim of developing a positive culture of safety, sustainability, responsibility and well-being at work.”

In September 2023, she launched sessions to present key elements in the HSEQ strategy to each business unit. “The idea is to talk with managers to gain an understanding of their needs and prepare for the implementation of action points in the field.”

Of course, detailed knowledge of these issues and the abundance of legislation surrounding them is a must, but Maarit Koivupalo’s role also demands people skills, dialogue skills, and a certain sense of realism. As she says, “When you have safety and environmental incidents to deal with, you need to keep your feet on the ground.”

In this cross-business mission involving not only business units but also the various support functions (communications, HR, IT, etc.), she is supported by the division’s network of HSEQ representatives. “This support is invaluable, especially with regard to the large-scale development of principles, guidelines and tools. Through this network, I’m also learning a lot about the energy industry.”

A rapid decision-making process that prioritises autonomy

She chose an industry and a company, VINCI Energies, precisely because of their commitment to the sustainable development. After a decade with the Finnish metal industry, Maarit Koivupalo was keen to switch sectors and find new motivations.

“I studied health and safety management and then pursued a Doctorate in the same subject precisely because I had always wanted to care for and protect others. But it became a vocation when I was a student, during my summer internship. My academic research work in these areas cemented my determination to reconcile theory and practice. I learned a lot at my previous job, including how to react to an accident. It was a moment of truth on how and how well a business can manage an event of that kind.”

At VINCI Energies, in addition to the environmental and safety commitment, Maarit Koivupalo was also attracted to the workplace atmosphere. “The people are motivated – they love what they do,” she says. “You can sense a dynamic with a rapid decision-making process that prioritises autonomy and is always future-oriented. I really like the energy sector. It’s an interesting environment undergoing a major transformation.”

At 41 years of age, Maarit Koivupalo has no plans to change industry, much less profession. “Over the next few years, I can see myself taking on more responsibility for managing HSEQ strategy on a wider scale.” And the qualities she has developed in her orienteering will then no doubt prove more valuable than ever.


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