WLG | impact '24: Giving Back in Helsinki

Published on May 9, 2024

WLG | impact: Giving Back in Helsinki

Recently, Castrén & Snellman (C&S) hosted WLG | regional Helsinki '24, bringing together colleagues from 17 member firms with business interests in the EMEA region to expand their knowledge of law firm economics, operational strategies, and the art of collaborative client service. Attendees participated in a local CSR activity as part of WLG | impact's 2024 expansion, including in-person activities at WLG | regionals and WLG | summits.


Participants assembled thoughtful care packages filled with toys, books, and comfort items for New Children's Hospital patients.

C&S remains a wonderful example of how member firms can give back to their communities through CSR activities and to the larger, global community in conjunction with WLG member firms across the globe!

Castrén & Snellman: A Strategic and Comprehensive Take on CSR

Founded in 1888, Castrén & Snellman (C&S) is Finland's oldest law firm and has been a member of World Law Group for more than 20 years. The firm's team of over 300 employees is known for its straightforward business culture and "the Castrén spirit," which ensures that its clients always receive the best possible service.

Another defining characteristic of the firm is its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a journey that began in 2009. This dedication is best captured through the firm's dynamic approach to sustainability and care for its employees, focusing on internal efforts and strategic prioritization and hiring a dedicated Sustainability Specialist to manage and oversee efforts.

A Finland First: Sustainability Specialist

Marja Ollila, C&S' Sustainability Specialist, is the only dedicated professional in this type of role who works in a Finnish law firm. Based on client demands and the developing regulatory requirements in the field, the firm made a strategic decision to focus on sustainability in 2018, and Marja moved from the translation team to her current position.

Marja, who holds a M.Sc.(Tech.) degree in environmental management, spends her days developing the firm's sustainability efforts by building due diligence processes to measure impact and develop metrics, planning and organizing staff training, and completing related reporting. She emphasizes that "reporting is essential to sustainability as it allows our stakeholders to assess our performance." She is also quick to add that she does not bear the full responsibility of C&S's sustainability journey, highlighting her collaboration with colleagues in HR, IT, and Risk Management.

Sustainability Objectives

C&S firmly believes that it can make the most significant impact through client work, aiding clients in meeting their sustainability objectives. What does this look like? Marja describes work cases such as building renewable energy capacity, carrying out ESG due diligence in corporate acquisitions, developing sustainable finance instruments, and supporting client preparations for due diligence obligations "Many of our clients play a role in the global sustainability transition and it is our privilege to work with them to make the change happen," she explains.

Marja also highlights the firm's commitment to a cleaner future through work to minimize its environmental impact. Through data analysis from the 2019 fiscal year, the team was able to pinpoint C&S's two primary sources of emissions: heating and air travel.

Since the firm already utilized renewable electricity, changing to renewable heating was a natural next step. This was achieved in 2022 when an agreement was finalized with the firm's landlord. Marja expects to have met C&S's climate target under the Science Based Targets initiative in 2023, thanks to the switch in heating methods. "In 2024, we will begin to review our climate targets and strategy in line with the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive," she adds.

"Air travel is harder to reduce, given that Finland is such a remote nook in Europe," Marja explains. C&S continues to use digital meeting tools to cut back on travel where possible and plans to update its travel policies this year, but realizes that in-person meetings will always be needed outside of Finland.

Helping Employees Achieve Work/Life Balance

The other arena of focus for C&S's CSR efforts is the firm's commitment to caring for employees.

"Ultimately, we believe that culture makes the biggest impact for employees. Our culture, the Castrén spirit, has been built and developed over many decades," explains Marja.

The firm offers many benefits to support all employees, including but not limited to the following:

  • To help manage work/life balance and workload overall, C&S implemented a new Legal Project Manager position to monitor progress and metrics. They maintain a culture of recognizing and valuing that employees have a rich and fulfilling life outside of work.
  • In 2023, C&S began offering an annual medical appointment to employees who have turned 60 and incorporated career continuation planning into the annual development discussions for employees who have turned 58.
  • "Listening to our employees is paramount to us," explains Marja. C&S has a Personnel Advisory Board that consists of elected representatives from different employee groups who give a voice to personnel concerns. The firm also runs regular employee satisfaction surveys and an annual equality survey.
  • C&S promotes continuous learning and the development of professional skills with personal learning objectives, team-specific training budgets, and its training program.
  • The firm pays all employees who go on parental leave and receive parental allowance their full salary for the first four months. Employees returning from parental leave can have a peer mentor or a colleague recently on parental leave.
  • Employees have access to a benefits program that allows them to select options that best suit their personal situation. Choices range from lunches and bike benefits to services like tutoring for children and companions for elderly family members.

Key emphasis is also placed on gender diversity and equality. In 2023, introducing a new HR system allowed employees to determine their gender from three options (female/male/other) and introduced gender-neutral signage in its restrooms.

There is also a particular emphasis on supporting women, as they comprise 45% of C&S's staff.
"A Finnish Bar Association survey from 2009 found that one-fourth of women working at law firms were considering changing professions due to work-life balance issues," explains Marja, highlighting the necessity of caring for the women who work at C&S. "We are happy and humbled that our work for equality has been recognized by the Women in Business Law Awards EMEA, which has selected us as the Scandinavian Firm of the Year for three years running," she shares.