Lobbying is often thought to be a one-way street, where public affairs directors try to enforce their ideas into new laws. In reality, when ministries are drafting new legislation or implementing EU directives, they benefit from having good connections to the industry and other relevant stakeholders. This is because experts provide valuable information on the effects that different regulations have. Therefore, lobbying is a part of democratic processes, where interest groups get to share their views and raise concerns over upcoming laws.
The facade of public affairs was raised in the Future Energy Leaders Finland’s workshop held at AFRY’s office in November. The young talents learned what public affairs consist of and what is the connection between industry, public governance, and non-governmental organizations.
Anna Ikonen from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation spoke about the NGO’s role in lawmaking process.
The workshop began with introductions to governance and influencing in general. Juho Korteniemi from the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Employment laid out the process of lawmaking. He explained why, where, and how the industry can offer its knowledge and information of the regulated matter at hand. It became clear that the regulators and civil servants need to learn about real-life experiences of how the planned regulation or strategy papers impact companies, the environment, and society.
After being acquainted with the Finnish framework of policy-making, the audience heard a more in-depth presentation on the public affairs of an energy company. Maiju Westergren, the VP of sustainability and public affairs at Helen explained that public affairs are much more than just communication with governing bodies. Westergren exemplified her presentation by telling the future leaders about a case example on heat pump taxation.
In democratic processes, it is important that all relevant aspects get represented. Anna Ikonen from the Finnish Association of Nature Conservation explained the cooperation between non-governmental organizations and regulators. Despite lacking similar monetary resources as other interest groups, NGOs often have access to the people and can mobilize demonstrations or citizen initiatives. Ikonen also spoke about case examples where the NGO had influenced public opinion and regulation.
After the presentations, the future leaders played a simulation of power talk through a role play. The idea of the game was to understand power balances in society and how to make yourself heard and fight for discourses in debated matters.
Planning of public affairs strategy in a role-play simulating a real-world business case.
The Future Energy Leaders Finland is opening a new round of applications in late 2021. If you want to know more about the network, contact Vesa Vuolle, the Executive Director of WEC Finland (email@example.com), and stay tuned for more information.