”Kylmä, kallis, kaukana” – cold, expensive and far away, these are the words that are sometimes used to describe Finland. And it’s true, for being expensive at least, especially when it comes to Finnish work. According to Eurostat’s article in 2015, Finland was the 7th most expensive country in the EU district, when looking at labor costs per hour. Yet for some reason there are still entrepreneurs such as Elina Mäntylä, the CEO of Valona, who prefers to use Finnish companies for producing, even though it might be economically preferable to find another solution. Maybe produce somewhere where labor costs were more affordable and taxation was at a competitive level. But for Elina it is more an ethical decision than it is economical.

Valona subcontracts primarily with small Finnish companies to produce the designs Elina makes. All her birch plywood products made by using laser cut technology are made in Finland. So why produce in Finland? To Elina it is a question of employing Finns and therefore supporting also the Finnish economy as a whole. Being an entrepreneur herself, she feels that it is important to support other business owners in a country as small as ours. Another important reason for Elina to manufacture Valona´s products in Finland is transparent and ethical sourcing. Knowing the producers personally ensures that the working conditions of those producing the products are ethical and materials are easily traceable. Something that is not guaranteed in countries with cheaper labor costs. Having a personal contact with the producer also makes the producing process easier, as Elina is able to meet up with the manufacturers as often as it is needed, to assure the end result is as good as the design. Knowing the people you work with creates an atmosphere of trust, which is so important in business that no amount of money can really compensate for it.

Even though local producing might not be the most profitable move, it surely is the right move for Valona. Not that profitability isn’t important, that goes without saying. But for Elina making a lot of money is not the most important value. When a products goal is to make the receiver happy, it cannot do that with the expense of making someone else unhappy. Buy an ethically produced gift that makes you look good on the outside and feel good inside!

Maria Korpiniemi

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Valona design, Kuva: Samuli Sivonen