Go Back

Ilkka Herlin

Ilkka Heikki Herlin
Born January 25th, 1959, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1990 and PhD 1993 ( Finnish and Scandinavian History), University of Helsinki

Chairman of the board and principal owner 2005–, Cargotec
Founder and chairman of the board 2008–, Baltic Sea Action Group
Founder and chairman of the board 2015–, Soilfood

Researcher 1993–2000, University of Helsinki and the Academy of Finland
CEO 1987-200, Security Trading

Chairman of the funding and donations committee 2014–, University of Helsinki
Vice-chairman of the advisory board 2011–, Aleksanteri Institute
Chairman 2009–, Finland-China Trade Association
Chairman of the board 2005–, Wipunen varainhallinta oy
Board member 2005–, D-sijoitus Oy
Board member 2005, Mariatorp Oy
Board Member 2005–2011, Finnish Foundation for Share Promotion
Board Member 2005–2008, John Nurminen Foundation
Board Member 2005, chairman 2000–2005, WIP Asset Management
Board Member 1990–2000, Kone Corporation

Awards and honours:
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, third class, 2010
Honorary PhD 2012, Lappeenranta University of Technology
Honorary PhD 2012, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki

Photo: Vesa Brandt
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

“Humanities are about Participation”

Ever since the energy crisis, the scarcity of natural resources has been clear to Ilkka Herlin. A sense that he should take part in some form of social activism became part of Herlin’s worldview while working on his doctoral dissertation. He wanted to work on something through which he could achieve concrete and long-term benefits.

– When I finished my dissertation in 1993, I began to systematically work on environmental issues. Together with Sirpa Pietikäinen, we established a foundation called Ympäristö ja talous (‘Environment and Economy’). We worked hard on the project, but the business world at the time was not yet ready for this kind of collaboration.

Through Pietikäinen Herlin met Juha Sarkkula, who had been developing a format through which representatives of different social groups could engage with environmental issues.

– Sarkkula helped me have a more concrete understanding of how to advance the protection of the Baltic Sea by bringing together social and business representatives. All parties have their own interests in saving the Baltic Sea. The prudent course of action is therefore to get them to work together.

Herlin also discovered that political activity was one significant way to influence society. He joined the Centre Party of Finland and has championed environmental issues through political channels. He has also invited experts from several fields to take part in the Baltic Sea Action Group.

In addition to saving the sea, the Baltic Sea Action Group is actively involved in issues related to climate change.

– We are working to improve the environment, whether we are speaking of land, water or air. It is clear that the Baltic Sea is suffering. Our goal at the foundation has been to get all the agents who can do something to save the Sea to work together in a new way. This has sped up the process to save the Sea, but there is much work to be done. The Baltic Sea is contaminated. Now we have to find out exactly what the causes are, and how to fix the situation and to prevent it from being contaminated further. This requires wide-ranging collaboration, and through my experience I want to bring together experts from different fields to work towards a common goal.

Herlin feels that the humanities are about participation in social activities on the basis of one’s own worldview, in particular in those parts of society that are of personal importance. Close to his heart is agricultural development, which he practises on his two farms.

– On my farms we are testing new methods of making agriculture work for the benefit of the climate and the waterways. The idea is not just reducing emissions. We are trying to figure out how to capture emissions from water and air and thereby aid nutrient cycling.

Herlin enthusiastically describes recent American studies that have determined agriculture to be the best way of capturing airborne carbon. On top of protecting the Baltic Sea, it is important to him to discover agricultural means of controlling the effects of climate change. Herlin is pleased to meet farmers as well as other agricultural workers.

– Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and traffic, but it also leads to soil erosion and degradation. By returning organic matter to the soil we can capture carbon in the air and store it in the ground, and improve the state of the soil itself. The improved nutrient uptake in the soil will then produce larger harvests. Speaking with those who work in agriculture makes it easier for me to share information and come up with solutions to the problems.

Picture: BSAG press materials.


Go Back