Text: Matti Remes Photo: Tuija Karanko
The AFDA is a Finnish association that represents the defence, aviation, aerospace and security sectors. It has approximately 130 members, the majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. Most of the large members also operate in several sectors.
“Patria, along with its subsidiaries, is the largest company in Finland that operates purely in the defence sector, and is a prominent figure in the association,” says Tuija Karanko.
Collaboration between Patria and the AFDA covers a broad range of areas. For example, Patria representatives actively participate in working groups and Board activities. The AFDA’s Board of Directors is chaired by Patria's CEO, Esa Rautalinko.
“As a small association, we have to rely on our members’ activity and expertise in many areas. And as a larger company, Patria has the resources to be active and appoint people to working groups. Patria employees are highly involved in our activities, for example, as members of the strategy team.”
Following industry trends is important
One of the topical themes in the defence sector is security of supply, whose importance has been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic and the shortage of components affecting many industries. The pandemic’s long-term economic impacts on western countries’ defence budgets are also a matter of concern.
Karanko notes that, compared to smaller companies, Patria has more resources to follow trends and developments in the sector – and other companies in the sector will also benefit from this knowledge and expertise.
“A good example of this are the corporate social responsibility report guidelines for AFDA members that we created with a great deal of support from Patria. Patria was already familiar with the topic, and shared its knowledge with the rest of our community.”
However, Karanko says that Patria's leading role occasionally sparks off debate among other Finnish companies in the sector. That’s why she wants to emphasise Patria's activities on behalf of the AFDA’s membership as a whole.
“Patria's representatives in the AFDA have always been able to work in the best interests of the entire industrial sector – even if a few words may need to be exchanged beforehand. And this is also the case when Patria's own interests may conflict with those of, for example, SMEs.”
“Sometimes, the AFDA’s position will be the result of making compromises. In the twelve years that I’ve been leading the AFDA, we’ve never found ourselves in a situation in which Patria's representatives would have opposed the AFDA’s position or actions, even if they were not in complete agreement with Patria’s own position.”
Finland is making itself heard in Europe
Karanko points out that the AFDA was founded in 1994 primarily as a lobbying organisation to promote the interests of all of its members. In Finland, lobbying focuses on legislation and internal regulations and practices in a variety of administrative sectors.
The AFDA also represents Finland in international forums. The most important of these is the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD).
In 2019, Patria became a full corporate member of the ASD, and was thereby granted its own representative in the ASD’s Defence Business Unit. The unit has 24 members from major European companies in the industry.
“Patria's direct membership does not diminish its role in the AFDA – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s good that Finnish industry is being given as many voices as possible. In the ASD’s operational bodies, Patria speaks on behalf of Finnish industry as a whole. And these opinions are refined in the spirit of good cooperation.”
Karanko says that companies need to cooperate in international markets, as on a European scale, Finland is a small operator in relation to larger countries and companies. This close cooperation also extends to a practical level.
“The Finnish pavilion organised by the AFDA at the Eurosatory trade fair in France is always located next to Patria's, and we coordinate our events together. For years, the AFDA has been holding a reception for several hundred people at the fair. As the AFDA’s own refrigerators are not big enough to keep all the catering cool, a helping hand has always been found from who other than Patria and its refrigerators!”