Enthusiastic workers needed in environmental restoration, says Finnish entrepreneur

Janne Raassina is an entrepreneur focusing on environmental restoration in Eastern Finland. He has a background in forestry and he focuses on restoring landscapes and water systems, such as rivers and lakes, into a more natural state.

There’s been an explosion of new projects in the field of environmental restoration in recent years, with newfound focus on biodiversity from both governmental bodies and land owners.

Janne says all new workers with a passion for nature have a place in environmental restoration – and they are sorely needed. Discover how Janne started his own business in environmental restoration and why he would never look back.

What do you do?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over six years now. My projects have always been related to water ecosystems and catchment areas. For example I carry out restoration work for rivers and creeks, as well as water quality improvements. I live in Eastern Finland, and I’ve basically been working in environmental restoration and conservation for my whole career of 15+ years.

I have plenty of different projects going on, as I may be working on as many as ten projects at the same time. About 80% of them are focused on water quality, like catchment area restoration projects, while 20% are related to habitat restorations, for example working on drought or small-scale water ecosystems.

Especially in the autumn all the work piles up because we need to finish before the snow comes and makes it too difficult to work out in the field.

How does the idea to restore a certain area usually come about?

There can be many different types of projects. Some projects are municipality-led, but most of them are conceived of at a lower level. For example landowners or associations can join together to create the idea. Sometimes I also invite people to discuss the needs of the area and we find ways to start the project together, but there always needs to be some local people involved.

The next steps of the project vary a lot. In some cases we can get straight to work with hands-on environmental restoration, but sometimes we need to start the process from zero to plan everything and get the funding. It depends on the area, the scale of work that’s needed, and the customer.

What made you want to start your own business and how was that process?

I worked for a government agency, the Finnish Forest Centre, for about five years, and later spent another five years at their subsidiary company. The way of working there felt very complicated, so I started to think that there might be an easier way to work by myself.

That’s basically when I decided to start my business, Janne Raassina Vesistö- ja luontokunnostus, in 2016. It’s mostly active in Eastern Finland, as I try to stay as close to home as possible, but I also work in Lapland and Western Finland.

When I started my own business, I already had all the connections from my previous jobs, so I didn’t have to start anything from zero. In that sense it was a natural transition.

In my first year as an entrepreneur, I more than doubled my work amount. It’s because I got rid of the organisational bureaucracy and could focus on the job itself. For me this is the main difference between running my own business and working for an organisation.

Environmental restoration in Finnish river

Environmental restoration can greatly benefit river ecosystems, whose biggest challenges in Finland are eutrophication and siltation.

What is your day-to-day work like as an entrepreneur?

Around 95% of my work takes place out in the field. It includes gathering information, planning the environmental restoration work, and then executing it. Dividing my time between different projects can be a challenge, as there’s so much to do.

I usually plan my work around an annual calendar based on the seasonal conditions in the field. Most of May is for planning. In the summertime, in June and July, we start to execute the work restoring wetlands and rivers, as well as swamps that have been drained out with ditches. This continues until late autumn but when the snow comes, we go back to the office.

During the winter we write reports and plan for the coming season. In January it’s also possible to execute work that can’t be done in the summer, such as some excavation work. Many areas can be too watery and soft to carry heavy machinery in the summer, whereas in winter snow and ice make it possible to operate in these areas.

Do you have other employees working with you?

Not directly. I get the help of other entrepreneurs and subcontractors for different kinds of work. For example, I don’t own any machines so all the machine work is done by others. Currently I cooperate with about 10 contractors.

What were the key things that you learned through your education that have been beneficial for your career?

I have a master’s degree in Forestry from the University of Eastern Finland. But I would say that my previous working career has been more influential in giving me the skills and experience I needed for the job I have now.

When I was at university, only the state-owned enterprise Metsähallitus had done peatland or swamp restorations in Finland. Maybe some river restorations had taken place here and there, but they were not well-known.

So, when I started my career I needed to start from the ground up. During my studies, I worked for about half a year with excavator and field work, which helped me build experience with practical work.

Lake in Finland

Lake nature in Finland in summer.

Have you seen a big increase in environmental restoration projects during your career?

There’s been exponential growth, impacted among other things by new EU level regulations that focus on improving biodiversity in connection with climate goals.

Environmental restoration projects in Finland have practically gone from zero to the situation where we could easily scale up our work if we had the resources and more people working with us.

Are you seeing a lot of new companies coming into this field now?

Not as many as I’m hoping for, because there’s a lot of work to be done. We could achieve so much more by working together. At the moment, there’s a huge demand for skilled workers at every level, so we’re heartily welcoming people who have a passion for nature restoration.

What kind of background or skills do new workers in environmental restoration need?

Let’s say that I’m interested in people who have a passion for the work. The background itself is not that important. If you’re really focused on something and curious about it, you can always learn. We have so many roles and we need skilled people for different kinds of tasks. We are really hoping for new forces to join us.

What made you interested in working with environmental restoration?

It has always been clear in my mind that I want to work in this field. If I were to look back, I can’t see any other path that I could’ve taken. Ever since primary school I knew that’s where I wanted to be, but I can’t tell you where it started. I’ve always liked fishing, hiking in nature and watching birds.

My focus on water ecosystems has always been there, too. Water ecosystems and underwater life is like another world that most of us are not thinking of. They’re very important for all of nature, including people, but too often they are forgotten and overlooked.

Whooper swans benefit from environmental restoration of wetlands

Environmental restoration can greatly improve the habitat of Whooper Swans and other water birds.

What’s the best part of your job and the biggest challenge you have had?

The best part is the fact that we can make a difference and really achieve things and make things better for nature. That’s the main thing driving me and everything else is secondary.

At the moment I would say the biggest challenge is the workload. We have so much going on that we need to focus our efforts and even decline some projects. I hope in the future we can meet the demand as new enthusiastic people enter the field.

What is the biggest success in your career so far?

There’s plenty of small-scale achievements that have been easy to execute, for example restoring a fountain or creek. But when you look at lake or river restoration projects, it can take decades to achieve tangible results, so we need to be really patient. I would highlight these bigger projects, even if we’re not at our goal yet.

For example, I’m proud of my involvement in repairing and restoring the Onkamo lakes, Linnunsuo wetlands and the Jukajoki river in Eastern Finland. We are on the way to our goal and have already been able to improve the ecosystem conditions considerably.

Do you have some advice for people who want to get involved in environmental restoration work?

All of these projects are joint operations in one way or another, I don’t do anything by myself. So I recommend building connections and talking to people and finding people that think the same way about these things. Everything can be solved, if you are looking in the same direction.

What is your favourite part about nature in the area where you live?

We have been working on restoring a river ecosystem close to where I live in the last few years. The river system has been almost restored, and the last part of the project is to get rid of a dam that is an obstacle for fish passing through.

I recently bought the dam, so I basically own the problem we need to solve now. Since I live close by, I can always scale up the work and observe how the situation changes. Something to look forward to in the years to come.

Keep exploring restoration and entrepreneurialism

Read more about Janne’s environmental restoration work in this Guardian article.

Check out the following resources for a career in environmental restoration:

Ultimate guide on Restoration and Rewilding careers

Top conservation careers advice for professional conservationists

And read stories of other entrepreneurs in conservation:

Bushbaby conservation in South Africa

Planting trees to make impact

Ocean conservation podcast


Author Profile | Minttu Hänninen

Minttu is a Master’s graduate of Sustainable Development, with a focus on environmental governance. She loves exploring new places and has experience living in several countries, but is currently based in the Netherlands. She works as a communications specialist in the climate change field and has a keen interest in conservation and wildlife. She dreams of one day having a rooftop terrace full of colourful flowers and buzzing bees.


Interviews, Celebrating Diversity in Conservation