In the ever-evolving world of packaging, the cartonboard and carton industry plays a pivotal role in shaping the way products are presented and perceived. It is a dynamic field where innovation meets sustainability, and talented individuals are making a significant impact.  A new series of interviews by Pro Carton celebrates the talented people who shape innovation and sustainability in packaging, colleagues who live sustainability and who make this workspace fun and exciting.

In this edition of Pro Carton’s job profile series, we view the world of cartonboard through the lens of Helena Moring-Vepsalainen, Product Safety Manager at Metsä Board. With a passion for environmental studies that ignited in her youth, Helena shares her unique career journey, her vital role in ensuring safe and sustainable packaging solutions, and her insights into the ever evolving cartonboard industry.

Helena Moring-Vepsalainen is the Product Safety Manager at Metsä Board based in Espoo, Finland.

Q: Helena, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your current role in the carton and cartonboard industry? What sparked your interest in this field and led you to your current career path?

A: I’m a 36-year-old mother of two residing in Espoo and working at Metsä Board. Currently, I serve as the Product Safety Manager, focusing on ensuring compliance with food contact regulations and requirements for our premium fresh fibre paperboards.

My journey into this field began during my high school years when I harboured an interest in environmental studies, eventually leading me to pursue forest products technology at Helsinki University of Technology.

Q: Can you share with us some key milestones and experiences that have played a significant role in shaping your career in the carton and cartonboard industry?

A: My career trajectory saw its genesis in a small enterprise offering ESG services. However, a pivotal moment occurred when I transitioned to Metsä Board, initially joining for environmental work but eventually embracing the challenge of product safety management. Despite lacking prior experience, I accepted the role due to its meaningful nature and potential for professional growth.

Over time, I progressed from a product safety specialist to assuming managerial responsibilities.

Q: What does a typical day or week in your current role as a Product Safety Manager look like?

A: My role entails a diverse array of tasks, from coordinating compliance testing and analysing results to engaging in risk assessments, customer projects, and discussions with chemical suppliers.

Additionally, I provide internal and external training, contribute to product development initiatives, and participate in various stakeholder engagements, adding an inspiring twist to my daily work.

Q: Are there any specific projects or initiatives you’ve been involved in recently that you find particularly exciting or innovative?

A: Recently, I spearheaded initiatives related to obtaining composability certificates for Metsä Board paperboards. This venture represents an innovative approach to leveraging paperboard materials, especially when traditional recycling methods are not feasible.

Promoting composability and recycling aligns with our commitment to sustainability.

Q: How do you believe your work contributes to the sustainable and environmentally friendly aspects of cartonboard packaging?

A: Product safety and packaging integrity are instrumental in mitigating food waste. We strive to ensure that our paperboards maintain freshness and cleanliness, promoting sustainable use of raw materials and facilitating their integration into the recycling loop.

Our efforts contribute to safe and environmentally friendly cartonboard packaging solutions.

Q: What trends or developments in the industry are you most excited about, and how do they influence your work?

A: Fragmented food contact compliance regulations worldwide underscore the importance of open dialogue among regulators, industry stakeholders, and NGOs. Such discussions are vital for advancing legislation and industry standards toward common sustainability objectives.

Keeping abreast of these developments enables us to maintain a focus on food contact compliance and advocate for harmonized regulations.

Q: What advice do you have for individuals considering a career in the carton and cartonboard industry?

A: I encourage aspiring professionals to embrace the diverse opportunities within the industry, even if they lack prior expertise.

There’s a wealth of fascinating topics to explore, and the industry’s commitment to sustainability presents both challenges and rewarding career prospects.

Q: Lastly, what makes you proud to work in the carton and cartonboard industry?

A: I take pride in being part of Metsä’s journey, particularly in fostering the growth of product safety and sustainability competence within the company. Contributing to the development of sustainable products that fulfil diverse end-use requirements is immensely gratifying.

Our work allows us to promote sustainability and empower consumers to make environmentally conscious choices, making a positive impact on our planet.

In conclusion, Helena’s journey within the carton and cartonboard packaging industry serves as a testament to the opportunities and evolution present in this dynamic field. From her environmental background to her current role as Product Safety Manager at Metsä Board, Helena exemplifies resilience and adaptability in navigating career transitions. Her story underscores the importance of embracing change and seizing opportunities for growth within the industry. As the industry continues to evolve, professionals like Helena inspire us to embrace new challenges and forge our own paths toward success.