Female Leadership – Interview with Emilia Nordström
We call her: The mother of Wolva. Emilia Nordström and her aunts are leading the company behind Wolva that was once founded by Emilia's grandfather. We had her answer some questions.
Words:NicoleImages:WOLVAAugust 03, 2021
Emilia Nordström’s aunts are leading a company that was founded by her grandfather over 40 years ago. Together they aim to guide the company into the future with a new brand launch for the European market.
Delipap Oy (since 1979) – a Finnish family-owned company with mainly their female family members being in leading positions today, launched the feminine hygiene brand Wolva. It is the first carbon negative women’s hygiene brand in Europe, mainly focusing on menstrual care. Opening with sanitary pads and pantyliner’s, Wolva has launched on the German market first and later on other selected European countries. By now you can order Wolva products in the online shop from nearly every European country. Besides being climate positive, Wolva products are also biodegradable and 100% vegan.
In this interview Emilia, who is a third generation family member – shares the vision behind the new brand Wolva and reveals why sustainability is such an important topic in today’s world. Read below about the history of the company, female role models and the benefits of hydropower.
Emilia, thank you for being our interview guest today for Voice of Wolva. Your family owned company has an interesting history. Can you tell us something about how Delipap Oy was brought to life?
Well, it all started 1976 with my Dad having a very sensitive skin when he was a baby. My grandfather Raimo Nuortie was a specialist in the paper industry at the time my father Oskari was born. Back then, the commonly used cloth diapers irritated my fathers skin, which caused my granddad Raimo to search for alternative solutions. He came up with the idea to experiment with new materials using pulp, which in fact turned out to be highly absorbing. This first success encouraged him to do further research on the possibilities of this tissue.
Three years after first starting his research he had gathered enough information on the material to be able to develop a new diaper that would be suitable for children’s sensitive skin and also be sustainable. It had worked wonders on my dad’s irritable skin. Further encouraged by how well his concept developed into the first product, grandpa Raimo decided to patent his idea in 1979 and establish his own company – Delipap.
This is pretty much how it started and a lot has obviously happened since then.
Wow, what a sweet and inspiring story! So it was basically your dad’s baby poop which gave this first impulse for your granddad’s creation! Today your company is producing more than sustainable diapers though, right? How would you describe the development?
Yes, that’s true. My granddad soon realized that there was a growing need for skin friendly menstrual pads and pantyliners as well. Just one year after the company was founded, our first feminine hygiene brand Vuokkoset was launched in Finland. But we never lost sight of our baby diapers which are available under the brand Muumi Baby since 1991.
Both Muumi Baby diapers and Vuokkoset menstrual products are certified by the Allergy label of the Finnish Allergy, Skin and Asthma Federation which guarantees that the products are suitable for even the most sensitive skin. We are also certified by the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel. Our focus is still in sustainable skin friendly hygiene products, which means we carry the initial values and ideas of my grandfather forward.
My granddad passed away a few years ago, but I’m sure he would be proud of where we are now. He was such an innovative man and I hope we all have a bit of his genius in us. Today one of his twin daughters, my aunt Sanna, is leading the company. My aunt Riikka is responsible for the production of menstrual products and my dad Oskari is responsible for product and business development.
The women in our family have always played a key role in the development of our products, but everyone working here has their part in bringing our company forward and each part is important. I feel honored to step into the footsteps of my granddad, my father and my aunts.
That makes you the third generation in your family’s company. What is your role in the company today?
Well, I have to tell you, at the moment I’m on maternity leave. Not only am I a proud Mum of a beautiful baby girl now, but I also have had the chance to use our diapers and experience them from a mum’s point of view! (laughing).
It is so rewarding and made me even more proud of my family’s achievements. Today I’m working mainly within Reseach&Development, but my journey here started more than eight years ago and I have worked in several positions. For us it is important that we in the family know all parts of our company. Only with a thorough understanding about how all the separate fields of the process work together we are able to face the future. I studied marketing, innovation and renewal and entrepreneurship and I have cultivated a strong enthusiasm for the idea of working on a better future.
I am very thankful for the opportunities I have been provided as well as the support I have received from my whole family. I’m proud to say that the company is mostly led by women today. At the moment I am very excited about the Wolva launch, being first launched outside Finland. This is a milestone for us and a great opportunity.
A really interesting launch indeed. With Wolva you managed to introduce the first carbon negative women’s hygiene brand focusing on menstrual care in all of Europe. That’s a big step for a company which operated mainly in Finland before. Congratulations to that!
Carbon negative menstrual care – can you tell us a bit more about the concept and the brand? And also about what made you decide to take this step of launching outside Finland first?
In the past 20 years we have made some major improvements within our company and our products, especially in the field of sustainability. We believe that as human beings we need to rethink our connection with nature, be aware of our impact and also be more efficient in producing less waste, or better – no waste. As a company we want to learn the world to live in better balance with nature.
We have launched our first biodegradable feminine product range in Finland back in 2009. One year later we started to work only with certified hydropower in our factories. Hydropower is a renewable source of energy that does not produce any harmful carbondioxide emissions that would further harm the atmosphere and the environment. This was a major improvement which helped minimise our CO2 emissions.
We soon realized that there is a growing demand for sustainable feminine care in other countries as well. Europe as a market was a logical next step as it is basically just around the corner and we can avoid unnecessary long delivery or transportation ways. Wolva as a brand sets a new standard on the European market. Let’s take pantyliners as an example. They are usually made from synthetic materials and often have even a scent from artificial fragrances added. Those products are neither good for sensitive skin nor sustainable.
Wolva products are made with responsibility for the environment in mind every step of the way – from production to delivery. Instead of synthetic materials we use only certified organic cotton, cellulose from certified nordic forests and a non-toxic glue, which is also commonly used in food production. The back sheets are made of a biodegradable material. On top of all that goodness they have a luxuriously soft feel. We love our products and our customers do too, so it’s time to spread the word. With this new brand we are still following in my granddad’s footsteps. With high quality, high values and the use of materials which are suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
We are getting more and more acquainted with speaking of products which are carbon neutral, how can Wolva products be carbon negative?
We wanted to create a product that would tick all the boxes from being highly sustainable to being extremely comfy to also being safe. With Wolva, I’m proud to say, we managed to develop exactly this. Our goal was to establish a sustainable product with as low emissions as possible before we start compensating – actually – overcompensating the remaining emissions.
After all concrete actions we make to reduce our CO2 emissions, the remaining amount from our individual products range from 0,008 to 0,034 kg (cradle-to-gate / CO2 equivalent). The remaining CO2 emissions we are causing are overcompensated by favoring the Gold Standard certified projects under the UN Climate Neutral Now program, an offset system established by the UN and WWF to provide projects that reduce carbon emission with the highest level of environmental integrity and contribute to global sustainable development.
Due to this cooperation we manage to overcompensate our CO2 emissions, which makes Wolva carbon negative and climate positive. In this way we want to act as the vanguard and challenge also other companies – and even consumers – to consider their CO2 emissions.
It must be exciting to be in a position where you get to work on developing new brands and also have a strong family in your back to support you. Are the women in your family your biggest role models?
The female members of our family are definitely my biggest role models. In Finland we have several female business leaders who, like my aunts, have continued the businesses founded by their fathers and done it with passion and great success. They have been able to steer their companies exactly in the right way for this time, which I highly admire.
Together with the Wolva products we have also launched Voice of Wolva. In this section of our homepage we write about feminine topics and interview women who we admire in our Wolva Talks. We want to share their knowledge and try to build a community where we can empower each other.
In our first Wolva Talk we are talking with the Yoga and Mindfulness teacher Anna about hormones and the concept of Hormone Yoga. I’m always amazed by how much there still is to learn from each other. I strongly believe that we should inspire and get inspired by each other’s unique qualities and strengths instead of competing and working against one another, we are so much more powerful when we cooperate.
What beautiful statement to end this interview. We will be excited to follow the journey of Wolva and see it grow and evolve. We also wish you personally all the best Emilia. Thank you for your time.
It was my pleasure.