Towards More Sustainable Choices through Aalto MBA

Lilli Norio’s MBA studies made her increasingly aware of how clothing can be manufactured as sustainably as possible. She also gained confidence and new tools.

Lilli Norio did her MBA studies in her hometown of Kajaani apart from the final module, which she completed while living in Spain. Norio pictured in Benalmádena in spring 2022. Photo: Anni Martikainen

Anu Haapala, 16.08.2022

Shortly after graduating as a fashion designer just over a decade ago, Lilli Norio ended up working for Rockseri known for its R-Collection clothing label and relocated from Helsinki to the northern Finnish town of Kajaani.

Working for a small family-run company, Norio has taken care of a whole lot more besides fashion design, such as marketing, leadership, and production process development. The wide scope of her role made her interested in further training.

When a couple of friends recommended the Aalto MBA for Executives (Aalto MBA), it ticked the right boxes: the content appealed, and the studies could be completed alongside work.

“The program covered interesting areas of business that weren’t part of my design studies. Now I had a chance to delve into them intensively.”

The start of the new studies felt nerve-wracking but rewarding. “My group includes a great bunch of people, and I’ve made lots of new friends and contacts.”

As a small fashion company, Rockseri has always strived for sustainability. However, clothing manufacture is one of the most polluting industries, and Norio is constantly thinking up ways to make activities as environmentally friendly as possible.

In each module, I’ve found myself rethinking how we do things."

The MBA studies gave plenty of food for thought and an increased an understanding of alternative approaches.

“One of the modules involved thinking about how Rockseri could apply a mindset of circular economy.”

For some time now, the company has been discussing a new concept of customers returning used R-Collection products to the brand’s stores for repairs before being resold. Many sustainable fashion brands like Patagonia already include separate collections of recycled clothing. The MBA studies filled Norio with ideas and determination to take the concept forward.

Rockseri is also figuring out ways to reduce textile waste and recycle surplus fabric into new material.

The MBA modules made Norio consider different processes and stages where the company could run in a new, more sustainable way. “In each module, I’ve found myself rethinking how we do things.”

New knowledge and broad insight on leadership

The MBA studies have made Norio more confident and brought new tools:

“My interest has always gone beyond fashion design, but now I have the confidence to get involved in other areas in the company. I see what needs to be developed and how processes and methods could be changed.”

The studies brought new knowledge and broad insight on where leadership is headed, and the impact of phenomena like the pandemic or the internet on business and decision-making.

My interest has always gone beyond fashion design, but now I have the confidence to get involved in other areas in the company."

“The studies are well structured, and the literature is extensive including latest articles.”

Norio managed to complete just a few modules in regular face-to-face teaching before Covid forced everything online. She feels that the transition to online studies went smoothly.

“Teams was working well, and the breakout rooms were an excellent addition. Each module involved discussing topics and doing assignments in small groups, which kept the vibe going. We kept the cameras on, so we couldn’t skive despite doing it remotely,” Norio laughs.

Norio became pregnant with her first child at the start of her studies and gave birth to a daughter in February 2021. She would not have graduated on schedule if it weren’t the possibility to study remotely and grandparents helping out.

“Although I was in that lovely baby bubble, it was nice to switch into a completely different mode every now and then. Thanks to the remote studies, I kept up with my cohort.”

Norio only had to postpone the People Management module from spring 2021 by a year. She completed it in Spain, where she spent a few months with her family and a few friends.

“We had been thinking it would be fun to work remotely from another country, and it turned out a wonderful experience. The pandemic isn’t a good thing at all, but it has brought some flexibility to working life.”

Aalto MBA for Executives (Aalto MBA) is for ambitious professionals who want to take their career to the next level and transform into business leaders with an innovative and sustainable mindset. It boosts both business and leadership skills and critical and strategic thinking. The program develops a strong, lasting professional network and prepares the participants for the next steps in their careers. Read more

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