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Meet Camilla Ojansivu, Senior Advisor International Engagement

In 2023, we welcomed Camilla Ojansivu to the Standards New Zealand team to lead our engagement with representatives on International Organization for standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Organisation (IEC) committees. Camilla gives some insight into her world.

Camilla Ojansivu, Senior Advisor International Engagement

What is meant by international engagement and why is it important?

It’s making sure we have channels in place for conversations with other nations. Not just other nations but those working within them, their governments, their industries and all the businesses that make up those industries. New Zealand relies on international partners for trade and export markets and supply chains and many joint AS/NZS and international standards underpin these activities. Involvement in international standards helps us to make sure we’re having conversations, that we understand expectations, and that we trade fairly, honestly, and respectfully.

Standards are absolutely the bedrock to determining consistency, to making sure that despite different languages, different cultures, we all know what quality looks like, what reliability means and that we’re all on the same page to do business.

While my role is in acting as the conduit to help fill opportunities on international standards development committees, it’s also about representing Standards New Zealand to some of our international partners. Unfortunately, with others being across Europe, the Americas and Asia this can mean meetings at unsociable hours. However, if we don’t get involved in international standards, New Zealand industries work in isolation, they don’t know what is being developed out there and we miss representation on standards we use or could use.

So what led to you work in international engagement?

Well, for one I’m very much a global citizen.  Born and raised in Sweden, spent nearly 20 years living and working in China and married to a Kiwi.

I have a commercial lawyer background, having achieved my LLB in Sweden, then Masters degree in London specialising in foreign investment law particularly in South East Asia. For nearly 20 years I have lived, worked and raised my family in China, both mainland in Beijing and some years in Hong Kong. I worked for a few different firms in China, dealing with foreign investment issues, setting up companies and commercial contracts.

Tell us something unusual about you

I’m a professional figure skater. After high school I joined a travelling Ice Show that toured South America, Europe and Southeast Asia for a couple of years. This led to an unusual chapter in my China adventure. When raising kids, I ended up leaving my legal profession behind and managing an ice rink that was affiliated with a new international school in Beijing. As a qualified ice-skating coach, it came from a casual conversation where the mum of one of my skaters said that this ice rink was being set up, but they had nobody who knew ice skating well enough to run it. Hence, I then ran a sports and skating programme. I had to check ice quality and even got to buy and use a brand-new $200,000 Zamboni (ice resurfacer) machine for cleaning and smoothing the surface of the rink.

What led you to this role at Standards New Zealand?

Everything I’ve done in my formal education and professional life to date has been focused on international. I see the richness that comes from learning from others, understanding different perspectives and ways of doing things and particularly being European where we are surrounded by the influence of many different nations.

This role draws on my experience working with consultants and industry organisations from different backgrounds. I speak six languages and am used to bringing people together.

From a personal point of view the civil unrest in Hong Kong made me and my family realise then was a good time to settle in my husband’s native New Zealand, where my kids could focus on finishing school. Prior to Standards New Zealand I worked for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helping to manage an international growth fund dispersing money to exporters to carry out international expansion projects across numerous markets and enhancing the capability of New Zealand exporters in the supply chain space.

What challenges and opportunities exist?

Here at Standards New Zealand, I see how it’s vital we maintain our voice on global agendas and standards developed that have a direct impact on how and what we can export, what products can enter markets and providing clarity of expectations across supply chains.

One recent example is some work being done where the ISO has approved the establishment of a new technical committee to develop a new standard for cultural heritage conservation (ISO/TC 349) which aims to form standardised international terms that can be applied in cultural heritage management, such as the protection and restoration of cultural relics as well as the applied materials and equipment using for heritage conservation. I have reached out to 12 stakeholders across New Zealand to consider participation on the committee. Countries that are participating in ISO/TC 349includes Egypt, Benin, Kenya, Italy, United Kingdom (UK), France and Australia amongst 29 big players. People can see the opportunity to learn from others internationally but also make sure the New Zealand perspective is seen in the development of this standard, as we too have distinct rich cultural heritage.

Of course the biggest challenge is funding and with this example I talk with many different relevant organisations who can share the participation costs needed to join this committee. There’s no limit on how many organisations we have involved and it means more New Zealand organisations can benefit from participation and share the costs to do so.

The work on a development committee is voluntary, and unless supported by employees to integrate the work in work time does place pressure on younger professionals with families and other commitments. It’s not always easy to find people who have the time and availability to commit to a project that can last a few years. But that is also an opportunity I want to leave readers with. We encourage diversification of committees and welcome expressions of interest. We want to see more Māori, Pasifika and women involved as well as younger professionals.

And imagine what an interesting professional network you could build with 28 new international ‘colleagues’ on the committee.

If you are interested in the work Camilla does and want to know more about participating on international ISO or IEC committees, email Camilla Ojansivu.