Heli Korkka-Knuts found her academic passion in combining criminal law with sustainability sciences

How to combine sustainability and corporate criminal law? HELSUS funds research in the field of sustainability science. Heli Korkka-Knuts is one of eight post-doc level fellows that started their 2-year research projects at HELSUS during the year 2020.

Heli Korkka-Knuts is a criminal lawyer who wants to find out whether corporate criminal law can boost sustainability. Before her academic carrier Heli has worked in corporate law firms for over ten years focusing on corporate misconduct and related ethical matters. In her current research project, she wants to combine both practical and academic knowledge to analyse how criminal law can be harnessed to inspire good corporate citizenship and sustainable corporate behaviour.    

What first got you interested in your field of research? 

“It wasn’t easy to find my place in the faculty of law during my basic studies, and I wasn’t perhaps the most stellar student. However, after the basic course on criminal law something clicked. In criminal law, there is a strong tension between the legitimate use of criminal law and the fact that our criminal sanction system should function efficiently. This underpinning confrontation necessitates pronounced systemic orientation as criminal sanctioning is legitimate only in case sanctions are used in a predictable manner. It was close I became a mathematician which explains my interest in systemic thinking. In criminal law, I found a friend in a strong aspiration towards a system which can never be perfect – and that’s academically extremely interesting! An imperfect human system is even more intriguing than a perfectly beautiful mathematical system.” 

What has been a single most significant moment in your scientific career so far?  

“I finalized my masters’ thesis in a law firm which became my first workplace after graduating. My first steps as a researcher coincided with a law firm colleague working on his doctoral thesis also in the field of corporate criminal law. It was rewarding to change thoughts with a person who enjoyed academic thinking and was able to provide support and encouragement and teach legal argumentation. This co-operation was the single most important reason for my later academic carrier. 

Quite recently, this “second click” became a love story. We are nowadays married and have two beautiful kids.”  

Heli completed her doctoral thesis in the field of corporate crime in May 2015 and worked both as postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki and as a Senior Associate at Krogerus Attorneys Ltd, Helsinki where her principle task was heading compliance and corporate offences team. 

We wish Heli luck on her career!


The international and multidisciplinary group of HELSUS fellows includes expertise from various disciplines within sustainability research and their research areas cover all HELSUS thematic areas. Read more about the researchers and their projects.