Six sustainability transformations identified as decisive for achieving the SDGs in Finland: Publication of the new Finnish Sustainable Development Strategy

The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development is a prominent forum that brings together influential and expert actors of the Finnish society. The Commission has published a new Finnish Sustainable Development Strategy titled “A prosperous and globally responsible Finland that protects the carrying capacity of nature”. The new vision highlights the need for improvement on six key sustainability transformations.

Keskustelutilaisuus, jossa viisi henkilöä istuu lavalla paneelikeskustelussa. Vasemmassa laidassa tilaisuuden juontajat.
The publication of the new strategy featured a panel discussion on sustainable development. The panelists represented various sectors of the Finnish society. Kauppila of UNA Finland emphasized that we all have a shared obligation to advance SDGs, but this responsibility falls particularly on the adult population of Western welfare states. Photo: UNA Finland

The objective of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development is to integrate sustainable development into the national policy, administration and societal practice. The Commission works under Prime Minister’s Office and has a wide membership that works in a participatory manner. The Commission is the tool that puts into practice the Finnish multistakeholder approach to sustainable development.  

Recently, the Commission has been working on a National Sustainable Development Roadmap which lays the basis for the new strategy of the Commission for the period of 2023-2030. It is expected that this strategy serves also the members of the Commission and therefore the Finnish society at large.

UNA Finland is one of the civil society representatives in the National Commission. UNA Finland’s Advocacy Officer Jenni Kauppila points out that the strategy includes a section on Finland’s global responsibility, taking into account both the negative ecological footprint of Finland and the positive angle where Finland can be bigger than its size through making a positive impact on global development via promoting sustainable solutions and values

Colorful grid of sustainable development goals

The new strategy called “A prosperous and globally responsible Finland that protects the carrying capacity of nature” is based on the identification of the need for six sustainability transformations, which are:  

  1. Economical sustainability serving the well-being of people, sustainable jobs and consumption 

  1. Civilization, skills and sustainable lifestyles 

  1. Well-being, health and societal participation 

  1. Food systems that contribute to well-being 

  1. Climate neutrality and biodiversity through sustainable use of natural resources 

  1. Sustainable energy systems 

The strategy includes the following five cross-cutting principles: ensuring fairness, equity and gender equality; facilitating the inclusion and participation of society at large; paying special attention to the most vulnerable (leaving no one behind); ensuring long-term commitment and policy coherence; and taking global responsibility. The members of the Commission have committed themselves to complying with these principles in the strategy’s implementation.

In addition to the Secretariat, the Finnish National Sustainable Development Coordination Network consists of representatives from Inter-ministerial Coordination Group. The Commission also works closely with the Finnish Development Policy Committee.  

The work of the National Commission of Sustainable Development is supported and challenged by the Science Panel on Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda Youth Group.

It is of uttermost importance that we remain confident in terms of our own ability to bring about a worthy and sustainable future.

Sami Pirkkala, Secretary General of the National Commission on Sustainable Development, clarifies what he views as the meaning of the new strategy. 

“The strategy is highly important for it serves as a framework that allows us to assess the challenges faced by the Finnish society during this decade. The strategy also contains tangible measures and it can be regarded as an agenda for both the National Commission on Sustainable Development and the entire Finnish society. It is of uttermost importance that we remain confident in terms of our own ability to bring about a worthy and sustainable future. To assume that we are inevitably headed to a dire and undesireable direction would be unfounded, since it is our own choices and actions that define our trajectory.” 

The youth are alarmed and worried.

The Chair of the Finnish Agenda 2030 Youth Group, Paula Pättikangas, emphasizes that the youth is not feeling anxious and alarmed because there isn't enough knowledge as to what should be done. Rather, according to Pättikangas, “the youth are alarmed and worried due to the fact that, although the steps that should be taken are widely known, these steps are simply not been taken with adequate seriousness or pace.” 

Terhi Toikkanen represent Threshold Association, a Finnish a cross-disability organization, which focuses on the basic and human rights of persons with disabilities in the Commission. Terhi Toikkanen and Sanni Purhonen from Threshold Association pointed out in the discussion after the panel that it is important to include disabled persons and ODPs in the planning processes as subjects and actors who have innovative ideas and solutions, instead of objects of actions taken by others. This approach should be further expanded to the budget processes regarding for example services that disabled persons use.