Making environmental work mainstream

Helsinki, Finland

SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure
The Helsinki Strategy Program contains guidelines for the activity of administrations, government owned companies and amalgamations of private companies. The strategy programme is divided into four parts: healthy Helsinki, vigorous Helsinki, functioning Helsinki, and a city balancing the economy and good leadership. The democratic aspects and participation is included systematically in all four parts. The strategy also contains the vision, values and ethical principles of the city. This is an all-embracing and steering approach for all the work executed in the city.

Transforming the urban structure and function so as to contribute to sustainable development is one of society’s greatest challenges. Urban emissions of greenhouse gases, the use of natural resources and the impact on ecosystems radically need to be reduced. Often the existing structure, built up over a long time, also needs to change, as communities today are often designed for the use of cars and resource intensive technologies.

Good practices & solutions

”Eco-support” is a mainstreaming system that involves every workplace, unit, or organisation, in putting in place so called eco-support staff who, according to the bottom-up principle, follow top-down strategies and targets.

Helsinki has an ambition to be carbon neutral in 2050, but has historically often achieved goals more quickly than planned. The Deputy Mayor says that it is important to set goals technically so that Helsinki knows how to achieve them. For example, the city owns the company producing cooling and heating systems, and the goal of carbon neutrality has been set together with this company. Because the city is in charge, they are able to set such an ambitious goal for 2050 and at the same time ensure that it be reached.

Lessons learned & recommendations

Pekka Sauri, the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, considers that one of the city’s major achievements in the last decade has been managing to incorporate sustainable and environmental approaches into the Strategy Programme, along with simplifying and clarifying that strategy.

Another lesson learned is that every strategy is per se more powerful than the previous one, as long as the strategy is solid and the goals are measurable. Twice a year the city evaluates the goals, and the measurements are key to improving strategies, and this works as an incentive to further progress. As the world changes, some of the goals might have become obsolete or have already been fulfilled, hence they must be monitored on a regular basis. The Helsinki tradition is to look at the methods already in place to achieve a vision, and to develop strategies to reach the set goals.

Success factors that were identified in Helsinki’s quest to mainstream its environmental work were taking wider perspectives, using eco-support as a principle, making the most of methods already in place, but also revisiting goals regularly and updating strategies accordingly.

Related SDG targets

9.1. Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.




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Project: Nordic Urban Ways