SINGLE COUNTRY PROFILE

Basic Information
Year of approval of the SD strategy and updates

Finland has implemented various programmes on sustainable development since the mid-1990s, and in 2006 adopted a comprehensive National Strategy for Sustainable Development (Towards Sustainable Choices. A Nationally and Globally Sustainable Finland). The latest policy document for sustainable development (The Finland We Want by 2050 — Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development) was adopted in 2013. Society’s Commitment was updated in April 2016 to be in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030).

Type of SD strategy

Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development consists of the vision “A prosperous Finland with global responsibility for sustainability and the carrying capacity of nature” and eight objectives, as well as cross-cutting principles.

To make the vision a reality, Finland is focusing on achieving the eight objectives listed below. For the purposes of these objectives, sustainable development is perceived in terms of the wellbeing of people and the environment, a healthy and sustainable economy and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles.

Objectives

  1. Equal prospects for wellbeing 
  2. A participatory society for all 
  3. Work in a sustainable way 
  4. Sustainable society and local communities
  5. A carbon-neutral society
  6. A resource-wise economy
  7. Lifestyles respectful of the carrying capacity of nature 
  8. Decision-making respectful of nature

Principles of sustainable development:

  • Cooperation and commitment 
  • Creative use of knowledge and expertise
  • Limited carrying capacity of nature
  • Broad-based cross-generational thinking
  • Global responsibility
  • Capacity for renewal and good governance

These principles underlie all the actions and objectives in the context of Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development. 

Society’s Commitment covers all three dimensions of sustainable development. It was prepared by the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development in close cooperation with public administration, businesses and civil society organisations.

Lead ministry/institution in the SD strategy process

The Prime Minister’s Office is in charge of coordinating the national sustainable development policy and is also responsible for implementing and drawing up the national implementation plan for Agenda 2030.

The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development prepared the national strategy The Finland We Want by 2050 — Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development. Society’s Commitment was updated in early 2016 to be better in line with Agenda 2030, and its principles, goals and targets. This work was carried out in close dialogue with the National Commission on Sustainable Development. The National Commission has a broad membership, encompassing civil society, industry, business, labour market and educational organisations, as well as representatives of the government, Parliament, ministries, local and regional organisations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the indigenous Sámi people and other public, private and third sector stakeholders. 

The Secretariat of the National Commission on Sustainable Development supports the work of the Commission. It consists of the Secretary General, who works at the Ministry of the Environment, the Deputy Secretary General, who is located at the Prime Minister’s Office, and other experts. 

The Prime Minister’s Office acts as the Coordination Secretariat. The secretariat includes 2-3 experts which are responsible of the whole of government wide coordination.  

The inter-ministerial Coordination Network is  responsible for coordinating national sustainable development work and providing support to the National Commission on Sustainable Development. The members of the Coordination Network come from all ministries. It supports the work of the Coordination Secretariat and ensures that all dimensions and aspects of sustainable development are taken into consideration when implementing sustainable development Goals and targets on the national level. The Expert Panel for  Sustainable Development, comprising eminent researchers from different disciplines, challenges and enhances the work of the National Commission on Sustainable Development and also adds a critical voice in the sustainability debate, when needed. The Panel participated in and facilitated the process of updating the strategy document Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development. The Expert panel released a toolkit to promote sustainable systemic transformation in Finland in March 2020.

Further information about the SD strategy process

Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development was prepared during a two-year strategy process (2011-2013) in which some hundreds of organisations representing different sectors of society participated, along with the National Commission on Sustainable Development. The final draft was prepared by a strategy group and the National Commission made the final decision on the strategy document in December 2013. 
The process to update Society’s Commitment started in February 2016 when a comprehensive workshop for the National Commission was organised. The Sustainable Development Expert Panel hosted and facilitated the workshop. Before the workshop, a questionnaire was sent to the members of the National Commission. In the questionnaire, they were asked what crucial aspects of Society’s Commitment needed to be updated the most. After the workshop, two written drafts were prepared so all views could be harmonised. At a meeting in April 2016, the National Commission approved the final version of the updated Society’s Commitment.

Agenda 2030 Implementation

Finland has a long tradition in promoting sustainable development both in domestic policies and in international development cooperation. Therefore, Finland is in a good position to implement the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030). However, the comprehensive and integrative nature of the new Agenda 2030 calls for better coherence and coordination of various policies in Finland.

For Finland, because of the nature of the universal and transformative Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals and targets, a careful review of the country’s development cooperation policies and practices was needed, and, just as importantly, a review of domestic policies and measures in various sectors, as well. When it comes to domestic action, Finland needs to work on goals and targets for biodiversity, citizens’ wellbeing and equality, sustainable consumption and production, efficient energy use, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, for example. On the other hand, eradicating poverty, ensuring global food security or promoting peaceful and inclusive societies are goals that Finland implements best by intensifying its development and foreign policies. The division between domestic and foreign action is not, however, always so rigid; for instance, Finland’s consumption and production patterns have an impact also outside the national borders through materials and supply chains.

Preparation of the National Implementation Plan for Agenda 2030

The Finnish Government has the primary responsibility for the national implementation of Agenda 2030, but, in the spirit of the global agenda, the civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders have an integral role in this endeavour.

Finland is getting ready to implement Agenda 2030 in ways that are comprehensive and inclusive. The Prime Minister’s Office is in charge of coordinating the national implementation. The Office also acts as the Coordination Secretariat.. The Coordination Secretariat works closely together with the Coordination Network, comprising all government ministries.

The government programme from 2015 was strongly linked to the SDGs in areas such as bio-economy, clean technology, skills and education, and health and well-being. National implementation was guided by the vision of the Government Programme by 2025 and the vision of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development by 2050.

The first implementation plan was submitted to the parliament in 2017. It was partially based on an external gap analysis to assess for which goals and targets Finland has to take the most action. The government programme of the new government (2019) is strongly guided by the 2030 Agenda and aims to transform into an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable society by 2030. Furthermore it aims at carbon neutrality by 2035 and to be carbon negative soon after that.. The second implementation plan will be made public and submitted to parliament in autumn 2020.

The National Implementation Plans outline, among other things, how Finland  integrates the principles, goals and targets of Agenda 2030 into various policy sectors and into international cooperation, and how the progress in the implementation will be monitored and reviewed. It  identifies Finland’s strengths, as well as major gaps and challenges, and offers solutions and tools for improving the implementation. The key measures for putting Agenda 2030 into practice are the integrated policies and measures taken in various Government sectors, as part of the implementation of national and EU legislation, national sectoral or thematic strategies and action plans, as well as international agreements and commitments. One important voluntary means of implementation in Finland is Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development, the national sustainable development strategy adopted in 2013. An important policy instrument for implementation is the Government Report on Development Policy.

The Finland we want by 2050 — Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development was finalised in 2013 and it will feature as one of the key multi-stakeholder implementation tools for Agenda 2030 in Finland. It provides the framework for a strategic approach to sustainable development and it sets out a vision, principles and objectives for the transition to a sustainable society. Compared to conventional national sustainability strategies, Society’s Commitment can be seen as a social innovation enabling the integration of sustainable development into everyday practices and the engagement of a broad spectrum of societal actors in joint efforts. Society’s Commitment also contains an implementation mechanism. By 2020, over 1000 different organisations and almost 1500 private citizens had made their operational commitment to sustainable development. In this way they are contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in Finland through their own efforts. Society’s Commitment was updated in April 2016 to be in line with Agenda 2030.

Leading Ministry and respective unit

The Prime Minister’s Office coordinates the Agenda 2030 implementation.

Other ministries involved

All line ministries are involved. They are included in the Sustainable Development Coordination Network in order to enhance policy coherence through sectors.

Main contact point for the implementation process

Government of Finland:

Prime Minister’s Office:

  • Ms Marja Innanen: marja.innanen@vnk.fi
  • Mr Sami Pirkkala: sami.pirkkala@vnk.fi

Ministry of the Environment:

  • Ms Annika Lindblom: annika.lindblom@ym.fi
Voluntary National Reviews

Finland submitted a VNR in 2016 and 2020. The Finnish government is planning to report on its progress towards the SDGs every four-five years.

Vertical Integration

The composition of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development was changed at the beginning of 2016. At that time, regional and local representatives were added. Now the Commission includes two representatives from cities, two regional representatives and two representatives from local administration. It also includes representatives from the self-governing territory of the Åland islands.    

The Finland We Want by 2050 – Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development offers a strategic framework and a multi-stakeholder operational tool for sustainable development. It is a new partnership model that aims at boosting ownership, concrete action, innovative solutions and impact throughout the society. It brings together the public sector, companies, civil society actors, organisations and citizens in a unique way.

To make the vision of Society’s Commitment a reality, eight shared objectives for sustainable development must be achieved.  The way to do this is simple: commitments are invited from different sectors and stakeholders, these parties then decide on what concrete actions they can take to attain the objectives, and then they measure their progress. By 2020, over 1000 actors from companies to ministries, schools, municipalities and civil society organisations, as well almost 1500 individuals, have already joined Society’s Commitment by launching their own operational commitments. When put together, the individual commitments can lead to greater results, can bring systemic change and can create a community of pioneers.

Check out this short video of Society’s Commitment

Background information:

In 2006 the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development (FNCSD) prepared the National Strategy for Sustainable Development. In the preparations for the strategy, input from the sub-national level was collected. Regional authorities and municipalities participated in several workshops, were informed about certain issues and were also asked for advice in specific cases. Additionally, they commented on the draft strategy document. Representatives of local and regional authorities were also members of the group responsible for preparing the national strategy. However, there was no formal and structured way to ensure their broader contribution during the preparatory phase. To improve the coordination of sustainable development policies between the national and sub-national levels, the National Commission established a new sub-committee on regionally and locally sustainable development in June 2007 (which operated into 2012). The sub-committee was mandated to promote sustainable development in regional and local administrations, as well as in their cooperation with each other and with the national government.

Horizontal Integration

The current government’s programme is based on phenomenon based strategic objectives, which supports a cross-sectoral approach and aims at addressing interlinkages in an effective manner.

The work of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development (FNCSD) is outlined and prepared by an inter-ministerial Secretariat, the Sustainable Development Coordination Network. The Secretariat is composed of the sustainable development focal points in the line ministries, each taking the lead in preparing themes within their area of expertise. The secretariat convenes 8-10 times a year and aims at enhancing policy coherence across the line ministries. The Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Secretariat oversee the practical arrangements and manage funding for the National Commission’s work.

In four consecutive years, all Ministries have submitted their yearly reports to the Parliament on the policies and measures to achieve the SDGs in their respective policy branches. The national audit office reports that ministries increasingly incorporate the SDGs in their activities. They serve as the basis for strategies, but also as a benchmark for their own activities. However, there are differences between the ministries with regards to the extent of the integration of the SDGs. The report also states that more analytical assessment on the ecological, economic and social sustainability of the policy content is still missing.

The government has integrated sustainability aspects into the preparation of the state budget since 2018. Each administrative branch provides details about measures related to sustainable development. In 2019, a chapter entitled “Sustainable Development” was included in the General Strategy and outlook section. This chapter is especially focused on carbon neutrality goals.

Representatives from the line ministries are included in the National Follow-up and Monitoring network, ensuring that different aspects of sustainable development are reflected in choosing the indicators and measuring the progress. The network  is chaired by the Prime Minister’s Office, and includes representatives from ministries, Statistics Finland, research institutions and various stakeholder groups. It meets 4-6 times per year and is in charge of the development, maintenance and revision of national monitoring framework and sustainability indicators.

The Finnish Parliament’s Committee for the Future has functioned as the parliamentary committee responsible for 2030 Agenda matters. The Committee for the Future prepares parliamentary replies, also known as committee reports on the 2030 Agenda, to the Government. The Committee also monitors the implementation of the measures required by Parliament in its reports by issuing resolutions on the Government’s Annual Reports and budget proposals in relation to the 2030 Agenda themes.

The Development Policy Committee is a multi-stakeholder body that was first appointed in 2003. Its key aim is to strengthen the effectiveness of development policy and to promote discussion on development policy at national and, in particular, parliamentary levels. All parliamentary parties and key stakeholders in development policy contexts are represented in the committee.

Review

The Finnish Government programmes and national implementation strategies for sustainable development have continuously been assessed in the past 20 years. These assessments have helped to improve the design and implementation of sustainable development strategies.

Finland is committed to providing a systematic, open, transparent, inclusive and participatory follow-up to and review of the implementation of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals and targets at all levels. Monitoring the progress and reviewing the achievements on a regular basis is essential for ensuring accountability to the Finnish society and the global community.

For the national process, there is an open online platform with 10 thematic indicator baskets entailing approximately 50 indicators that are updated on a yearly basis. Experts and the public can give their comments online on the progress and chosen indicators. All data, trends and comments are compiled every spring to be elaborated in a national “State and future of Sustainable Development” –event organized by the Prime Minister’s Office in cooperation with the National Commission on Sustainable Development

The National Audit Office of Finland identified NAOF audits as part of the official four-year monitoring and evaluation cycle. The government is committed to submit a Voluntary National Review to the High Level Political Forum of the UN every four years following this audit. Furthermore, the NAOF is currently developing a model for integrating the Sustainable Development Goals as part of all external auditing, which is also drawing international interest.

In 2018, the government commissioned an independent and comprehensive evaluation of national sustainable development policies. Three Finnish organisations worked on the evaluation:  Demos Helsinki, the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The core research team also benefited from external support from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). The evaluation gave some key recommendations of how future governments should move forward in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The evaluation process is explained in more detail in the IIED publication “Evaluation to connect national priorities with the SDGs”. Every year, all line ministries in Finland are required to compile their policies and measures on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda into the government’s annual report to the parliament. According to the National Audit Office report, the Government Annual Reports have provided a comprehensive summary of the yearly policies and measures for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Finland, compiling key areas, key actions and actors. However, Annual Reports on the implementation have been rather descriptive and entailed only little quantitative measures.

 Government Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The aim of this report is to address a carbon-neutral, resource-wise and competent Finland where non-discrimination and equality is secured. In line with the Government priorities, the implementation of Agenda 2030 in Finland builds on two themes: To achieve a carbon-neutral and resource-wise Finland. The focus should be on improving the energy, resource and material efficiency and sustainably increase the share of renewable forms of energy. Finland must produce environmentally friendly services and innovations, promote their exports, and develop low-emission economic sectors and transport models.

To secure non-discrimination, equality and a high level of competence in Finland, Finland must prevent youth and long-term unemployment, exclusion of various population groups, polarization of labour markets, and segregation of living and residential areas. Finland must also reduce health disparities, promote gender equality, support lifelong learning, and raise the level of education and competence of the population. Non-discrimination includes equal access to services at the different stages of ageing.

Indicators

The first set of national sustainable development indicators was prepared in 2000. Since then the indicators have been published and renewed regularly, especially when the new sustainable development strategy was completed.

The state of and trends in sustainable development in Finland were being monitored and reviewed with the use of 39 national sustainable development indicators. These indicators were identified in 2014 to measure the progress of the eight strategic objectives of Society’s Commitment. Finland’s national follow-up system was renewed in 2017. It consists of around 45 indicators that are grouped in ten baskets with specific themes, such as “Resource-wise economy and carbon-neutral society”, “Housing and communities”, “Social inequality” and “Global responsibility and policy coherence”. Around one third of national indicators are from the global SDG indicator set, two thirds are country specific.

National indicators were chosen in 2017 by the national follow-up network that is chaired by the Prime Minister’s Office, and includes representatives from ministries, Statistics Finland, research institutions and various stakeholder groups. The national follow-up network meets 4-6 times per year.

National indicators are updated once a year, during the second and third quarter. The annual update of data is accompanied with the preparation of interpretative text for each of the ten baskets. Interpretative texts are prepared by experts of different ministries and research institutions. The purpose of interpretative texts is to describe the current state and recent development in Finland, compared to target levels (where they exist) and peer countries.

Indicators and interpretative texts are published at a website hosted by the National Commission on Sustainable Development and the Prime Minister’s Office. The Finnish website includes a possibility to openly comment indicators and interpretative texts. You can find the English version of the website here.

In 2018, Statistics Finland started a project to establish a national reporting platform for global SDG indicators. The platform was published in February 2019, and is currently publicly available at the webpage of Statistics Finland. In February 2020, the database contained national data for 158 global indicators of the total of 244 indicators, i.e. the coverage was 65 percent of global SDG indicators.

Participation

The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development (FNCSD) serves as the main forum for bringing together different stakeholder groups. Members of the Commission include representatives from Parliament, ministries, the business sector, municipalities and regions, trade unions, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, science and research institutions, and various organisations. The mandate of the National Commission is to ensure that the international objectives of sustainable development are integrated into national policies. One of the main tasks of the Commission is to follow up and review the national implementation of Agenda 2030. The other main task is to enhance the implementation of Society's Commitment to Sustainable Development. Society's Commitment is designed to be a practical tool for implementing sustainable development goals in Finland. With this end in view, the National Commission is aiming at increasing participation in Society’s Commitment, and the number of commitments, while enhancing the effectiveness of the commitment process. Citizens and organisations can make their own commitments and report on their progress. There are over 1000 private organisations and almost 1500 private citizens that have made commitments on the website (to reduce their footprint and how), also six major industries (trade, finance, media, energy, marine, forest) have made comprehensive industry wide commitments. The government has made five ‘Green Deals’ with bodies representing certain industries, among others the plastic bag deal, an automotive deal and an oil waste deal.

State officials are responsible for drawing up the implementation plan and facilitating the implementation of Agenda 2030 in Finland. However, there are two major multi-stakeholder committees in Finland that support and promote sustainable development policies. The Development Policy Committee is a parliamentary body whose mission is to follow the implementation of the global sustainable development agenda in Finland from the development policy perspective and to monitor the implementation of the Government Programme and the Government's development policy guidelines. The National Commission on Sustainable Development is a Prime Minister-led partnership forum with the aim of integrating sustainable development into Finnish policies, measures and everyday practices. The membership of both committees includes a broad spectrum of non-governmental stakeholders, private sector actors, interest groups and civil society organisations. In addition, the Sustainable Development Expert Panel, comprising eminent researchers from different disciplines, challenges and enhances the work of the National Commission on Sustainable Development and adds a critical voice in the sustainability debate, when needed.

The secretariat of the Development Policy Committee is located in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The coordination of the work of the National Commission on Sustainable Development was transferred from the Ministry of the Environment to the Prime Minister’s Office in January 2016, but the Secretary General of the National Commission continues to work from the Environment Ministry. In order to improve the policy coherence, the collaboration between the two committees will be intensified, for example through joint meetings, workshops and discussion papers.

The Government of Finland recognises the need to strengthen the accountability to and dialogue with Parliament, various stakeholders and the general public when implementing Agenda 2030 and when preparing the National Implementation Plan. Finland is committed to intensifying the existing means and finding new ways to increase participation and ownership. As regards Parliament, one effective means might be a Government report to Parliament on the national implementation of Agenda 2030. For the society at large, a regional Agenda 2030 road show is one way to reach all corners of Finland.

The Agenda 2030 Youth Group was established in 2017 on the initiative of the then Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Sustainable Development. Young people’s involvement in implementing sustainable development policy had been found too limited, to the extent that appointing a single youth delegate for sustainable development was not enough to address the issue.

The Youth Group has two roles:

  1. To spur the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development in its work and to bring young people’s voices to sustainable development policy processes and public debate;
  2. To inform other young people of the Sustainable Development Goals and themes in their various networks, such as schools and leisure activities.

The Agenda 2030 Youth Group consists of 14 members aged 15 to 28, living all over the country. Group members are selected by the Finnish Youth Cooperation Allianssi.

Subnational Activities

Another key issue of importance to Finland is Local Agenda 21. The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities already adopted a sustainable development strategy in 1997, one year before the government programme on sustainable development was adopted. Approximately 80% of Finns live in municipalities that either have established or are in the process of establishing their own Local Agenda 21. The link between the national sustainable development strategy and the sub-national activities was well coordinated. On the local and regional levels the Local Agenda 21 process has evolved from the earlier approach of Agenda 21 to one where the focus is more on sustainability processes such as integrated management, the Aalborg Commitments, and the development of and work on sustainability indicators.

There are two networks of pioneering/ frontrunner municipalities: climate-neutral HINKU municipalities and Sustainable FISU municipalities.