Helsinki has not fully integrated the SDG framework as foundation for its operations and management, even though sustainability is taken into account in various fields and Helsinki has numerous sub-programmes in place for promoting sustainability. A wider-scale sustainability review and the use of the SDG framework could help the City promote sustainability across its entire organisation and between different programmes.
Moreover, strengthening recognition of the effectiveness and synergy opportunities between different goals would be beneficial, e.g. identifying ways in which climate actions and energy efficiency can promote a sustainable economy and vitality in the long run, or how biodiversity and sustainable mobility can promote health and well-being.
Ecological sustainability poses the biggest challenge
Improving ecological sustainability presents a big challenge for Helsinki. Our Earth Overshoot day comes earlier each year, and the pace at which we are reducing our emissions is not yet sufficient.
Furthermore, transferring away from linear economy towards circular economy, and protecting biodiversity, are some of the challenges in achieving ecological sustainability. Helsinki’s global impact should be assessed in more depth from a sustainability angle, and negative effects should be reduced while positive ones should be enhanced.
Health and well-being have increased
The coronavirus crisis has put a strain on social sustainability and the economy in a number of ways. The deterioration of people’s mental well-being and the increase in loneliness, unemployment and inequality are particularly worrying. The pandemic has worsened the gap in children and young people’s learning, and harmed their mental well-being.
According to a well-being report, the majority of Helsinki’s residents feel that their health and quality of life are good. However, differences in welfare and mental well-being were mentioned as some of the challenges. Other concerns revolved around children’s overweightness and lack of physical activity.
However, many steps have been taken in the promotion of health and well-being during the strategy period. Furthermore, a physical activity programme has been used to create models for promoting active lifestyles, and the Mukana youth social inclusion programme is working to prevent social exclusion amongst young people.
The importance of culture is on the rise
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Helsinki’s financial situation is fairly good. The City has also been able to invest in progress in numerous ways, including its ambitious digitalisation programme, various innovation activities and development projects.
So far, cultural sustainability has been on the back burner, but in the future it will receive more attention and be linked to the other areas of sustainability. The importance of culture as something that increases well-being is already recognised as a key element. Furthermore, the connection between the promotion of the SDGs and urban culture and new democracy trends should be assessed in more detail.
The dozens of stories included in this report demonstrate that the City’s divisions and municipal enterprises have been actively carrying out a diverse range of actions that promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals. All in all, Helsinki has the competence and all the opportunities to become a leading city in sustainable solutions and to share this expertise globally.