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Targets of sustainable development reporting and Helsinki’s approach

This second Voluntary Local Review of sustainable development by Helsinki intends to go beyond the previous review and cover all 17 SDGs. The report seeks to assess the strategy period from the perspective of sustainable development, emphasising concrete actions and, at the same time, identifying themes for development. The report consists of a concise description of various themes, indicators measuring progress and story-like examples of the city’s various activities in everyday life.

The report examines sustainable development from the point of view of ecological, social and economic sustainability. Cultural sustainability is also reflected in a number of different themes, although less is said about it as a whole.

Through the spirit of Agenda 2030 and Helsinki’s focal points, the cross-cutting themes have been identified to be fairness and openness, digitalisation, recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and cooperation and partnerships. The purpose of the report is to describe how Helsinki can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through its own actions and specify which SDGs we have weaknesses in relation to.

Graphic. Sustainable Helsinki is made up of intertwining themes of ecology, people and economy.

Interpreting the SDGs

The UN Agenda 2030 gives cities the opportunity to focus on both the global and national level in their work on sustainable development. The goals are an important common language at different levels and create a common objective.

Although the global goals of Agenda 2030 as an overall reference framework are also well suited to the implementation of sustainable development at the local level, many of the targets under the SDGs are not directly appropriate for the local level and especially not for an advanced and prosperous city such as Helsinki.

Efforts have been made to open up and describe the global SDGs from the perspective of Helsinki’s operations. For example, absolute poverty or a lack of basic health care are not problems here, but that does not mean that we do not have other challenges in these themes as regards, for example, well-being disparities, obesity or mental well-being.

Moreover, our consumption and economy are not sustainable, but we are exceeding the limits of the Earth’s carrying capacity, so it is particularly important to look at our global impact.

The SDGs are strongly interlinked, and it is challenging to make completely unambiguous interpretations between the SDGs and the city’s themes. We have tried to identify the key SDGs and link them to the different themes. SDGs 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals) have been identified as clearly cross-cutting SDGs.

Report implementation

The reporting work was coordinated by a city-level working group with representatives of all the divisions and enterprises of the city as well as other key experts. In addition to the working group, several other experts participated in writing and commenting on the report. The sustainable development reporting process and the report will also be utilised in preparing the city strategy for the next council term and future projects and programmes.

Process graph of reporting. Beginning in summer 2020 after many phases the report was finished May 2021.

Report in figures

  • 8 months
  • 33 authors from 8 divisions and enterprises
  • 10 working group meetings
  • 53 examples of Helsinki’s actions
  • 60 indicators
  • 8 presentations in different management teams and 6 other internal events
  • 3 open stakeholder events
  • 7 international presentations