The Board of the Academy of Finland decided in February to renew the Academy’s commitment to promoting sustainable development.
“The goal of sustainable development is first and foremost to improve people’s wellbeing and the sustainability of society. Research-based knowledge plays a key role in ensuring sustainable development and protecting the welfare of future generations. The Academy of Finland funds research across all scientific disciplines and thereby promotes the attainment of the objectives of sustainability,” explains Laura Raaska, Director of the Academy’s Biosciences and Environment Research Unit. Raaska has participated in preparing the Academy’s commitment to sustainable development.
The Academy aims to generate more visibility for the principles of sustainable development by asking applicants, where appropriate, to describe how their project supports sustainable development. The description is part of the description of the project’s impact. Sustainable development will not, however, be a funding criterion.
First commitment in 2015
The Academy announced its first sustainable development commitment back in 2015. That commitment was targeted at the preparation, implementation and monitoring of Academy Programmes. The idea, according to Laura Raaska, was that sustainable development is more likely to gain prominence within Academy Programmes, because they are focused on specific research themes. The Arctic Academy Programme (ARKTIKO) and the BioFuture2025 Academy Programme are good examples of this. Now, the Academy is extending the sustainable development description to all funding schemes.
Raaska notes that researchers and their research often already follow the principles of sustainable development, but they may forget to mention it even if the link is obvious. The Academy now wants researchers to give higher priority to describing the connection.
“We’re hoping that researchers would consider the objectives of sustainable development and include them in their funding applications. The Academy wants to encourage researchers to describe how the research will advance sustainability,” Raaska says.
Based on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
The Academy of Finland’s commitment has been published on the Commitment 2050 website, an open database where organisations, businesses and private persons can make commitments to sustainable development. The website currently includes more than 800 commitments.
The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals have been prominently represented in EU activities such as the Horizon 2020 programme, the Joint Programming Initiatives and the upcoming Ninth Framework Programme. Finland’s national objectives are in line with these goals. As for research, the sustainability perspective has been particularly visible in the Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI). The Academy of Finland is actively involved in, for instance, the Water JPI (Water Challenges for Changing World), in which sustainable development is strongly present.
The Research Council of Norway (RCN) has drafted its own strategy for sustainable development and outlined several focus areas in which the principles of sustainable development will be especially promoted. The RCN has actively included sustainable development perspectives in its research programmes. Norway is also interested in how Finland measures the progress of sustainable development policy.
The 2018 European Sustainable Development Week takes place between 30 May and 5 June. This is the fourth year Finland participates in the week. More information on sustainable development, Agenda 2030 and Society’s Commitment to Sustainability is available on kestavakehitys.fi, a website maintained by the Prime Minister's Office.
Original Finnish text by Leena Vähäkylä
Photo by Anita Westerback