Sustainable Development in Finland's State Administration

Executive summary

This country report concerns the implementation of sustainable development in Finland. The evaluation focuses on central government; local authorities have been left outside its scope. In preparing the report, use has been made of previous evaluations and experts in the field, interviews have been conducted with Finland’s Sustainable Development Secretariat and a survey was carried out regarding the attention paid to environmental matters by central government organizations in their own activities.

Key findings and conclusions:

  1. The Finnish Government established the National Commission on Sustainable Development in 1993. The commission includes a wide range of actors and it serves as a discussion forum. It does not make decisions and is not an advisory body to the Government. The commission’s small main secretariat has managed to get a lot accomplished through cost-effective networking.

  2. The latest sustainable development strategy was published in 2006. The strategy is monitored with the help of 34 key indicators. The obvious problem form the viewpoint of policy recommendations is that the commission has not specified target values for indicators.

  3. Separate sector strategies have been prepared, such as the Programme for Sustainable Production and Consumption and education strategies.

  4. The setting of objectives, practices and reporting regarding sustainable development in different administrative sectors has varied. In terms of content the greatest emphasis is placed on the environment and particularly climate change as well as themes related to the sustainable use of natural resources. This may be partly due to the fact that the main secretariat is located in the Ministry of the Environment.

  5. The value of the sustainable development strategy as a steering instrument is quite weak. This is due to the fact that key themes of sustainable development are directed through other government strategies.

  6. At the state group level the state has prepared several strategies that support sustainable development: the state strategy for premises (2005), the state strategy for travel (2008) and a Government resolution on promoting sustainable choices in public contracts (2009).

  7. The Environmental Cluster Research Programme, which supports sustainable development, has made it possible to take many areas of environmental policy and research to a new level in Finland. The social sciences have received too little attention in the research programme, however. Furthermore programme did not reach the ministries’ top management.

  8. In connection with the state budget proposal, the publishing of summary statistical data regarding sustainable development has stopped, which has made it harder to obtain an overall picture of sustainable development.

  9. Instructions for preparing agencies’ annual administrative report do not cover reporting on sustainable development. With the present structure it is not possible to deal with the promotion of sustainable development in a separate section.

  10. State administration has taken numerous environmental measures, but these vary between administrative sectors. An environmental management system is in use in 30 per cent of government agencies. Energy efficiency has been taken into consideration in nearly 90 per cent of real estate management. Slightly over half of organizations have prepared instructions concerning how the environment should be taken into consideration in procurements. Many office routines in agencies, such as waste sorting, appear to be quite well organized. Slightly less attention has been given to work-related travel, such as instructions to use public transport or to take advantage of videoconferencing or telecommuting. Situation could be harmonized if state had a joint project at promoting environmental matters.