Back 07.06.2017

Are we peaceful Vikings of global sustainability or lazy mice comfortably in a Nordic bubble?

The Nordic countries have recently made major joint statements and commitments (see for example here, here, here and here) to address some of the most pressing challenges humanity is facing in the 21st century. The Nordic countries have among other launched an initiative– Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges – as a tool in Nordic work to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Major commitments have also been made to provide leadership through innovative and equitable climate solutions with global impact.

It´s time for Nordics to deliver on major climate and SDG commitments

In preparation for these major initiatives Gaia Consulting Oy, in collaboration with Stockholm Environment Institute, at the request of Nordic Council of Ministers, have conducted major stakeholder consultations and identified a number of areas where joint Nordic action could bring value-added. Our analysis confirms the existence of a number of Nordic success stories in advancing societal transformation towards the 2030 goals. While there are several good reasons to share our lessons learned with other countries, there is, however, also plenty of room for improvement by the Nordics.

Prioritise carefully but understand the connectedness

Despite overall high levels of welfare, Nordic countries are facing a number of challenges – some of which are common to other developed countries (e.g. linked to ageing of populations, integration of immigrants, social inclusion, lack of equal opportunities, public debt) while others generally shared by all nations (e.g. linked to climate change, equal access to water and energy, loss of biodiversity and natural resources, human and political insecurity). For example, Nordic countries score well above the world average in terms of their Ecological Footprint, which suggests that significant challenges remain in terms of the environmental sustainability of consumption in the Nordic region. While the global Earth Overshoot Day (marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year) in 2017 takes place in August, for example Finland passed that threshold this year already in April.

Hence, it is no longer a question of whether to focus our action in developing countries or developed countries. In our interconnected world, we must address sustainability challenges simultaneously “here and there”. As we recognize that our most of our consumption and productions choices have global reach through value chains, we must be able to work on our footprint as well as our handprint.

Making the SDGs ours and a story of action

While Nordic action provides an additional layer and opportunity to action that Nordic countries jointly can deliver, it is critical that clear choices are made to prioritise this joint action and ensure that it provides value added. Our analysis identifies such opportunities and now it is time to jointly deliver on these commitments, with decision makers, companies, municipalities, research community and citizens all on board. To make this happen today we must make the SDG story our own – and our hands and feet do not move in the right direction without putting some heart and soul into it. It might take some blood, sweat and tears but it sure feels great to be part of the solution – and what a beautiful story to write for our children and grandchildren.


  • Mikko Halonen, Leading Consultant and Project Director, Gaia Consulting Oy,