Together with other EU countries, Finland is committed to the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals. This sustainability transformation also extends to the financial world. The finance ecosystem launched by the European Commission has created the world’s first roadmap for sustainable finance in Finland, and now the lessons are being tested in practice.
A collaborative project launched by the European Commission aims to create national guidelines and tools to guide finance over the coming years in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Finland, the operation of the sustainable finance ecosystem is managed by Gaia, part of Sweco. The project has wide national support, and five ministries are represented in its steering group.
“Together, we are trying to find solutions to the transformation of the financial sector that is necessary to build a sustainable society,” says Gaia’s Leading Consultant on Sustainable Business Development Mikko Halonen. First, the experts identified where financing is currently targeted. “Unfortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals are not being met. Financing is still being directed to investments that are too slow to bring about change or even push us away from the SDGs.”
The world’s first roadmap for sustainable finance
Finland launched its work to promote sustainable finance in 2018 and drew up its first roadmap as early as 2019. Intensive development work with a wide range of stakeholders continued, and, as a result of the process, Finland published a national SDG financing roadmap in autumn 2021: Finnish Roadmap for Financing a Decade of SDG Action 2021.
“The aim is to help different operators identify their role and the tangible ways in which the financial world can start to facilitate the realisation of the UN’s SDGs,” Halonen says. The roadmap developed in Finland has served as an international pioneer project and part of a broader financial transformation to promote sustainable finance. “As finance moves towards a more sustainable path in Europe and internationally, one tool is the EU taxonomy, the EU’s classification system for sustainable finance.”
Drawing up a national roadmap in the midst of COVID-19 required exceptional effort. “When physical meetings could not be organised, the biggest challenge was to get hundreds of people to commit to the change and feel a sense of togetherness,” says Halonen. Indeed, hundreds of auxiliary meetings, phone calls and virtual workshops were needed to organise the activities.
Reforming the financial sector through global cooperation
The roadmap will be followed by four practical pilots in 2021–2022. Top experts in various fields have joined forces in four ecosystems to seek financial solutions for different SDG transformations. The aim is to promote investments in climate-smart water solutions, offshore wind power, sustainable protein sources and products, and vocational training.
The approach is both local and global, and the aim is to use Finnish expertise and technology to solve sustainability challenges not only in Finland but also globally. Halonen also sees addressing these development challenges as an opportunity. “Sustainable investments will create jobs and export income in Finland, which will be the lifeblood of the Finnish welfare society. Climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic at the latest, have taught us that sustainability challenges must be solved together, as part of a global community.”
The pilots will be completed in early 2022. After their completion, awareness of the roadmap will be raised and lessons learned from the pilots will be shared to ensure that the financial sector responds to the call. “It is already clear that achieving the sustainability transformation will require much better cooperation at the national and international level and between the private, public and third sectors.”