Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development puts forward 28 fresh recommendations, which can help us change our society to be more sustainable. Transformation into a more sustainable future is not about giving up, rather, it is about moving towards a new, more comfortable, smoother, and more meaningful life.

According to the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development it is possible to live a good, healthy and meaningful life with a minimal burden on the environment. According to a recent publication by the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, titled A positive Future for Finland: Science shows that Finland needs a new kind of positive image of a sustainable future, we need a commonly created vision of the future – futures consciousness, of what an ecologically sustainable and fair welfare society looks like and how we can achieve it.

Sustainable welfare can be achieved

Based on scientific evidence, the overuse of natural resources, growing inequality, and the climate crisis will inevitably lead to societal change. It is clear, that our lifestyles must change – and do so fast. We cannot continue overusing natural resources at the current pace. The way in which the transformation will happen, is however dependant on us. The transformation can either be orderly or it can be chaotic. Orderly transformation is possible to achieve with the help of sustainability transformation.

“With sustainability transformation we mean a systemic approach, with which society can change its structures and ways of acting in an orderly and holistic way to be more sustainable. With sustainability transformation we can achieve an ecologically sustainable and fair welfare society.” says the chairwoman of the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development and professor in the Finnish Environment Institute, Eeva Furman.

There are, however, many misleading signposts in the way of sustainability transformation that the Expert Panel has identified in the new A positive future for Finland report. These illusions are strongly intertwined. Identifying them helps us to understand why progress towards a more sustainable future is so difficult. At the same time, it can also accelerate the much needed transformation.

The first illusion is that sustainability transformation is a difficult and complex bundle of challenges interconnected in a way that cannot be anticipated. According to the Expert Panel this is not the case. Rather, by bringing people together, the change can foster new – sometimes surprising – innovations for a more comfortable ordinary life, for green transformation, and for achieving successful business.

“Moving towards sustainable future shouldn’t be seen as giving up things nor as a bundle of difficult topics. On the contrary, it can lead to enrichment and streamlining of life. For example, there are many health benefits to moving by muscle power and it can have life-improving effects,” Furman emphasises.

Illustration: Rodinia

On the other hand, we have to recognise that a sustainable future can only be achieved by moving away from old unsustainable ways of acting. Singular positive actions are not enough, rather we need big society-shaking transformations. According to the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, we have to imagine different alternatives of what a good future should look like to achieve the transformation. Envisioning the future helps us mark the steps towards this goal.  A common vision of the future is achieved through societal dialogue.

Science makes it clear that we must strive to distance ourselves form the pursuit of continuous growth. Decoupling economic growth, measured by Gross Domestic Product, from its environmental impacts is practically impossible to achieve. For this reason, we need new indicators of well-being, and to give up on the ideal of continuous growth of GDP.

The future is made together

A sustainable future doesn’t appear out of thin air, rather it is made together. The participation of all actors of society in various roles is needed in business, the financing system, the media sector, municipalities, education and research communities and associations, and also as individuals.

National government plays a significant role in showing the way towards sustainability transformation. For this, Exper Panel for Sustainable Develpment’s new publication offers almost 30 policy guidelines for the government on how the transformation can be advanced.

Read the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development’s recommendations here.