2.7 Understanding Sustainability: Finland's Feature

This case study will allow you to understand the initiatives that Visit Finland has put in place to encourage sustainable development nationally, as well as what local destinations are doing to encourage action within sustainability.

This case study contains a keynote by Liisa Kokkarinen, from Visit Finland, and a keynote by Tia Hallanoro, from My Helsinki

Developing Sustainably as a Nation

This case study contains a keynote by Liisa Kokkarinen, from Visit Finland, and a keynote by Tia Hallanoro, from My Helsinki. The lesson covers different initiatives, such as Helsinki's and Tampere's Think Sustainably projects, and Visit Finland's Sustainable Travel Finland programme to certify travel and tourism businesses for their sustainability actions.

Main Takeaways from this Case Study

  1. Sustainability certifications and programmes can be developed at the national level to allow adopting sustainability by enabling commitment.
  2. When developing a sustainability programme, establishing a constant dialogue with the parties to obtain feedback for its adequate development will ensure the programme serves its purpose.
  3. Community involvement is crucial to develop the destination sustainably and create a "new normal" for a better way of living.

National Initiatives

In May 2019, the newly formed Finnish government announced it wanted to make Finland the first carbon-neutral welfare state by 2035. By means of taking leadership on sustainability within the destination to a national level and enabling the entire country to move towards its sustainability goals, Visit Finland developed their "Sustainable Travel Finland" concept. This is a low threshold development tool to assist Finnish travel companies and DMOs to adopt sustainable practices and follow the United Nations SDGs.

The programme focuses on 3 key dimensions: A sustainable development programme for the tourism industry in Finland, a marketing communication tool for Visit Finland, and a label for both consumers and the travel trade to be able to easily identify sustainable travel companies and destinations in Finland.

To be awarded the Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) label, a travel business needs to go through a 7-step STF free of charge programme that requires a considerate amount of serious and long-term work. The seven steps are:

  1. Commitment
  2. Increasing know-how
  3. Development plan
  4. Responsible communication
  5. Certification and auditing
  6. Verification and measurability
  7. Agreement and continuous development

One of the things Visit Finland learned while developing this programme was that in order to increase know-how, education and awareness, content needs to be educative and practical, which is why they developed an e-learning platform and workshops about sustainability.

In addition, Visit Finland provides information about important sustainability labels to look out for on food, accommodation, activities when travelling to Finland, allowing consumers to make sustainable choices throughout the entirety of their trip.

Lastly, Visit Finland have also developed the "Sustainable Finland Pledge" an initiative to involve travellers in the sustainable development of the destination by signing a pledge by which they make a promise to respect and treasure the Finnish nature, its inhabitants and culture during their visit. Travellers are able to sign the pledge by providing their email, which they can then share on social media to raise awareness about the initiative. Additionally, the website offers facts and FAQs for Finland, articles with information to plan a trip, and different rules that apply when visiting the country.

You can read the pledge below:
On my journey, I pledge to appreciate nature,
and this I will do with great pleasure.
The wilderness lets me relax and connect,
I promise to treat it with the utmost respect.
Its forests and lakes should remain plastic-free,
so I will not leave any rubbish behind me.
The cleanest tap water shall quench my thirst,
because in my choices the climate comes first.
In nature, there’s always been an equal right to roam free.
This should be enjoyed responsibly.
The berries and mushrooms are there to be eaten,
but I’ll stick to the paths that are already beaten.
Long before humans, the wildlife’s been there,
so I won’t set up camp just anywhere.
I shall respect all those around me,
letting everyone enjoy these surroundings equally.
In preserving our nature we all have a part to play,
And this pledge I embrace will show us the way.

Local Initiatives

In Helsinki, "66% of residents identified the climate crisis as their major concern when thinking about the future of the city." Like much of the rest of the world, people are experiencing 'climate anxiety' - the fear of what will happen in the future and what we can really do about it.

This is the reason why My Helsinki created "Think Sustainably" - a platform for action. The platform enables both visitors and residents to actively choose more sustainable ways of living and enjoy the city by providing information about suppliers in different areas of life who meet the Think Sustainably criteria. The three main areas looked at by the criteria are energy, food and beverage serviceand social sustainability, although other dimensions are also taken into consideration.

  • Restaurant, cafés and bars

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the restaurants, cafes and bars category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 13 of them.

  • Attractions

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the attractions category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 9 of them.

  • Events

There are 23 Think Sustainably criteria in the events category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them.

  • Shops

There are 23 Think Sustainably criteria in the shops category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them. Instead of looking at the food and beverage services, this criteria focuses on the items sold.

  • Accommodation

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the accommodation category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 15 of them.

  • Venues

There are 22 Think Sustainably criteria in the venues category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them.

The objective of the initiative is to facilitate a change in mindset to practice, inspire and share a sustainable way of living. In addition, My Helsinki explains that in order to live sustainably, letting go of quality isn't necessary. Instead, they believe that developing sustainably can be fulfilling and aspirational.  

In addition, the purpose of the platform is to showcase the different certified service providers, as this allows for transparency and at the same time acts as an incentive to join the platform. Thus, marketing the different initiatives is crucial for their successful implementation.

This initiative was so successful in Helsinki, that other destinations in Finland decided to implement it to help develop sustainability in their regions. Visit Tampere used almost the same criteria as My Helsinki for the development of the project, and focuses on the same categories as the original initiative. Below you can see Visit Tampere's Think Sustainably website. 👀👇

This case study contains a keynote by Liisa Kokkarinen, from Visit Finland, and a keynote by Tia Hallanoro, from My Helsinki

Developing Sustainably as a Nation

This case study contains a keynote by Liisa Kokkarinen, from Visit Finland, and a keynote by Tia Hallanoro, from My Helsinki. The lesson covers different initiatives, such as Helsinki's and Tampere's Think Sustainably projects, and Visit Finland's Sustainable Travel Finland programme to certify travel and tourism businesses for their sustainability actions.

Main Takeaways from this Case Study

  1. Sustainability certifications and programmes can be developed at the national level to allow adopting sustainability by enabling commitment.
  2. When developing a sustainability programme, establishing a constant dialogue with the parties to obtain feedback for its adequate development will ensure the programme serves its purpose.
  3. Community involvement is crucial to develop the destination sustainably and create a "new normal" for a better way of living.

National Initiatives

In May 2019, the newly formed Finnish government announced it wanted to make Finland the first carbon-neutral welfare state by 2035. By means of taking leadership on sustainability within the destination to a national level and enabling the entire country to move towards its sustainability goals, Visit Finland developed their "Sustainable Travel Finland" concept. This is a low threshold development tool to assist Finnish travel companies and DMOs to adopt sustainable practices and follow the United Nations SDGs.

The programme focuses on 3 key dimensions: A sustainable development programme for the tourism industry in Finland, a marketing communication tool for Visit Finland, and a label for both consumers and the travel trade to be able to easily identify sustainable travel companies and destinations in Finland.

To be awarded the Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) label, a travel business needs to go through a 7-step STF free of charge programme that requires a considerate amount of serious and long-term work. The seven steps are:

  1. Commitment
  2. Increasing know-how
  3. Development plan
  4. Responsible communication
  5. Certification and auditing
  6. Verification and measurability
  7. Agreement and continuous development

One of the things Visit Finland learned while developing this programme was that in order to increase know-how, education and awareness, content needs to be educative and practical, which is why they developed an e-learning platform and workshops about sustainability.

In addition, Visit Finland provides information about important sustainability labels to look out for on food, accommodation, activities when travelling to Finland, allowing consumers to make sustainable choices throughout the entirety of their trip.

Lastly, Visit Finland have also developed the "Sustainable Finland Pledge" an initiative to involve travellers in the sustainable development of the destination by signing a pledge by which they make a promise to respect and treasure the Finnish nature, its inhabitants and culture during their visit. Travellers are able to sign the pledge by providing their email, which they can then share on social media to raise awareness about the initiative. Additionally, the website offers facts and FAQs for Finland, articles with information to plan a trip, and different rules that apply when visiting the country.

You can read the pledge below:
On my journey, I pledge to appreciate nature,
and this I will do with great pleasure.
The wilderness lets me relax and connect,
I promise to treat it with the utmost respect.
Its forests and lakes should remain plastic-free,
so I will not leave any rubbish behind me.
The cleanest tap water shall quench my thirst,
because in my choices the climate comes first.
In nature, there’s always been an equal right to roam free.
This should be enjoyed responsibly.
The berries and mushrooms are there to be eaten,
but I’ll stick to the paths that are already beaten.
Long before humans, the wildlife’s been there,
so I won’t set up camp just anywhere.
I shall respect all those around me,
letting everyone enjoy these surroundings equally.
In preserving our nature we all have a part to play,
And this pledge I embrace will show us the way.

Local Initiatives

In Helsinki, "66% of residents identified the climate crisis as their major concern when thinking about the future of the city." Like much of the rest of the world, people are experiencing 'climate anxiety' - the fear of what will happen in the future and what we can really do about it.

This is the reason why My Helsinki created "Think Sustainably" - a platform for action. The platform enables both visitors and residents to actively choose more sustainable ways of living and enjoy the city by providing information about suppliers in different areas of life who meet the Think Sustainably criteria. The three main areas looked at by the criteria are energy, food and beverage serviceand social sustainability, although other dimensions are also taken into consideration.

  • Restaurant, cafés and bars

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the restaurants, cafes and bars category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 13 of them.

  • Attractions

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the attractions category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 9 of them.

  • Events

There are 23 Think Sustainably criteria in the events category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them.

  • Shops

There are 23 Think Sustainably criteria in the shops category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them. Instead of looking at the food and beverage services, this criteria focuses on the items sold.

  • Accommodation

There are 25 Think Sustainably criteria in the accommodation category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 15 of them.

  • Venues

There are 22 Think Sustainably criteria in the venues category. The suppliers presented by the Think Sustainably service fulfil at least 11 of them.

The objective of the initiative is to facilitate a change in mindset to practice, inspire and share a sustainable way of living. In addition, My Helsinki explains that in order to live sustainably, letting go of quality isn't necessary. Instead, they believe that developing sustainably can be fulfilling and aspirational.  

In addition, the purpose of the platform is to showcase the different certified service providers, as this allows for transparency and at the same time acts as an incentive to join the platform. Thus, marketing the different initiatives is crucial for their successful implementation.

This initiative was so successful in Helsinki, that other destinations in Finland decided to implement it to help develop sustainability in their regions. Visit Tampere used almost the same criteria as My Helsinki for the development of the project, and focuses on the same categories as the original initiative. Below you can see Visit Tampere's Think Sustainably website. 👀👇