Teija Lahti-Nuuttila: Towards a sustainable economy

Sustainable development will be in the limelight in June, when the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is being held. In addition, a major sustainable economy event – the Green Growth Summit – will be held in Finland. The organisers include Tekes, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Environmental Business Forum (EK ympäristöfoorumi) and Cleantech Finland.

In the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development, too, economic issues will play a prominent role. It is considered that developing the economy within the carrying capacity of natural systems will reduce poverty and increase well-being as new and better technology is introduced and new jobs are created.

Recently it has been widely discussed whether it is even possible to combine economic growth and sustainable development. With the current methods and structures, it will not work. Economic growth will in the future be based increasingly on intangible products, renewable raw materials and new resource-efficient operating concepts. The drivers for change are the increasing costs of energy and raw materials. Declining natural resources must be used wisely.

Some signs of a shift towards a new economy are already apparent. Cars can be run on biofuel, and electric cars are making progress on the market. Real-time ridesharing has also been developed as an alternative to purchasing one's own car. The proportion of renewable energy is growing rapidly. Last year, over 70% of new investments in electricity production in Europe were based on renewable energy. Investors regard energy efficiency as a new growth field. For example, Deloitte, an organisation that lists growth enterprises, rated Eniram Finland's fastest-growing company. Eniram, which develops energy efficiency systems for the marine industry, saw its turnover grow by an amazing 6209% in five years.

Promise campaign to promote the green economy

Tekes' objective is to accelerate the creation of new businesses related to the sustainable use of natural resources. The vision is to make Finland a forerunner in green economy. However, in order to realise the vision, the public sector as well as industry and commerce must work together for a common goal. Innovative ideas alone will not take us far. We need an innovation environment that provides comprehensive support for the development of eco-efficient solutions – an environment that encourages experiments, creates a primary market through public procurement, removes financial and market barriers through cooperation and enables consumers and civic organisations to contribute to the development of viable solutions.

An innovation environment like this need not be just a dream! The Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy and Tekes' Green Growth programme have together started a "promise campaign". Different organisations are asked for concrete promises on how they will commit to promoting sustainable economic growth. The promises are intended to act as a road map towards being a forerunner in environmental business. Promises thus begin a process that contributes to creating a new operational culture. The promises made will be published at the Green Growth Summit event Green Growth Summit on 6 June, 2012.

The promise campaign has been very well received, and new, enthusiastic participants are signing up every day. It seems that there is a strong will to raise the Finnish environmental business to a new level. Every organisation has its own important role to play in this endeavour, and individual companies have also signed up. Think about it! What would your promise be?

Teija Lahti-Nuutila
Director, energy and environment industries

Photo: Susanna Lehto


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