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Environmental awareness of Finns slow in moving from words to action

A recent survey commissioned by Sitra reveals that the majority of Finns consider it important to act in a way that helps to conserve the environment, even if just to show an example. However, the environmental awareness of people is still slow in moving from words to action.


Lilli Poussa

Specialist, Foresight


We should act for the environment, even if the others are not doing the same. This is the view expressed by more than one half of those who responded to Sitra’s recent Resource-wise citizen survey. In addition, 72 per cent found that acting in a way that helps conserve the environment is important even if just to show an example. The survey examining the attitudes and actions of Finns regarding sustainable consumption and choices is based on the responses of 2,000 people. The material was gathered in April by Kantar TNS.

“It is positive news that Finnish people value taking good care of nature and there is an emphasis on the responsibility of the individual,” says Senior Lead Anu Mänty from Sitra. Mänty and her colleague, Leading Specialist Lari Rajantie, work in Sitra’s Resource-wise citizen focus area, whose aim is to inspire Finns to make sustainable choices in their daily life.

In Finland, 68 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to consumption by households. According to the survey, however, slightly under one half of the respondents say they strive to make responsible choices in their daily life. For example, 65 per cent consider reducing the amount of waste through the choice of products important, but only fewer than one half say they actually do so. Similarly, fewer than one half of the respondents consider it important to favour products that have been granted an environmental certificate, but only one third choose them in reality.

“The results show that people are highly aware of the issues related to the environment and ecological sustainability, but attitudes and values move slowly from words to action,” says Rajantie.

According to Rajantie, taking care of nature is important for people, but they often associate it with scarcity, sacrificing and having to give up things. When we make our everyday choices, we are more likely to be attracted by ease, health aspects, novelty, social contacts or saving money.

“In order for people to change the choices they make or the way they behave, the environmentally friendly alternative must be better and more attractive. There is a need for new, ecologically more sustainable services and products,” says Rajantie.

No breakthrough of sharing economy yet

A growing phenomenon across the world is the sharing economy, which focuses on the opportunity to use instead of own. In the light of the survey, however, it seems that the new sharing economy has not made a breakthrough in Finland yet – at least not at the level of action. Only 15 per cent of the respondents say they have begun to lend things to others more, while at the same time more than one half do not frequently borrow or hire things instead of owning them.

“Although the growth of the sharing economy is based largely on services operating online, the social investment made by people themselves is still more important. This means that if people are not interested in sharing and do not see any direct benefits from it, buying new things is not likely to decline,” says Mänty.

According to her, people are interested in sharing things and services, but more services that are affordable, attractive and safe are required to solve the consumer’s everyday needs.

Few people want to reduce flying away for a holiday, but more are interested in green energy at their summer houses

Flying has a big impact on the greenhouse gases caused by an individual person when travelling. However, few of us think about environmental aspects when we plan our holidays: only one fifth of the respondents say they take into consideration the environmental effects when planning their holidays.

More than one quarter of the participants own or co-own a holiday house. Almost half of them would be prepared to modify it to produce renewable energy for their own use. Respondents aged between 18 and 55 would be the keenest to do this.

Based on the analysis made of the material of the survey, it seems that there is a strong connection between respondents’ satisfaction with their own life and a sustainable lifestyle, but we do not know the direction of this cause and effect relationship.

“Satisfaction may result in a sustainable lifestyle or a sustainable lifestyle may result in increased satisfaction. However, it seems that happiness increases when people invest in intangible things,” Mänty explains.

In the autumn, Sitra will publish a wider report based on this survey on how strong the connection between a sustainable lifestyle and happiness is in the daily life of Finnish people.

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