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New expert panel on sustainable development brings a scientific perspective to politics


Sitra is to roll out a new method for deploying the Social Contract for Sustainability over the course of two years. Seeing as it comprises quite a few big names, the expert panel may use some strong words, if necessary.

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra will test a new approach for deploying ecological sustainability in Finnish politics. Sitra will establish an expert panel alongside the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development. This panel will be tasked with preparing, challenging and evaluating the Commission’s work and political decision-making.

“The problem in Finland is that sustainable development is perceived as a macro-level phrase, and we are missing the skills to translate it into everyday activities and use it as an opportunity for growth,” says the facilitator of the expert panel’s activities, Sitra director Jukka Noponen.

The expert panel hosted by Sitra is a two-year experiment through which the voices of academic, internationally renowned experts can be better heard and made to influence practical politics.

“Ecological, economic and social sustainability are crucial parts of Sitra’s work, and establishing this expert panel is one of Sitra’s ways for practically deploying sustainable development and promoting it in Finnish politics,” Noponen says.

The sustainable development expert panel comprises Heikki Hiilamo, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Helsinki; Professor Eeva Furman, director of the Finnish Environment Institute’s Environmental Policy Centre; Associate Professor Jaakko Kiander, Senior Vice President of Finance and Pension Policy at Ilmarinen; Eva Heiskanen, a research professor at the National Consumer Research Centre; Juho Saari, Professor of Welfare Sociology at the University of Eastern Finland; and Janne Hukkinen, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Helsinki.

“Countries such as Germany have had positive expreriences with using expert panels to assist with decision-making. It is great that we can shift into a new gear in Finnish sustainability work with our own expert panel. Expectations for the panel are running high,” says Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen, chair of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development. 

The objective of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development is to promote the implementation of the recently accepted Social Contract for Sustainability. Moreover, the Commission aims, together with parliamentary committees, to enhance discussion regarding the direction of national sustainable-development policy, while also supporting its closer integration with UN, EU and regional sustainable-development processes.

“The key difference as compared to previous practices is that now there is a concerted effort to translate sustainable-development principles on carbon neutrality, global responsibility and consideration of the environment’s carrying capacity into practice. The expert panel may have a round-table discussion on any sustainability-related matter, challenging politicians to spring into action. Regarding issues that have been prominent as of late – such as increasing coal use in Finland or healthcare-related inequality – could spark some discussion,” Noponen says.

The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development’s expert panel will convene in February or March for the first time.

Also read this Ministry of the Environment release: “Finland accepts Social Contract for Sustainability extending to 2050” (in Finnish).

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