people hiking in tall grass
 Finland is on its way to fulfilling the sustainability development goals. Image: Fotolia
Country rankings

Finland leads sustainability efforts in European index

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) have ranked Finland at the top of the Europe Sustainable Development Report 2020.

Samuli Ojala


The report was published for the second time to monitor the progress of European states in their actions toward the sustainable development goals agreed at the United Nations in 2015. Finland climbed two spots from 2019 to first with a score of 81.1, just ahead of Sweden (81.0) and Denmark (80.1). The average score for European Union member states was 70.1.

“[At] the heart of Agenda2030 and the sustainable development goals is the ‘leave no-one behind’ principle,” commented Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change of Finland.

“This principle goes perfectly together with the Nordic welfare thinking that is a central element in the Finnish society. It’s also important that our whole society is committed to achieving sustainable development goals and [the] implementation is done in strong co-operation with citizens, NGOs, the private sector and the government.”

Finnish minister looking across lake in green coat

Krista Mikkonen is working to ensure a green recovery after the pandemic. Image: Eeva Anundi

According to the report, Finland has achieved seven of the 17 SDGs, which include affordable and clean energy, reduced inequalities and clean water and sanitation. Work remains to be done on climate action and responsible consumption and production.

“[W]e are now paying special attention to ecologically sustainable development. Our government has set a clear target that Finland will be carbon neutral by 2035 and we will stop the loss of biodiversity,” continued Mikkonen.

Global momentum

With the Chinese pledge to go carbon neutral by 2060, the promise of the incoming Biden administration to return the US to the Paris Agreement and the EU’s Green Deal initiative, global momentum for meaningful climate action is emerging. The report calls for a post-COVID-19 recovery centred on “transformative public investments that support green infrastructure, digitisation and responsible consumption and production”.

“Political attention rightfully remains in many European countries geared towards responding to the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” told Guillaume Lafortune, director of SDSN Paris. “Yet, recent good news on vaccines’ developments make recovery in 2021 increasingly likely. This report shows how the SDGs provide a roadmap for a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”

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