Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science was officially established in January 2018.

The establishment of Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science is a response to a call for the universities and research institutions to take a more significant responsibility in finding new pathways towards sustainability transformations. The Institute gathers together the core expertise from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with other universities and research institutes in the Helsinki area. It also includes non-academic stakeholders in order to contribute to sustainability transformations in society.

The complexity of and urgency to solve the global grand challenges, climate change, loss of biodiversity, poverty, and urbanization are broadly recognized. Consequently, there is a call for a transition or rather, a transformation in all spheres of life requiring changes in technologies, values, behavior and governance. There is a call for universities and research institutions to take action to manage these complex problems not only by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also by the European Council as well as many European and global research programmes such as the Global Sustainable Development Report 2015.