Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar

Viikki sustainability research seminar banner


Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) organize a joint research seminar focused on various sustainability themes. The monthly seminar will be held on the University of Helsinki Viikki campus, and it invites researchers and other interested guests to discuss and debate topical sustainability research. The events will be streamed online, and the link is published on the respective event page closer to date.

When: Mon 2.9.2019, at  9 -10, coffee served at 8.30

Where: Viikki, Kokoustamo, Room A4 (Street address: Latokartanonkaari 9)

Registration for coffee.

Streaming link

Chair: Raisa Mäkipää, Research Professor, LUKE

Susanne Suvanto, Research scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Forests at risk? Mapping the probability of forest damage to support disturbance-aware management decisions.

Eeva Primmer, Research Director, Professor, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Governing the Provision of Insurance Value From Ecosystems

Dr. Brent Matthies, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Univ. of Helsinki

Climate related risks, opportunities and impacts in forests


Susanne Suvanto: Forests at risk? Mapping the probability of forest damage to support disturbance-aware management decisions.

Increasing amount of forest disturbances in Europe during the last decades has caused financial losses and raised concerns about the persistence of the forest carbon sinks in the future. This, and the uncertainty about future changes in disturbance regimes, has highlighted the need to improve the consideration of disturbances in forest management. In order to effectively reduce the vulnerability of forests to disturbances, reliable information about the risks is needed to support management decisions. Here, I will present results from our recent studies of producing high-resolution spatial information about forest sensitivity to disturbances in Finland.  This type of information has potential to steer forest management practices to a more disturbance-aware direction by providing information that can be used to support management decisions and to communicate disturbance risks to forest owners.


Eeva Primmer: Governing the Provision of Insurance Value From Ecosystems

Insurance value is a public good jointly produced with provisioning ecosystem services. As existing institutions do not lead to optimal provision of insurance value, new governance models are needed. This implies recognizing the rights and responsibilities of providers and beneficiaries, trade-offs in ecosystem service provision, transaction costs and spatial constellations. This presentation illustrates insurance value governance with flood and pest risk examples.


Dr. Brent Matthies: Climate related risks, opportunities and impacts in forests

The Financial Stability Board's Task-force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) highlights the importance of identifying and reporting on transition and physical climate-related risks in the  finance sector. Recent research has identified real assets, such as forest and agriland, as investable assets where material risks from climate change may have significant impacts on underwritten valuations. We will introduce how forest and agriland valuations are influenced by climate-related risks, and highlight linkages between climate-related land-use risks and the finance sector.

When: Mon 21.10.2019 at 15-16.30

Where: Viikki, lecture room 104 (Street address: Latokartanonkaari 7)

Streaming link

Registration for coffee

Chair: Dr. Laura Uusitalo, Leading researcher, Programme for Environmental Information, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Dr. Antti Iho, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Efficient allocation of nutrient abatement between and within source types 

Excessive loading of phosphorus (P) is accelerating eutrophication of surface waters. Mass blooms of harmful algae deteriorate the value of freshwater lakes and important sea areas such as Lake Erie, the Baltic Sea and the Chesapeake Bay. Due to comprehensive adoption of effective abatement technologies in point sources, agricultural non-point pollution is the most important remaining external source of total P, and erosion the most important media of total P loading. Indeed, emphasizing the need to intensify agricultural abatement efforts and erosion control in particular are the main guidelines in any water protection programs in developed countries.

However, using a metric correlating more strongly with eutrophication might shift the focus of efficient water protection in three ways. First, it might put more emphasis on point-source abatement. Second, it might put more emphasis on agri-environmental measures that do not increase the loading of dissolved P. Third, it might put more pressure on the scope of agriculture, i.e. shift the focus from intensive to extensive margin.

We examine the usefulness and practical limitations of defining and adopting a specific P metric, PO4-equivalent. Similar to CO2-equivalent used as in reference to greenhouse gas emissions, it defines the weights for the main P fractions according to their contributions to eutrophication in water bodies that are P limited. We present results from a stylized optimization model and reflect these to real world examples.

Antti Iho is a senior researcher at the Natural Resources institute Finland, Luke. He has analyzed the efficiency of agri-environmental water protection and instruments to achieve it.


Ass. prof. Niko Soininen, Faculty of Law / HELSUS, University of Helsinki

Systemic incongruence of EU-Finnish water law: death by thousand cuts?

The EU Water Framework Directive is a remarkable regulatory achievement. In 2000, it established an ambitious and detailed framework for monitoring, planning and acting towards Good Ecological Status (GES) of surface waters in the EU by 2015. The directive was informed by the latest scientific insights on the functioning of natural and human systems. Considering complexity and uncertainty in natural systems, it established an iterative River Basin Management Planning system which would, at least in principle, always be informed by the latest science. Considering uncertainty in social systems, it left discretion for the member states to coin measures suitable to and acceptable in their differing circumstances. Yet, almost 20 years after the directive’s inception, roughly 40 % of rivers, lakes and transitional and coastal waters in the EU are in good ecological status or potential. In Finland these numbers are somewhat more flattering, roughly 68 % of rivers, and 87 % of lakes are in good or excellent status or potential. This notwithstanding, most of Finnish coastal waters are in moderate or poor status. After almost 20 years of effort, why are we not there yet?

Considering Finland, it may well be that the impact of climate change, increased precipitation and runoff, as well as internal pressures trump any meaningful efforts to reach GES. But there are also several legal reasons for this failure. First, the Finnish water legislation did not establish the goals of the directive as legally binding before 2015, and even now they are only binding by court rulings, thus eliminating a sense of urgency in dealing with water sustainability challenges. This lack of urgency has been further diminished by the directive’s exemption system, which allows member states to push the achievement of GES to 2027, and with WFD revision, perhaps beyond that. Second, the directive is highly complex, and several legal uncertainties remain especially with regard to what the Good Ecological Status/Potential requires. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the directive fails due to ill-designed legal systemic boundaries in Finnish law. Both the Environmental Protection Act and the Water Act were designed to tackle local and immediate negative human impact on waters (e.g. a single industrial operation or hydropower dam), not complex cumulative problems posing the ‘death by thousand cuts’ challenge. These design flaws range from spatial and sectoral to temporal and scientific boundaries in law that need tackling before true progress towards the Good Ecological Status can take place.


Dr. Mika Marttunen, Head of Water Management and Governance Unit, Finnish Environment Institute

Structured decision making and sustainable water management

The ability of both public organizations and companies to make environmental decisions to balance different aspects of sustainability is increasingly important in modern societies. Making these decisions requires overall understanding of the ecological, economic, and social systems as well as relationships within and among them. Such understanding can only be built through a dialogue between planners, scientists, stakeholders, and policy makers. Hence, there is a growing demand for methods that can facilitate interaction between relevant actors and support the structuring and analysis of environmental decision problems. Structured Decision Making or SDM, is an organized approach to identifying and evaluating creative options and making choices in complex decision situations. In SDM, both qualitative and quantitative models are applied.

The first stage in any decision process is the understanding of the broader context and characteristics of the problem. This includes the identification of stakeholders and their interests, concerns and hopes. During this diverging or opening-up phase a comprehensive representation of the problem is developed which may be presented, for example, in the form of a cognitive or causal map, a means end network or an objectives hierarchy. In the following converging or closing-down stage, key objectives are identified and in-depth evaluation of alternatives is carried out. In this stage, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) can be a powerful tool.  It enables the systematic and comprehensive evaluation of alternatives from economic, social and ecological perspectives.  Priority values to alternatives can be calculated by combining research results, expert judgments and preferences of decision-makers/stakeholders. MCDA also helps to identify key trade-offs and issues of agreement and disagreement.

In Freshwater Centre, SDM methods and MCDA have been applied in a large number of projects since the beginning of 1990s. These projects include e.g. water course regulation, river and lake restoration, river basin management planning and land use planning. In these projects, MCDA has facilitated discussions among multiple stakeholders, supported social learning in the projects’ working groups and produced a high quality material for informed decision-making. In this respect, it has played an important role in our aim to manage Finnish waters in a more sustainable manner.


When: Wed 27.11.2019 at 15-16.30

Where: Viikki, Kokoustamo, Room A2 (Street address: Latokartanonkaari 9)

Chair: Anne Toppinen, Professor, Director of HELSUS, University of Helsinki

Streaming link will be published here.


Jussi Eronen, Assoc. Prof, Faculty of Biological and Env. Sciences /HELSUS, Univ. of Helsinki

Presentation topic to be confirmed

Johanna Korhonen, Development manager, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Presentation topic to be confirmed

Hannu Fritze Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Presentation topic to be confirmed

When: Wed 11.12.2019, klo 15-16.30

Where: Viikki, Kokoustamo, A2 (Street address Latokartanonkaari 9)

Chair: TBC


Annukka Vainio Assoc. prof., Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and HELSUS, Univ. of Helsinki /LUKE

Subject: TBC

Helena Dahlbo Senior Research Scientist, SYKE

Subject: Textiles in circular economy

3rd speaker: TBC

Presentation abstracts

Textiles in circular economy, presenter Helena Dahlbo, SYKE

The textile and fashion industry is one of the most polluting industrial sectors globally and has high environmental impacts on water, soil, and even air through carbon emissions. The current problems have been caused by the rise of fast fashion, which is a successful business model and offers consumers frequently new fashion and low prices. However, it has resulted in faster material throughput in the system, as increasing volumes of garments are produced and bought but used less and discarded rapidly, and new items are bought without meaningful consideration. This results in overconsumption and generation of excessive textile waste.

The recently started research project Finix – Sustainable textile systems wants to tackle the challenges of the current unsustainable textile system by investigating and co-creating a more responsible, resource-wise textile system. A sustainable textile system would produce textiles from waste based fibres, such as textile waste and agriwaste. The business would be grounded on circular economy service models such as sharing, leasing and repairing. Digital technologies would be used for tracing, sorting and separating different textile fibres in order to improve the preconditions for textile recycling into new clothing. New policy instruments such as extended producer responsibility could be in use in order make the textile industry responsible for their production and its impacts. While developing the textile system, we need to provide sustainability assessments on environmental, economic and social impacts in order to assure that changes are to the right direction and not shifting the negative impacts from one part of the value chain to another.  

16th May 9-10 in Viikki (La­tokartan­onkaari 7 – Forest build­ing) lec­ture room B7

Theme: Circular economy


8.30 Coffee
9-10.00 Seminar

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  • Postdoc researcher Dalia D’Amato, University of Helsinki: The circular economy and its role in a broader sustainability landscape

  • Senior Research Scientist David Lazarevic, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE): Policies and tools for navigating the circular economy

  • Research Professor Katja Lähtinen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke): Circularity as an opportunity for multi-dimensionally sustainable production and consumption


Postdoc researcher Dalia D’Amato, University of Helsinki: The circular economy and its role in a broader sustainability landscape

The circular economy advocates that environmental issues such as the excessive use of natural resources and pollution can be tackled by minimizing the inputs and outputs in the production and consumption of goods and services. In particular, technological solutions are deployed to improve material and energy performance of production processes and product usage, guarantee longevity of products, reuse and recycle energy and materials within the same industrial process or across industries, and eventually appropriately dispose of waste. This traditional understanding of the circular economy is supported at political level and largely adopted across industries and companies globally.

However, some researchers have pointed out limitations to the circular economy, which lacks a holistic vision of the three sustainability dimensions. For instance, it does not address land use issues (biodiversity and related ecological processes), and it does not prescribe limits to how much resources we can consume as a society or how resources should be equally distributed across people and generations.

When placing the circular economy in a broader sustainability landscape, relevant ‘sibling’ sustainability concepts can help address some of the limitations identified for the circular economy. For instance, there seem to be a convergence, in policy making and research, between the concepts of circular and bioeconomy. Circular bioeconomy is, for example, the focus of the 2018 update of the European Bioeconomy strategy, advocating that circularity principles (efficiency, longevity, recycling) should also be applied to the use of biomass-based resources.

Dalia D’Amato works as a postdoc researcher at the University of Helsinki and is a member of HELSUS. Research interests include a comparative understanding of the green, circular and bioeconomy concepts, and their integration and harmonization to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in a perspective of strong sustainability.

Senior Research Scientist David Lazarevic, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE): Policies and tools for navigating the circular economy

The transition from the current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economic model to more circular systems of production and consumption requires fundamental changes in technologies, markets, user-practices and institutions. Although the circular economy is a broad—and still rather ill-defined—concept, its advocates have set high expectations in terms of increased resource efficiency, economic growth and job creation, and reduced environmental impact. Yet, the ambitions for the circular economy differ greatly, in terms of the dimensions and scale of change. Which circular economy(s) are we willing to make the transition toward, and on what terms?

New policies are needed to support the development of new technologies, markets and business models. Narratives around policy instruments for the circular economy are made to serve power and authority. Hence, there needs to be space for discussion in CE debates to think about other modes of production and consumption which offer some promise to new collaborative modes of governance. Furthermore, destruction—the Schumpeterian flipside of innovation—needs to be acknowledged in policy mixes. There is a need for renewal/withdrawal of existing policies and policy paradigms that support the linear economy. The key questions are, what types of policy mixes are required and how might they be governed?

David Lazarevic is a Senior Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute. His research interests are centred on the legitimacy of processes in social coordination, the economisation of material (re)arrangements, the processes of socio-technical change toward more sustainable energy and material flows, and policy analysis applied to the transition to a circular bioeconomy.

2 April 2019, at 9-10.00, Viikki (Latokartanonkaari 7 – Forest building) lecture room B3

Theme: Social sustainability and legitimacy


8.30 Coffee
9-10.00 Seminar

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  • University lecturer Simo Kyllönen, University of Helsinki: Sustainability and challenges of intergenerational justice
  • Senior specialist Mila Sell, Luke: The gender gap in African agriculture and how to bridge it
  • Senior researcher Salla Rantala, SYKE: Equity and legitimacy of policies for open natural resource data


University lecturer Simo Kyllönen, University of Helsinki: Sustainability and challenges of intergenerational justice

Sustainability as a long-term issue invites us to think it in terms of justice between generations. Famously concepts, such sustainable development, have been defined by referring to a notion of intergenerational justice: the needs of the present generation should be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Still, the idea of intergenerational justice is contested and philosophically challenged, since it seems to evade some of our core ideas and concepts of justice. For instance, most of our existing concepts of justice require at least a hypothetical kind of reciprocity between the “members” of justice. Typically it is also though that when someone does injustice, she does it to some particular person(s). But in the relation between present and future people there seems be no reciprocity at all. Rather the relation is radically asymmetric one, in which future generations are entirely dependent on the goodwill of the earlier ones. Indeed, the future people are dependent on earlier ones for their sheer existence. The earlier people have also power to affect who particular persons in the future will come to exist. In this presentation, I will give an overview about the challenges of intergenerational justice and suggest a plausible way to address them. My suggestion defends a so-called sufficientarian idea of justice, according to which, the main idea of justice is neither to maximise the aggregate (intergenerational) wellbeing nor to equalise it, but rather to guarantee that people now and in the future have enough what they ought to have for a decent life. Finally it is argued that as far as sustainability invites any concept of intergenerational justice, the sufficientarian one is the most defensible.

Senior specialist Mila Sell, Luke: The gender gap in African agriculture and how to bridge it

African agriculture is far from being as productive as it could, causing negative effects both for the environment and for food security and wellbeing of people. An important reason for this is the gender gap between men and women in agriculture. The gender gap relates to access and ownership of resources, including land and inputs, but also access to human capital, education, extension services, technology, credit and markets. This has a significant impact on women’s productivity and efficiency - the FAO has estimated that given equal access, women could potentially produce 30% more. Lack of gender equality also has major consequences for wider developmental targets and hampers the prospect of reaching the SDGs. Finding solutions will require a participatory, systems level approach, collecting gender disaggregated data, analyzing the trends and underlying reasons for the gaps, and strengthening women’s agency and empowerment, both at individual and structural levels.

Senior researcher Salla Rantala, SYKE: Equity and legitimacy of policies for open natural resource data

Policy processes to open public digital data and information on natural resources are driven by expectations of increased effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of management, and more rapid development of new innovations. While technological readiness to open natural resource data is developed, attention to governance issues sometimes lags behind. This talk addresses the questions of equity and legitimacy of open data policies, and how social science research can inform the development of open data policies in the context of natural resource governance.

27 March, Viikki (La­tokartanonkaari 9): Kokoustamo meeting space, Room A4

Theme: Sustainable food

This second event of the Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar series is on sustainable food - on the ways in which we can observe and promote transition to sustainable diets, on what knowledge can individuals base their decisions, and what we can actually know about some new exciting sources of nutrition.

The event is chaired by Eeva Primmer, Research Director at the Finnish Environment Institute.

For the pre-seminar coffee please register here:


  • Dr. Minna Kaljonen, Finnish Environment Institute, SYKE: What can Finnish school food teach us about sustainability transition?
  • Prof. Xavier Irz, Natural Resources Institute Finland, LUKE: Promoting Climate-Friendly Diets: What Should We Tell Consumers in Denmark, Finland and France?
  • Helena Pastell, Finnish Food Authority: What are Little Crickets Made of?

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Presentation abstracts

Minna Kaljonen, Syke: What can Finnish school meals teach us about sustainability transition?

Research evidence on climate and health impacts of the present food system functioning calls for far- reaching transformations to our food systems. The evidence calls not only for more sustainable and resource-efficient production methods, but also for dietary changes and tackling of food waste. In particular, the central role of meat in western diets requires critical scrutiny both from the point of view of environment and health. In Finland, the free, inclusive school meal system has been in a key role in promoting the healthy eating of Finns for long. Now the public food services have taken a lead role in the dietary shift as well, by making vegetarian food and plant-based alternatives accessible to all.  In my presentation I introduce results from our school food experiments, where we tested the promotion of plant-based eating at schools together with food services, teachers and pupils. I discuss what the experiments taught us about sustainable eating and the potentials of dietary shift in food system transition.

Minna Kaljonen works as a Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). In her research she has focused on sustainable food system transition and its governance. Her latest research has investigated the potential of sustainable diets in altering the food system functioning. She has explored, for example, the changing role of public food services in sustainable and healthy eating ( Her research interest is in practices, but also in developing methodologies that allow their re-evaluation and renewal. In this respect, she wants to develop research and its methodologies as an active contributor to the sustainability transition.

Other abstracts will be included soon!


11 February 2019, at 14.30-17, Viikki (Latokartanon-
kaari 7 – Forest building) lecture room B1


14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-16.00 Key note session
Prof. Anne Toppinen (HELSUS): Opening
Prof. Raisa Mäkipää (Luke): Sustainable Development Goals and Land Management Practices
Prof., director Eeva Furman (SYKE): Insights to Global Sustainable Development and the Role of Research
Questions and comments

16.00-17.00 New opportunities for collaboration in sustainability research
Panel discussion with researchers from Viikki campus research institutions:

  • Eeva Primmer, Research Director (SYKE)
  • Antti Iho, Senior Scientist (Luke)
  • Prof. Bodo Steiner (UH)
  • Inari Helle, Postdoctoral researcher (UH)

Chair: Prof. Anne Toppinen (HELSUS)

For the pre-seminar joint coffee break we kindly ask you to register your participation in the event by Feb 6th:

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Key note abstracts

Prof. Raisa Mäkipää (Natural Resources institute Finland (Luke)): Sustainable Development Goals and Land Management Practices

Sustainable Development Goal 15 consider life on land – it sets a global target to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. Forests cover 30.7 per cent of the Earth’s surface and, in addition to providing food security and shelter, they are key to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. At the current time, thirteen million hectares of forests are being lost every year. The loss and degradation of forests is not only global concern. In Finland, conversion of forests to agricultural land continues and has increased annual greenhouse emissions by 1 Mt CO2 eq during last decade. Furthermore, degradation of peatlands is accelerated by current forest and cropland management practices and maintenance of ditch network. What solutions research can provide for sustainable land management? In my presentation, I will introduce some burning problems in the land management and give examples of research that is aiming to provide solutions on sustainable management practices.

Prof. Eeva Furman (SYKE, Director of Environmental Policy Centre): Insights to Global Sustainable Development and the Role of Research

The world is struggling with challenges that hinder a safe and just life on earth. Although the challenges are technically possible to deal one by one, a holistic and long term progress requires an integrated approach. For this purpose, the member states of the UN in 2015 committed to a political document, the Agenda2030, a vision of humanity in the Antropocene. The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the Agenda are now in the hands of all actors of societies in the world, from global to local level, to implement the Agenda2030 towards concrete change. In this implementation process of the SDGs, pathways towards major societal transformations are needed. What are the keys to change towards sustainable development? How could research contribute to the implementation of the Agenda2030? In my talk, I will take the audience through draft messages from the forthcoming report to the UN by 15 international scientists (GSDR2019).