The Institute

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.

Of­fi­cially es­tab­lished in Janu­ary 2018, 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.

HELSUS is a joint action unit of nine faculties

HELSUS strategy


HELSUS is an interdisciplinary sustainability science community. As an internationally recognized centre it enables and empowers societies to transform towards sustainability.


to contribute to sustainability transformations of the societies by means of inter- and transdisciplinary research and education. This will be carried out by increasing understanding of conditions, limits and processes of sustainability transformations and by producing transformative knowledge for national and international policy decision-making, private sector and civil society.


  1. CONDUCT HIGH QUALITY scientific research in the field of sustainability science via new tenure tracks and inter- and transdisciplinary research programs
  2. DEVELOP METHODOLOGICAL AND THEORETICAL EXCELLENCE in Sustainability Science in collaboration with the experts at the University of Helsinki and national and international partners
  3. CO-PRODUCE SOLUTIONS and PATHWAYS TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY together with non-academic partners, policy makers and businesses – emergence of novel entrepreneurships
  4. EDUCATE A NEW GENERATION OF RESEARCHERS AND EXPERTS in Sustainability Science both in master’s and doctorate levels.
  5. PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS at the campus of University of Helsinki and in Helsinki district


HELSUS Director is a professor from the University of Helsinki and appointed by the rector. Docent Susanna Lehvävirta started as the Director of HELSUS January 2022.  The director is responsible for the development of the institute and enhancing the research and education in sustainability science in collaboration with stakeholders.

Susanna Lehvävirta’s background is in plant ecology, but during her career she has developed a more holistic understanding and a way of thinking, which is demonstrated in her research on a wide range of topics, including ecology, environmental aesthetics, user perspectives, recreational psychology, jurisprudential perspectives, life cycle analyses, economy, geography and philosophy. 

– To translate research results into practical solutions, multidisciplinary research approach is often needed. I’m as comfortable with theoretical and empirical thinking as I am with qualitative and quantitative methods. This of course doesn’t mean that I’m an expert with everything, but I try to combine things and raise questions that help to focus on the right things, Lehvävirta says. 

For Lehvävirta, it is also extremely important to translate scientific findings into solutions for the society and people’s everyday lives. 

Steering group and advisory board

Also responsible for the activities of HELSUS are the steering group and the advisory board. Steering group plans and decides about the plans on HELSUS activities and use of funds. The advisory board streamlines and plans the activities of HELSUS together with the steering group.

HELSUS Steering group will enhance the research, education and social interaction in the field of sustainability science at the University of Helsinki but also nationally and internationally. Steering group supports the director in leading the institute.

Fac­ulty of Ag­ri­cul­ture and Forestry

  • Member: Vice Dean Janna Pietikäinen
  • Deputy Member: Director of Ruralia Sami Kurki

Fac­ulty of Arts

  • Member: Professor José Filipe Pereira da Silva
  • Deputy Member: University Lecturer Rick Bonnie

Fac­ulty of Biological and Environ­mental Science

  • Member: Professor Atte Korhola
  • Deputy Member: Professor Sanna Ala-Mantila

Fac­ulty of Edu­ca­tional Sciences

  • Member: Professor Minna Autio
  • Deputy Member: Professor Sirpa Tani

Fac­ulty of Law

  • Member: Professor Juha Raitio
  • Deputy Member: Professor Dorothee Cambou

Fac­ulty of Pharmacy

  • Member: University Lecturer, Vice Dean Mia Siven
  • Deputy Member: Associate Professor Tiina Sikanen

Fac­ulty of Science

  • Member: Professor Pedro Camargo
  • Deputy Member: Professor Anna Lintunen

Fac­ulty of So­cial Sciences

  • Member: Senior University Lecturer Arho Toikka
  • Deputy Member: Professor Eva Heiskanen

Fac­ulty of Theology

  • Member: Dean Antti Räsänen
  • Deputy Member: Professor Auli Vähäkangas

HELSUS advisory board has both international scientific members and national members outside of academia and it streamlines and plans the activities of HELSUS together with the steering group.

Both boards are being reformed at the moment.

HELSUS Research coordinators are responsible for overall coordination of the research within HELSUS, developing new initiatives and launching new research projects. Educational coordinator is responsible of promoting, coordinating and conducting sustainability and environmental teaching both for degree students and for academic staff and self-motivated learners. They also contribute to the sustainability research within HELSUS, and the sustainability work done within the University. The coordinators work closely together with the HELSUS Director and are supported by a trainee.


Tino Johansson

Research coordinator


Tel: +358 294 157 910