Sustainability research in spotlight - Corporate Investments from Finland to Uruguay

From Uruguay, Finland sometimes seems like a superpower because Finnish forest companies have made the biggest investments in the history of the Republic of Uruguay, says Teivo Teivainen, HELSUS member and Professor of World Politics from the Faculty of Social Sciences. His research focuses on multiple dimensions of the investments.

Investments done by the Finnish forest companies are targeted to grow eucalyptus and produce pulp in Uruguay. The impact on Uruguay's society, culture, politics, and economic life is huge. Teivainen is fascinated by the dimensions of the investment debate and how it is inserted in very heated ground locally, nationally and internationally. Questions are related to sustainability but also with topics such as legitimacy and sovereignty, claims about colonial relationship, and impact on national culture.   

Sustainability questions are tangled together with questions of legitimacy and sovereignty. Teivainen describes that the relationship between the country and the company that has made the investments is interesting when the country agrees to give up some parts of its sovereignty. What that means for sustainability is that after such investments, Uruguay may sometimes have to adjust its processes to serve the companies’ interests. That creates situations where future decisions about possible sustainability transitions might be left undone because of fear of companies suing the country for breaking the investment protection rules. Teivainen notes that therefore some part of the responsibility of the sustainability transition is left to the companies, and they can define it in a way they see it valuable for the investments.  

While being aware of these limitations for sustainability transitions, it is also essential to note that the country in question is independent and has made a sovereign decision to accept the investments and their conditions. More generally, when analyzing north-south relationships, it is important to problematize the typical stereotypes that we usually have towards Latin America and try not to infantilize the country that is the target of the investments, says Teivainen. 


Sustainability Research in Spot­light – new video series!

Sustainability Research in Spotlight video series aims at opening up what sustainability research can be about. Sustainability science is inter- and transdisciplinary field of research covering a variety of research topics, approaches, and theories. The new HELSUS video series gives a voice to sustainability scientists and different perspectives of sustainability. We start with eight videos in which HELSUS members introduce their valuable research. In the following weeks, we will introduce one researcher and research per week. We hope that these videos enlighten your autumn and give food for thought!