"With my donation, I wish to build a more nature-oriented society where environmental protection is based on scientific research"

Our consumption-oriented lifestyle must be transformed into more sustainable choices, says Doctor of Laws and University of Helsinki alum Heidi Andersson. Andersson, who identifies as a conservationist, donated a considerable sum to the establishment of a professorship in sustainability law in the Faculty of Law.

Our consumption-oriented lifestyle is in dire need of a turn to a more sustainable direction, says Doctor of Laws and University of Helsinki alum Heidi Andersson. She is concerned about climate change and the loss of biodiversity. 

Andersson is one of the people with whom concern about an issue leads to action for important causes. In February 2024 Andersson, who has donated funds to the University of Helsinki before, made a significant donation to the Faculty of Law supporting the establishment of a five-year professorship in sustainability law. 

The professorship focuses on environmental and corporate law and examines in particular regulation in the light of corporate sustainability and responsibility criteria. The professorship is not just about assessment and interpretation of legislation. Its research focus areas also include corporate self-regulation, the realisation of corporate social responsibility through agreements within supply chains and the taxonomy of sustainable finance. 

In any case, according to Andersson, the key is maintaining a high level of environmental protection through regulation in business operations.

Sustainability law fascinates Andersson as a new field of law. It brings together perspectives from various fields and, for example, considers where environmental protection is needed and how it can be promoted. 

The point of departure is the opposite to the old idea of nature as an inexhaustible source of resources. This new perspective is urgently needed, since the limits of growth have been reached. 

- Human and market activities are becoming increasingly unsustainable from the perspective of the environment. My wish is that research in sustainability law will help us solve environmental problems and tackle related threats. Human laws can function only within the framework of the laws of nature, since humans are part of the nature.

Andersson used to have her own law firm. She graduated from the University of Helsinki with a master’s degree in social sciences and a doctoral degree in law. The subject of Andersson’s doctoral thesis was water law. She is currently serving on WWF Finland’s Board of Directors.

Sustainable choices are for everyone

Andersson freely admits to being a conservationist.

- It is important to me to respect nature and not just exploit it. I’m concerned about environmental change, climate change, biodiversity loss and overconsumption.

In Andersson’s opinion, these are also key aspects in responsible and sustainable business operations.

In Andersson’s words, she grew up in a bourgeois household where there was not much talk of nature conservation. She experienced an environmental awakening in the 1980s, when an old school friend persuaded her to join the Helsinki nature conservation association.

The struggle on behalf of nature remains unfortunately necessary – maybe even more than ever before. 

- It may sound like I’m full of pathos but in my opinion the promotion of sustainable development is everyone’s responsibility. By my donation, I wish to show that even an individual person can do something.

If a large group of people reduce their consumption, their choices will have a larger impact. For climate reasons, Andersson has reduced air travel, car use and buying of goods. She stresses that companies too can voluntarily reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Andersson has donated large sums to the University of Helsinki’s Baltic Sea research conducted in Tvärminne and to research conducted at Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science.

- Donating has made me feel good, even though it sounds cliché. I don’t need publicity or praise, I would find that inauthentic. But I can honestly say that since I have the financial means to donate, I want to also take this opportunity to work for the common good.

The thirst for knowledge began at the University

Andersson applied to the University of Helsinki initially to study French. Later, she transferred to the Faculty of Social Sciences and completed her master’s degree there. Next up were law studies.

- I have to admit they felt pretty tough. There was a lot to read. But the studies also gave a lot, in particular in terms of understanding about how to protect nature and the environment within society and how to challenge environmental grievances. I also became increasingly interested in animal rights through my studies.

For Andersson, the most important lesson of her university studies was what an enormous importance knowledge has. Research-based knowledge helps individuals and societies form sustainable decisions.

- I learnt the importance of a constant thirst for knowledge. With my donation, I wish to be part of building a more nature-oriented society where environmental protection is based on scientific research.