Sustainability science seeks solutions for humankind’s main challenges

The Pathways to Sustainability Transformations event on 12 May 2017 brought the international top names in sustainability science to the University of Helsinki. The University of Helsinki announced its new Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS at the same event.

Rector Jukka Kola opened the proceedings and stated that the University of Helsinki is committed to sustainable development and its study.

 “It’s wonderful to have officially announced HELSUS to a large number of key international players in sustainability science along with members of the general public who are interested in sustainability issues,” says Research Coordinator Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki

HELSUS is founded on research in sustainability science, conducted by more than 100 research groups in different fields working in the University of Helsinki’s six faculties. The goal of sustainability science is to use cross-disciplinary research to increase understanding of the systemic nature of sustainability issues and to generate potential solutions.

“Sustainability science uses research to promote transformation towards a society which operates within the limits of the natural world and to enable equal welfare among current and future generations,” says Korhonen-Kurki.

The research themes of HELSUS include systems of consumption and bioproduction, Arctic and Global South studies, urban systems as well as the theories and methodologies of sustainability science.

One of the keynote speakers at the event was world-famous economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University in the United States, known for his work as a UN advisor in sustainability issues and his fight against poverty. In his speech, Sachs stressed the importance of peace and partnership in sustainable development, elevating these questions on a par with financial, ecological and social concerns.  President Tarja Halonen, a member of the leadership council of the Sustainable Development Solution Network, commented on Sachs’ speech, emphasising the significance of improving gender equality for sustainable development and of harnessing research to promote the common good.

The other keynote speaker, Professor Daniel Lang from Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, stressed a comprehensive approach to sustainability challenges, sustainability goals as well as a focus on the local and regional level. According to Lang, sustainability science provides the evidence,, synthesis, design and criticism for solving sustainability problems.

The third keynote speaker, Professor Beth Perry from the University of Sheffield, discussed the processes of co-producing  knowledge and encouraged the community to see researchers as the drivers of change. According to Perry, we live in an era of knowledge co-production, where citizens can participate in knowledge production as valuable contributors. Sustainability science is characterised by the close interaction between science and society in identifying and determining sustainability challenges as well as in producing possible solutions.

In the future, the University of Helsinki’s Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS will participate in solving society’s sustainability challenges through research and education.

“The goal is to provide new information on sustainability through research, experimentation, innovation platforms and best practices to help society and establish processes for the private and public sector as well as for non-governmental activities,” states Korhonen-Kurki.


More information:

Pathways to Sustainability Transformations website

Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS

Professor Jeffrey Sachs’ interview in Helsingin Sanomat