Insights from focus groups in Uusikaupunki and Kemiönsaari, Southwest Finland

“More local talk about sustainability, please!” In Southwest Finland We make transition! brought actors together to discuss youth perspectives in sustainability, sustainable work and entrepreneurship, biodiversity, and sustainable consumption in the city of Uusikaupunki and in small municipality of Kemitoön.

The key message from the discussion on youth and sustainability was that sustainability work shouldn’t bring more anxiety to youngsters. Adults must bear the responsibility, and all youth should have spaces to ask about sustainability.

When discussing sustainable work and entrepreneurship in Kimitoön we learned that in the archipelago most livelihoods come from seasonal small business. Self-entrepreneurs often have little time for integrating sustainability to their work. Yet the social sustainability side of work looks great: all youth have summer jobs and many entrepreneurs have employed refugees. There are also great possibilities in their close-knit community:

Here in the archipelago people used to know how to get by with small resources, live frugally, share resources and work together. We need this knowledge back and we must utilize the benefits of our close-knit community. If we come together to innovate, we can be forerunners!

/A project worker on sustainable food production/

Biodiversity in Uusikaupunki raised thoughts on recreational areas and forests. The needs of biodiversity are not always known amongst the citizens. The discussion also revealed a systemic connection between energy production and biodiversity – a connection that we will surely come back to in our transition arenas!

The challenge of reaching a sustainable level of consumption felt overwhelming. We’re battling global phenomena of online shopping, fast fashion, and economies of scale – that is, surviving in the market is easier for companies with big production lines, whereas small local production is rarely financially possible.

Our market economy is functioning to the opposite direction from cutting consumption levels and consuming more sustainable products. This culture must change.

/Sustainability coordinator in a rural development NGO/

Yet there is potential in local associations who already support sustainability, often without naming their actions as such. The WMT! project will have an important task in bringing this potential to light.

The most important message we learned was that people want spaces to discuss sustainability issues in a facilitated and proactive way and to be a part of local sustainability work. The participants also voiced the importance of getting a broad variety of actors onboard in the discussions:

We can’t afford to leave some people or actors out, since these matters are everyone’s matters.

/Representative of an environmental association/

Through the discussions we gained understanding on how these topics are seen locally. The power of one’s own actions and setting an example as an individual is recognized well. Yet ideas on how to come together to make a bigger impact can only be formed through more discussion and encounters between actors. These local starting points are especially important for understanding the differences between cities and smaller municipalities, and to adjust the next activities of project accordingly.

In case of any questions don’t hesitate  to contact us:

Henna Salminen, Regional Council of Southwest Finland
e-mail: henna.salminen(at)