Towards Realising SDGs in the University of Helsinki

Part of the Sustainable Development Goals Series book series (SDGS)


Universities, such as the University of Helsinki, are facing a growing trend to redefine their strategies and organisations along the lines of sustainability. However, the process of building the structures for sustainability research and education requires the breaking down of existing disciplinary silos. In this chapter, we analyse the new initiatives in research, education and governance, and management operations to which the University committed during 2015–2018 through the lens of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We also explore the factors that enable or hinder sustainability transition at a university. The results of the SDG mapping show that SDG 4 (Quality Education) is an overarching goal represented in all new initiatives within research, education and university management. SDG 17 (Partnerships) and SDG 3 (Health and Wellbeing) are also equally strongly emphasised. However, SDGs 1 (No Poverty), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality) are not considered, or if so, given little emphasis. Our analysis revealed that small niche innovations, tactical and operational activities at the grassroots level like networks, science activism and student awareness pushed for regime-level changes. However, the financial incentives and policy changes initiated on the regime level enabled the niche-level innovations to develop and led to strategic decisions providing a window of opportunity to initiate structural changes.


University transition Sustainability Organisational culture SDGs 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)HelsinkiFinland

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