Green Transition Needs a Holistic Approach and Multidisciplinarity

The concept of green economy is closely linked to research sector and its results; after all, the whole concept was born among environmental economists in the 1980s. The GRUDE project therefore also explored the research community’s views on the green transition and the opportunities it offers, as well as the relationship between research and the green transition. During the spring and summer of 2022, the GRUDE project interviewed two researchers from different fields to get a researcher’s perspective on the green transition: what is the role of research in the green transition and where do researchers see future’s green solutions.

The interviews made it clear that the green transition needs to take into account not only technological innovation but also people and society. While research is creating technological innovations that can accelerate the green transition and the business world is quick to embrace new ideas and technologies, social structures and attitudes are slow to change. Both interviewees stressed the importance of multidisciplinarity and the need to look at the big picture in the transition. Multidisciplinarity allows for a more holistic view, which is needed to make the transition genuinely greener, fairer and faster.

Energy policy at the heart of the green transition

Ulla Lassi, Professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Oulu, has seen a change in attitudes towards carbon dioxide in environmental matters throughout her career. Since her PhD research on exhaust catalysts in 2003, she has seen the change related to carbon dioxide during her career. When Lassi was still working on her PhD on catalytic converters, the overall aim was complete combustion, burning hydrocarbon components and carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. In the early 2000s, carbon dioxide was not seen as a problematic end product and carbon sequestration and carbon sinks were not discussed as they are today. The green transition has arrived and progressed quickly, says Lassi.

Basic research can focus on very small entities and get down to understanding the details. In the green transition, the big picture is often complex, and Lassi says that individual researchers could take a broader view of where their research fits in the bigger picture, and of the whole life cycle of what they are doing. According to Lassi, wider understanding is important to avoid creating difficulties in another area, such as biodiversity, when tackling new challenges of the green transition.

Ulla Lassi, Professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Oulu

Energy policy plays a key role in the green transition and Lassi stresses the importance of both energy and material balances when considering the environmental sustainability of new products. Looking at the bigger picture at the societal level, for example in terms of carbon emissions, it would be good to look globally, especially towards big companies, and support their efforts to find ways to reduce emissions. Lassi also wonders whether Finland, as an agricultural and sparsely populated country, should think more broadly about energy solutions for transport rather than just electric cars.

However, putting research-led innovations into practice often encounters challenges due to complex legislation and lengthy and slow authorisation processes. In addition to the slowness and complexity of the legislation, the lack of risk funding for green transition related research slows down the process. Timing is also important in translating research results into practice: innovations brought to market too early may not be understood.

For Lassi, research ideas come from her own previous research, in interaction with other researchers or directly from industry. In her research area, Lassi sees green opportunities in replacement of materials of the fossil economy, such as how to replace products from the petrochemical and plastics industries with products made from biomass, which materials could be used to replace fossil-based activated carbon filters, or how to use wood-based materials such as lignin in the battery industry.

Research knowledge will contribute to the acceptance of the green transition

Rauno Sairinen, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Eastern Finland, stresses that the green transition requires a joint effort from different actors in society. The green transition will affect many actors in society, and therefore fairness should be ensured. The benefits and drawbacks of the transition should be evenly distributed so that the changes are accepted. The transition to a carbon-neutral society that uses natural resources sustainably is understood to be necessary, yet some means, the transition to wind power, for example, is characterised by conflict. However, according to Sairinen, tensions between different sectors of society on sustainability transition issues have diminished over the last decade.

Sairinen emphasizes the importance of the science for the society; scientific knowledge must be brought to decision-makers to support decision-making, but also to the general public. Multidisciplinarity has become a more central approach in sustainability transition research and this is particularly emphasised in the knowledge needed to support decision-making. The way forward should be with solutions and knowledge. However, science based approach in decision making may distance citizens from the offered solutions. Experts should therefore be as open and communicative as possible, so that their reasoning and information on the solutions for the green transition become understandable to the general public. 

Rauno Sairinen, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Eastern Finland

Social sciences can help to find solutions to the problems of promoting the green transition, such as why some solutions are resisted, and thus find ways forward and create workable policies. Sairinen has been involved not only in putting research knowledge into practice through projects to train public sector actors, but also in bringing a social science perspective to the circular economy, such as how to assess social impacts.

In the sustainability transition, the role of researchers is not only to provide solutions, but also to train new experts in society who are needed to make the transition happen. Sairinen sees teaching becoming increasingly important in his research career. Diversity in study opportunities available will help to train new experts across disciplines. In addition to undergraduate degrees, there is a need for continuing education and virtual courses open to all.

As a social scientist, Sairinen knows that things develop slowly – and holds true for the green transition. People’s attitudes are challenging to change and politics depend on public acceptance. As a result, structures change slowly and lag the change that the economy is capable of. However, according to Sairinen, global crises can increase the agility to provide quick solutions at societal level. In addition, crisis awareness, and with it an understanding of the importance of self-sufficiency and survival at the local level, will increase the motivation of citizens to work towards a green transition. For both researchers and the general public, the key to the green transition is to see the importance of their own actions and to take an active role.

Blogtext by,
Johanna Leppälä, Senior Scientist, Finnish Natural Resources Institute

From Circular Economy Networks to Circular Economy Clusters – a Way Forward?

Circular economy, networks and good practices

When we wrote the GRUDE application back in the days, we already then realised that circularity and circular economy would play a major role in achieving the overall Sustainability Development Goals, as well as other parallel targets set up to reduce the effects of climate change. We understood that to succeed, both in delivering the message in an ‘easy-to-understand-and-accept’-format and in kicking off some relevant action, we would have to connect to a wide range of stakeholders and actors.

Saving the planet is not a spectator sport – it is not something that ‘someone else’ should be doing. We all share that responsibility. And now, some five years since the GRUDE application was developed by the joint partnership, this message is even more accurate – and in many ways, even more acute. The need for innovative, constructive cross-sector collaboration is vital, and inclusive networks addressing circularity and circular economy as their main priority is one way to manage the need.

And perhaps now is the time to be at least a bit bold. As we are just about to finalise the GRUDE project, we would really like to add ourselves to the list of good practices. We have been successful both in developing new circular economy networks and in connecting to many of those already existing, both in and between organisations and companies in Sweden, Finland and Norway.

The project has, through its transformative actions (proving high levels of innovation and resilience as many had to be transformed to digital and/ or hybrid actions and events due to the pandemic and existing regulations), promoted both capacity building, networking and collaboration possibilities. Even if the pandemic has been a challenge to most development projects, GRUDE has managed its double binding networking assignment; both at the partnership level and at the level of stakeholders and target groups.

Adding a new dimension to circular networking – the cluster approach

But seriously, is this it – or is there a way to walk the extra mile, to raise the stake? Can networks and networking be transformed to another level? Would it be possible to speed up the transition process to reach the next level of collaboration and co-innovation in circularity and circular economy by moving from a network to a cluster approach? And if so, what does it really mean? Let us first try to explain what clusters and clustering is about – and how it all started.

In 1998, in the November / December issue of the Harvard Business Review, one could read the now world-famous article Clusters and the New Economics of Competition. The article was written by Michael E. Porter, a professor at Harvard with a special interest in growth, business and business issues. In the article, he wonders why a certain development can take place in a certain area while the development in another area, with seemingly similar conditions, is not as successful. Porter himself answers the question by emphasizing the importance of the existence of clusters.

Under the heading ‘What is a cluster?’, Porter explains that clusters are ‘geographical concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions within a specific area’. Clusters include a number of linked companies, industries and other entities that are important to competition. They include, for example, suppliers of assets such as components, machinery and services, as well as suppliers of specialized infrastructure.

Clusters also often extend downstream to customers and sideways to manufacturers of complementary products and to companies in industries related to expertise, technology or joint ventures. Finally, many clusters include government and other institutions, such as universities, standardisation bodies, think tanks, vocational training providers and industry organisations, which provide specialist skills, education, information, research and technical support.

In the article, Porter lists a number of other ‘characteristics’ and advantages of clusters, not least those related to productivity, competitiveness and competence. At last, Porter reminds, however, that there is always competition – but in the case of clusters, competition goes hand in hand with cooperation. Porter’s models, theories and examples grew strong during the early 2000s, and is still used in many contexts both to explain the phenomenon and to instruct establishment and development of clusters. Porter is seen as one of the masters of describing the functionality of the industrial and innovation cluster, focusing on companies and actors in a given geographical area creating constructive collaboration.

Today, Porter’s model has been supplemented with descriptions that are characterized by partly modernised mechanisms which, in a somewhat different way than in Porter’s models, are based on strategic choices, support from authorities, policies and special financing initiatives. The progress can be exemplified by the implementation of cluster strategies, cluster initiatives and cluster development programs.

Another good example of the shift is the EU’s investment in regional smart specialisation (focusing on regional strengths, assets and skills) and industrial / innovation clusters (as engines for delivering growth, jobs and innovations based on these regional strengths). Today, the equation is seen as the main means of continuing to position the EU as a successful, digital and sustainable region in the world – and European clusters are clearly pinpointed as ‘machines’ to deliver on the implementation of green transition, digitalisation and resilience strategies.

All in all, the shift has made it clear that we need to develop joint innovation platforms, both within and between industries, businesses, regional and local administration, to support the process. Nowadays, both the cluster approach and the need for cross-sector innovation platforms are highlighted in many regional smart specialisation and innovation strategies and regional growth programs.

In addition, other issues interfering with – or developing – Porter’s original cluster theory is the shift to a more sustainable growth perspective rather than the traditional (aggregated supply and demand, GDP etc.), as well as the recent ecosystems approach, now often being used to describe a system of less structured interdependence and collaboration.

Possibilities with a Nordic circular cluster approach

There is no doubt circularity and circular economy is a gamechanger in how societies – as in municipalities, organisations, businesses and citizens – manage resources, waste, residues and side streams. We simply have no choice. And as the world turns to more circular approaches and behaviors, the need for new competences, business models and cross-cutting partnerships will increase exponentially.

The GRUDE project has brought together actors from a wide range of stakeholders and target groups to explore, disseminate and share knowledge about circularity and circular economy. By design, the project has actually done what is now said to be the only way to reach the Sustainable Development Goals – cross-sector learning, collaboration and action. Exchange has taken place on many levels, both partner and actors / stakeholders, and at least some innovative ideas have been developed and tested within the project framework.

So far so good; networking and exchange have been established and lots of learning and capacity building have taken place, furthermore, delivered in innovative ways due to the consequences caused by the pandemic. So, the question is whether we should be proud of what we have done and just close the door – or continue our dialogue on what more we could do, in a second step, to push circularity forward in the Interreg Nord (Aurora) region.

As GRUDE has been both a very important and successful project, the only reasonable answer would be to go for the second option. And then, one very interesting idea could be to develop a circularity CLUSTER – inviting and involving all types of industries, public sector actors, organisations, NGO’s, academia / research, innovation platforms, decision-makers and not the least, societies and locals.

The project could focus on building circular resilience in a number of places in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland – developing places as good practices, piloting for circular societies – that jointly collaborate and challenge each other to become world leading circular living labs. Such a cluster process / initiative, based on Arctic knowledge, conditions and smart innovation, could very well qualify as a game changer of its own in how societies deliver smart, sustainable and circular solutions for the future.

Ulf Hägglund, co-developer of the GRUDE project

Samuli Valkama, FrostBit Software Lab, Lapland UAS

Circular Study Trip in the North of Sweden

Day one

The trip began in sunny Jokkmokk with our tour leader Amanda and our driver Tomas. We were twenty eager participants, mostly from Jokkmokk, but also from Luleå and Gällivare. After short introductions from everyone in the bus, we took a coffee break at our first destination, the Moskosel Creative Lab. We were given an exciting tour by the founders, Gonçalo Marques and Linda Remahl. They presented, for example, the recycled cottages that are meant to function as living and working space for guests. The visit gave us new perspectives and challenged our thoughts about creative development in rural areas.

After Moskosel our journey continued towards Storuman where Lappland Deli served us lunch. After our meal we crossed the road to meet Anita Stenmark, who loves denim and runs a clothing brand and a vintage store called Handkraft & Återbruk. After the lunch break, Tobias Jansson continued with a SYMBIOS workshop on the bus. He gave examples of how companies can make money from what others throw away as waste. Tobias challenged the participants with a circular mindset, and ideas were raised about symbiosis between local businesses. The highway 45 has rarely felt so short and before we knew it, we arrived at a hotel in Östersund.  A dinner with local flavours at Norra Station was the perfect way to end an eventful first day on the road.

Day two

After a good night’s sleep in the heart of Jämtland and a leisurely breakfast, the GRUDE crew headed to the hub C:nen in central Östersund. Some participants were dropped off for a workshop “Equip yourself and your business with circular skills” (for those who are curious, the workshop is held digitally on several occasions around the year. You can read more and register here).

The rest of the group went on to Gomorron Östersund and first listened to a lecture by the renowned Per-Ivar Persson about the challenges in the hospitality industry. He introduced us the sustainability journey and strategy of Södra Årefjällen (Södra Årefjällen och Vision 2030). After Per-Ivar, Lisa Esseen talked about Östersund municipality’s work on green transition, and presented intiatives, such as the Recycling Park. Anna Gutke Bergqvist, also from Östersund Municipality, then continued, and spoke about the recycling of building materials. Fruit and good coffee helped keeping the guests focused throughout the session.

After the presentation from Östersund, Anna Bylund from Rework Åre Inderöy continued with an introduction to the municipality of Åre, and its need to speed up the various circularity conversion processes. The municipality’s project is funded by Interreg, and it will, among other things, create increased employment through the development of a circular economy.

Linda Kalkan, then, gave a number of examples of different, more practical recycling solutions that have been developed in Åre. Finally, Hannele Lanner, a development strategist with a passion for social sustainability, talked about Östersund Municipality’s pilot study concerning circular transformation with a focus on visitor and experience-based industries.

After the information-packed morning, the whole group met up for a much-needed (vegan) lunch at the restaurant Hamngatan 12 that has a goal to minimise food waste. All the furniture in the restaurant is also recycled and is also for sale. After lunch, the energetic Emil Eklöv from Gomorron Östersund showed the participants around Gomorron’s co-working space and explained the importance of an involved and change-driven landlord. Then, Anna Rex, analyst at Remote Lab, took over and told us more about the on-going research about the ways of work in the future.

The jam-packed programme continued in Remote Lab’s cosy conference room. Karin and Bert-Ola Bångman talked about Project Kaxås. The project aims to create conditions for young families who want to make a lifestyle change, and move from the city to the countryside. The project has witnessed an incredible development from a dying village to dense population!

Our last stop of the day was Sundsvall, or more precisely, Birsta City and Circuit. On the way there, conversations continued about everything the participants had learned, and even a few more participant presentations were given. When we arrived in Sundsvall, the centre manager Jill Hallström met us with an insight into Circuit’s new circular everyday life (repair, rental, flea market, etc.) in the middle of a classic shopping centre. She also revealed that this was just the beginning of the new concept! After getting acquainted with the different participating companies in Circuit, a bunch of tired participants got back on the bus and were safely guided to the hotel in Härnösand.

Day three

The last day of the study trip began with a brief presentation by the project manager Linda Lundberg about the first recycling shopping centre in the north of Sweden: Re:store Höga Kusten in central Härnösand. Linda gave us useful information about the choice of partners and circular business models, as well as the procurement and checkout systems and selection of products that can be given new life and sold again.  

One of the ideas in Härnösand is that entrepreneurs who want to start business at Re:store should have an easy and relatively risk-free way to get started. This is ensured by the fact that the new businesses do not have to tie themselves to a long and expensive lease contract. Linda’s presentation also inspired discussion about the entrepreneurial spirit, and how it can be supported and reinforced in an area.

After Lindas presentation, we ate lunch at Smulans in Re:Store. Smulans is a new start-up that makes use of fruit and vegetables from the grocery store Ica Maxi that normally would go to waste. Once everybody had got their bellies full, we got on the bus, and continued our way to Umeå.

On the lower level of the MVG mall in central Umeå, the recycling shopping centre Revolt is emerging. Cathrin Sandström and her colleagues from corporate sponsor Companion shared the process leading up to the establishment of the physical store and the digital part of the project.  We ended our visit in Umeå by eating dinner at Gotthard’s restaurant, which offered seasonal local produce. Before coffee, we also listened to Liv Öberg, who talked about her efforts of encouraging the circular economy in Umeå Municipality. After dinner we began the long journey back home to Jokkmokk, Luleå and Gällivare. It felt even a bit sad to part ways just after we had learned to know each other.

To sum up, the study trip was an enriching experience with many lessons learned about topics, such as business symbiosis, circularity and reuse – just to mention a few. At the same time, the trip was a filled with good food and great company. The realisation that there is a great interest in the north for circularity and reuse, has been incredibly inspiring.  Although, this study trip ended and the participants dispersed in different directions, the journey has only just begun for each of us and our respective organisations!

Text and pictures:
Carl-Johan Utsi, Photographer, Jokkmokk

Header illustration:
Nikki Schimdt, Big Brain Agency

Realizing Green Transition in the Rural Arctic through Cross-border Collaboration

In the GRUDE project’s final webinar on 31 May, we heard several interesting presentations about green initiatives and collaboration in the Arctic area. In this blog text you will find a summary about the keynote presentations.

View the full presentations and slideshows in our Library.

Peter Algurén – Financing PaaS Models

RISE is a Swedish research institution that is striving for sustainable growth in the society. They are aiming for creating longevity products that have high utilization rate. In his keynote presentation, Peter Algurén introduced solutions on how to finance Product-as-a-Service models.

The problem with selling long lasting, high quality products is usually making the business profitable. One solution to this, is to sell a service instead of the product itself. This type of operations model is usually more sustainable, but may also require high investments from the companies when they start their business.

The solutions for financing PaaS models can be divided into three different categories:

  1. Asset based solutions, such as creating a future adaptive design, utilizing a leaseback operations model or contract financing.
  2. Business case -based solutions which include reducing risks with controlled growth, stable revenue flows, etc.
  3. Relationship based solutions which focus on building strong and long-lasting relationships with customers and business partners.

Ann-Hege Lund – Cooperation between Municipalities and the Tourism Sector

The municipal sector is dependent on tourism sector in creating attractive local communities. In the same way, municipalities have a key role in making development in the tourism sector possible.

In 2018, Innovation Norway created a Sustainable Destination Label which is a great tool for engaging local communities in long perspective. The tool provides a standard that is verified by 44 criteria that are based on the UN Goals for Sustainable Development.

A closer cooperation between municipalities and the tourism sector is essential for many reasons. First of all, the Arctic areas are low in many resources, which makes it especially important to consider their use wisely. Secondly, developing tourism in the rural areas helps reduce relocation and increases local value creation.

Keeping the rural North competitive and attractive requires development and close collaboration between the municipalities, local businesses and tourism sector.

Karl Almås – Border-crossing Ideas for Blue Economy

The rural Arctic consists mostly of ocean. Yet, the marine resources and potential are currently mostly untapped. In fact, we only use two percent of the marine bioproduction that would be suitable for human consumption.

Karl Almås presented an idea of a cross-border cooperation project which would focus on feeding the growing aquaculture industry in a sustainable way in the Arctic.

At the moment, two thirds of the fish feed is imported from countries South of the Equator. Therefore, it would be necessary to identify new sources for protein production in the Nordic countries and investigate possibilities for upscaling them.

Federico Zenith – Producing and Exporting Hydrogen from Stranded Resources

Federico Zenith works with the Haeolus project that proposes a new-generation electrolyser integrated within a state-of-the-art wind farm in a remote area with access to a weak power grid. During the project they have also identified preconditions for starting a hydrogen valley in Finnmark, Norway.

The production and utilization of hydrogen as a source of energy, start from building functional infrastructure. Hydrogen producers need reliable income, whereas users need a steady supply chain, predictable costs and readily available maintenance.

In Finnmark, the potential for hydrogen production is enormous, and there are many opportunities emerging also on the demand side. According to Zenith, the problems on the way of transitioning to hydrogen economy are no longer technological. Instead, the challenges lay within coordination and societal policies.

Jukka Lokka – The Role of Municipalities in Green Transition

Finland has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2035. When it comes to reducing emissions, the first actions are always the most significant, and require changes on government-level policies (e.g. transitioning to electric cars and renewable energy). Later on in the process, however, local actions and the role of municipalities in initiating change, become essential.

The key challenge on the municipal level is a lack of knowledge about climate issues and green economy. In addition, reaching consensus about controversial topics, such as wind power and forest use, can be difficult.

For green transition to take place in the rural sparsely populated areas, it is crucial to disseminate information effectively. This means, for example, taking enough time for dialog and introducing successful examples of previously implemented green actions. It is also essential to reach strong commitment in the high levels of public organizations.

Renata Musifullina – Towards Green Arctic through Cross-border Initiatives

Renata Musifullina introduced a collaboration process which was started in GRUDE project for about two months ago. The goal of the process has been to identify new initiatives for green economy in the Arctic, and it has resulted in six ideas or problems that could be potential starting points for future collaboration. The ideas are:

  1. Reaching emission goals in the public sector
  2. Necessary public sector investments in regional resilience (such as local food and energy)
  3. Development of circular business models in the private sector
  4. Finding funding and leadership for circular innovation hubs in the countryside
  5. Development of sustainable tourism practices
  6. Resilient and sustainable fish feed production

As GRUDE project, we will continue the collaboration with our stakeholders that have expressed their interest to find solutions for the aforementioned issues.

Should you need support with the planning phase of a green initiative of your own, please don’t hesitate to contact our project staff. You may also find useful the project planning template provided by Interreg Aurora and the Interreg Aurora Facebook page with information about funding and partner search announcements.

Blog text by,
Henna Kukkonen, Project Specialist
Lapland University of Applied Sciences

Nikki Schmidt, Big Brain Agency

Jokkmokk Based Companies Trained in Circular Business Development

The four companies Mathantverket i Vuollerim, Food by Jokkmokk, Peace & Quiet Hotel and Jokkmokks Log has participated in a pilot version of the workshop series “Bärkraftiga företag”, given by Strukturum Jokkmokk Business Service during the spring 2022.

During the workshop series, the participating companies have learned about circular economy and circular business models and integrating that knowledge in to their own businesses. They also got to do a resource investigation in their company to help them to identify new possible circular affairs.

Read more (in Swedish).

Symbios, Sweden’s new billion industry

Industrial symbiosis, making money from the waste of other companies, is the way of the future to do business in the circular economy.

The challenges of covid, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis create a shortage of energy, water and materials. That makes this method more relevant than ever. In the book Symbios, Emma Dalväg and Tobias Jansson show examples of companies that take the lead and create profitable business from what has previously been left over.

Read more at (in Swedish)

How Do Enterprises in Northern Norway Work Towards Sustainability and Green Transition?

To make green transition happen, we need products and services that have significantly fewer negative consequences on the climate and environment than today. As a part of GRUDE SINTEF Nord has conducted in-depth interviews to gain insight on how public and private enterprises in Northern Norway are working toward more sustainable solutions and production.

Interviews with 10 people working in both public and private sector in Northern Norway, provided data for the study. This includes actors located in different parts of the region, belonging to different industries such as transportation, furniture, consulting and revision, and food production, as well as municipalities and county municipalities.

The interviews focused on green and sustainable work, and the barriers and opportunities it holds, as well as cooperation and arenas for cooperation both on regional, national, and transnational level.

One of the questions we asked the informants, was if the organizational culture influences how proposals for green solutions are received – something they all confirmed. It is important for organizations to understand the reality of green transition: “Culture beats anything, so it is crucial to have a mostly good organizational culture both in a positive and negative sense”(Informant 7).

Several of the informants said that sustainability work must be rooted in the top management and then distributed downwards in the business. One of the informants emphasized that the management must not only focus on the aspect of environment, but also consider the economic and social aspect of sustainability – like jobs, equality, and well-being at workplace.

One way of implementing greener measures is to pinpoint some of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the core business. This is, as informant 3 mentioned, a complex task. That is why one should focus on a few goals or targets to begin with, instead of trying to solve them all. The goals or targets should also be measurable so that one can easily see what remains to be achieved.

A dominating subject when talking to the public sector – and especially municipalities – where public procurement. Public procurements are a measure for municipalities to ask for greener solutions. When planning a purchase, the municipality provides a clear description of the needs they want to address. It is therefore important, to have in-depth knowledge of the topic so that the purchase is realistic and feasible.

One municipality we interviewed had challenges asking for greener solutions in procurements. The informant said that they tried to set requirements for emission-free construction sites, but only received one offer and it was very expensive. Further, a lot of actors are excluded by setting such requirements.

At the same time, entrepreneurs and other actors must adapt to the transition that is now happening. The balance between the economic, social, and environmental considerations is not always as easy to maintain.

Most of the informants belonging to private sector feel that they are very dependent on having a network within the policy instruments and the research environment to gain access to the right resources. In a busy enterprise it is important that information is easily accessible. All the informants, both in private and public sector, experienced great advantages being part of larger networks or clusters.

A transdisciplinary approach is important as sectors have different opinions or understandings about green transition and sustainable solutions. Working together or having a platform to exchange experiences, is useful. A small business or municipality benefits from other perspectives.

It is important to consult people who have been doing sustainability work, instead of finding out everything yourself. As informant 2 points out: “Acquiring knowledge about green growth and sustainability is a continuous process where new information and knowledge is constantly emerging”.

Lastly, we have a commitment to the world and nature around us. As several of the informants highlighted; we have a social responsibility. It is also a matter of reputation, especially in the local communities. One of the informants explained that if they did not act sustainably, they would receive harsh criticism from the inhabitants in the region.

There has undoubtedly been a change of attitude in recent years. With the government’s ambitions for green growth, as well as increasing demands from society for more sustainable solutions, most companies are now working towards a green, sustainable society.

Blogtext by,
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord

Sustainability from the Perspective of Reindeer – pt 3

So, back to sustainability. I keep asking myself, what’s the most important thing that I can give you – who read?
And the answer is: the holistic perspective.

To be able to see things clearly in relation to sustainability. Being able to answer the question of “what’s best for the reindeer”, I would need to keep myself very well informed. Making my decision based on the best available knowledge without being driven by money. Both climate scientists and UNs climate change experts have stated that the best available knowledge is science together with indigenous knowledge.

Then how do we practically do this?
I would start with the easy way- follow the new science. Maintaining your mind well informed and capable of learning new things. Listen to the news to understand the different forces driving policies. Our world sees no boundaries.

Then comes the more difficult part. Indigenous knowledge. The knowledge of how to be observant. Noticing how she is feeling, our mother. How she is responding. Listen to those who knows her, and who spends time with her. Never be afraid to ask questions. Spend time with her yourself. Knowing you are a part of her too.

I take note of the day when the snow sparrows arrived. When did the sallow show its first bud of the year. Remember to gather spruce this spring. Knowing that in some places it takes a while for them to show. Noticing the perfect spot for collecting those long, roots that aren’t too difficult to get hold of. The shallow once living in long time fallen trees. They are good for making containers keeping the salt dry. Remembering the need to find a new place to gather sweetgrass for our shoes. The old place where she enjoyed living has dried up, and looking at the old place-names of the area is no good.  Deforestation has altered her home too much, she has disappeared. Such a punishment for our crime. Recognising the smell of old damp snow. Created mold in the bottom. Do you know how fresh lichen taste? How did the liver look on the last reindeer we received for food, and where did the grouse live last year? Leaving the food to silence me. Wondering why the moose have moved into my dreams. What date was it now again, when the swans left? Counting how many times the wind decided to change yesterday. No one would have been able to navigate in the deep forest by then. Exciting to have a look at the lake, to see how much water has left the ice. Its said that we can learn the future in the fish stomach. I don’t really know much about that. But suspect it has to do with a certain fish, sure of that its not the first one caught during fall time. That one is going back to the lake. It’s not ours.

Carefully *respectfully* I’m putting salt on the pieces of meat, that eventually will be hung to dry. Summerfood. Closely together they go. Its best in the wooden barrel. Its possible to do it in plastic as well. But the price will be payed in the taste. Nature loves nature. The barrel is suppose to be completely air-dry, and to fix that -I’m gifted the lungs. Or the diaphragm if the barrel is close to full. Air-tight. Back home in Dalarna we are hanging it to dry after a month in the salt. Up here i Jåhkkåmåhke they like to smoke the meat first. The air is damper here. Maybe that too will change.

Indigenous knowledge is informative, a practice, observant and responding. As ever changing as need be, when nature is changing. Since they are one.

To live a sustainable life and making sustainable decisions, It’s not a simple task. But maybe that’s how its suppose to be. When is the easy way the best way? There are so many lessons to be thought.
Do one really need to make decisions based on what’s best for all creations?

Unfortunately. Yes.

We are all answering to nature. And to our own spirit.

At the end of the day its our spirit who is paying the real price of our decisions. That’s something we can’t outrun.

Im convinced that if all were to make decision based in the best available knowledge. Based in both science and indigenous knowledge in relation to our surroundings – we would be heading in a better direction than we are currently. Climate change wise.

Lastly. To our indigenous youth: follow the path of our ancestors. The tracks are still there. They can be found in our now living elders. Even if its sometimes feels like too much have been lost. Forgotten. Know that the knowledge is still there. It can’t be undone. Its only resting. Since she herself is the keeper. We just need to learn how to listen. Again.

What is she showing you in your dreams.

Where is the place where you accept her gift and give back?

Blogtext by Jannie Staffansson
Photos: Private

Sustainability from the Perspective of Reindeer – pt 2

When global media are reporting on climate change and indigenous peoples, I often hear the phrase “the most vulnerable”. Often It comes off as Indigenous peoples are weaker, and therefore more exposed to the challenges of a changing climate. That the reindeer is starving and dying because its helpless. That’s why we need help.

I find that a bit arrogant. It’s rooted in the fact that most people do not understand what indigenous peoples are. Have no knowledge of our worldviews and knowledge systems. That we mirror nature. When nature is sick. We are sick.

Neither nature nor the reindeer or indigenous peoples are standing clueless and overwhelmed. However, over centuries we have evolved into specialists. Learnt how to survive and thrive in conditions difficult for others to survive in. We are indigenous to one place. Not the other. I would not have the same chance of surviving in Amazonas jungle as I do in the Arctic as a saami. Nor would my friend Hindou from the Mbroro peoples in Chad having of surviving in Sápmi. She who knows the dusty sand dunes, and not how to make shoes out of the reindeer. I who cannot find water with the help of a cow but I can read the storm from the stars. As indigenous peoples we have adjusted. We have been resilient. But in this state of climate change happening at an unprecedented rate, our inner and outer systems are struggling to keep up. Yours are too.

How amazing isn’t it really. In the middle of a stormy winter, one can find such a big mammal, as the reindeer, high up in the mountain tops. Surviving. Sometimes I catch myself thinking “how can you even find something to eat in that harsh moon landscape”. During perfect conditions she would love to migrate from coast to coast during the year. Spending the winter down in the forest, grazing lichen from the ground and occasionally whenever a storm toss down lichen from the high old trees, she would eat that as well. However, if she does get caught in the mountains during the winter she will spend it walking from stone to stone, eating lichen that has been growing there for some time. The wind will help her clear the stones from snow and ice. Not many other big mammals are depending on stone and the wind quite like her.

In our area there isn’t the same amount of different herbs, plants or other species that can be found in the deep forest of Aoteora. Our biodiversity is some what more limited. We do not have an abundance. But we do have little of some, and more of other during our eight seasons. That’s how the reindeer sustain herself. She can try a piece of the herb, but not take the leaf. She will taste the root but not the stem. Continue on to a flower. Chew of the whole plant but never take the entire system of roots. Always walking, always on the move. Leaving some and never taking all of what’s to offer. She does that to more than 250 different species. Sustaining herself and the landscape so that other will find food when they arrive. Where she graze the landscape will be nourished with the leftover processed food of hers, while she maintains the landscape an open place. Where she travels other birds and mammals will follow. She feeds the ecosystem that feeds her.  

That is what she teach. Always be on the move not to leave traces. Migrate and share. Never take all of what you like, some other might be arriving soon too, in need of food. It is the small movement that will keep you and others alive, the small change. Do not become dependant on the same thing everyone else is depending on. That wouldn’t create for a sustainable environment. There is a limit of how specialised one should become. The reindeer is targeting a specific area to sustain herself. Becoming a specialist in that area, where not many other bigger mammals are living and can force her to move. She has made that possible by becoming dependant on many many creations and species over a years cycle. Its somewhat like that advice one so often hear in the beginning of saving money in shares. “Spread the risks”. That’s what she does. She is spreading her risks and being a good citizen. At the same time.


By living a healthy life the reindeer has become healthy. She contains omega 3 fatty acids, where other meat does not. Even her blood is healthy. Humans need vitamin-c in our diet. During the summer season vitamin-c is easy to come by, as it is located in plants and herbs. But during the snowy winter its made more difficult. By drinking the fresh blood gifted by the reindeer you will be provided for. That’s how many indigenous peoples in sibiria survives.

Mimicking reindeer and our animal- and plant relatives will help us to learn how to survive. It will help us create those sustainable societies we so desperately need. Not leaving big poisonous wounds in the land for generations to be sickened by. Instead leaving food for our generations to come.

Become dependant of each other.

Give back to land

and create family.  

Blog by Jannie Staffansson, Jokkmokk, for the GRUDE project
Photos by Jannie Staffansson

Sustainability from the Perspective of Reindeer – pt 1

In this time of climate crisis and the rapidly extincition of species, its been shown that Indigenous peoples knowledge has a huge role to play for the world. The Interngovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that in their latest report released this February this year. In short the report summerized that the world leaders aren’t doing enough to put in place the strong efforts that the world needs to sustain life for all.

A few years ago the World Bank released a study showing that 80 % of the worlds biodiversity is located on Indigenous peoples´ land.. and that Indigenous peoples are only 5 % of the total human population. I would say that the Indigenous Peoples have done incredibly well in relation to the world leaders. What is it then that we are doing differently from the major society? I will try to give you some food for thought in Indigenous knowledge and our worldview. What is it that makes the reindeer a key player in the Arctic? 

But first, you might be curious about who I am. My name is Jannie Staffansson and I live in Forshällan close to the lake Purkijaur, with my life partner and our animals. Im not from here, but grew up in Eajra (Idre) in the southern part of Saepmie, in Dalarna. I was blessed to grow up closely to the reindeer, and she is still a big part of my life. Although now I live in Tuorpon reindeer husbandry community. It’s fair enough to say that the reindeer have made me into who I am. I have always heard people stating that “we will do what’s best for the reindeer” as a guiding principle. Not only from reindeer herders, but also from elders and other saami in our are. That guiding principle- do what’s best for the reindeer- has helped me find my path through life.

Maybe the most challenging part with that guide is the fact that the reindeer doesn’t speak. She doesn’t tell you what’s best for her, what her needs are or what she wants. However she communicates. If you learn how to listen. Learning how to listen will take years, some might never learn it. It is difficult to listen. One shortcut that’s tempting to take is that of asking others who have learnt the needs of reindeer- knowledge holders. But in our culture, its not always you get an answer when you show up with a question to an elder. They might show you, or show you something else. Or stay silent with a glistening eye or give you a story. That frustrated me as a child. I was schooled in the Swedish school system that always provided you with an answer whenever a question raised. Answers that I often forgot as soon as I heard them, and went on to solving the next assignment. Teachers saying that one need to hear something three times in order to remember it. Though In my experience, whenever I actually figured out the answer to my late grandfathers riddle, I remembered it. In that process of learning I also learnt other lessons. As how to be observant, to use my mind, to watch and see the connections in nature and around me.

To listen.  

Blog by Jannie Staffansson. Photos are private.