Small wins enhancing sustainability transformations: Sustainable development policy in Finland

Hanna H. Salo*, Annukka Berg, Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, Satu Lähteenoja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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No country is on its way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030. The expectations for rapid transformations have not materialized, and hence a strategy combining both incremental and more radical changes is needed. Such strategies have been discussed in other fields, but they have been largely unaddressed in relation to sustainable development. This article seeks to increase understanding of how changes of various sizes interact in sustainable development policy. Here, we utilize the concept of small wins as concrete, implemented and often incremental changes that can create momentum for larger-scale changes. By analyzing key government documents and reports, interviews, questionnaires and workshop material, we study Finland's sustainable development policy. We focus on changes in the realms of the 4Is, meaning institutions, interests, information and ideas. Based on the research, Finland has been particularly successful in building multi-sectoral institutions and mainstreaming the idea of sustainable development. There is a vast information base available. In practice, however, various conflicts of interest remain unsolved. We conclude that while a sustainable development policy based solely on small wins can be too slow and incremental to meet the major sustainability challenges of our time, it would pave the way for more transformative reforms. These include, for example, the current Government Programme based on the idea of sustainable development and challenging the status quo on various fronts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-255
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • 2030 Agenda
  • Small wins
  • Sustainability transformations
  • Sustainable development policy
  • Transformative governance


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