The Power of Urban Planning on Environmental Sustainability: a Focus Group Study in Finland

Eeva Säynäjoki, Jukka Heinonen, Seppo Junnila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
168 Downloads (Pure)


Sustainable communities are promoted as a desirable policy goal and, in particular, local authorities are encouraged to contribute to climate change mitigation through urban planning. Furthermore, recent research takes a broad perspective on the environmental sustainability of urban areas and considers the environmental impact of all consumption. A focus group study was conducted in Finland for the purpose of examining how increased environmental awareness influences urban land use. The 32 participants of three focus groups were professionals of urban planning and environmental sustainability, at both a municipal and a state level. The main finding was that urban planning is viewed as being unable to support environmental sustainability in the broader sense. In general, the participants did not see a connection between urban structure and sustainable lifestyles and only the influence of planning on housing and daily journeys was recognised. Three main reasons for this were identified. Firstly, environmental sustainability in its broader definition is seen as too complex for urban planners to influence alone. Secondly, the dominance of short-term economic issues in decision-making and the lack of co-operation from other stakeholders to achieve environmental aims demotivate land use planners. Thirdly, the prioritisation of urban density may overrule alternative means of promoting environmental sustainability, such as the encouragement of sustainable suburban or non-urban lifestyles
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6622-6643
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • environmental sustainability
  • focus groups
  • real estate business
  • REB
  • urban planning

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