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‘Sustainable wellbeing’ becomes focus of attention at international sustainable development conference in Helsinki

The Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) was launched on Friday the 12th of May 2017 at Helsinki University with an event on ’Pathways to Sustainability Transformation’. The first Finnish event of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the event included interesting speakers such as Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Daniel Lang of Leuphana University. The keynotes pointed out the successful development models of the Nordics, including the appropriate balance of taxes and public services that lead to some of the most successful development outcomes globally (Sachs), and the contribution of sustainability science to society and global sustainability (Lang).

The afternoon event event on ’Towards Systemic Change’ featured a talk by Tuuli Hirvilammi of the University of Helsinki on moving away from a growth-driven model to ’sustainable wellbeing’. Complimenting this, the MAXWELL project at the FFRC wrapped up the event with a talk on ”Could sustainable wellbeing be the key to unlock transition? (O’Mahony and Jyrki Luukkanen). It recognised the huge potential of sustainable wellbeing to become the successful foundation of the low-carbon and sustainable transition, as a win-win for society and environment.

An interesting discussion followed that quizzed using ’sustainable wellbeing’ to remove the priority on consumption that has led to so much damage to individuals, societies and the environment. It questioned whether we are already aware of the importance of the other domains of our lives outside of income and consumption? It is noted in cultural and marketing studies that the affluent, and increasingly also the elites and middle classes of the Global South, have personal identities that are increasingly defined by ’consumerism’.

It is evident from studies of consumption that material consumption continues to grow globally, pushing up environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions. We may already be aware at the edge of our conciousness that our current lifestyles, and the development models that support them, are out-of-step with our own individual wellbeing, and that of society and environment. Nevertheless, it has yet to manifest in a susbstantial change towards improved wellbeing. We have not yet escaped this destructive cycle but aiming for sustainable wellbeing could be the key to transformation. It could allow us to address the maladies of our difficult times and become the seeds of a far brighter future ’living well together’ and in balance with the environment.


Dr. Tadhg O’Mahony, PhD BSc Dip
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow
Finland Futures Research Centre

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 657865.