Making the circular economy a shared issue for the whole of Finland

The Finnish government set itself the goal of making Finland a pioneer in the circular economy. However, changing the economic system is such a big thing that it doesn’t happen through mere political decisions. We helped ministries ensure that interaction with stakeholders works and that the preparation gets the visibility it deserves.

Client: Ministry of the Environment

Date: 2020

Why was the work done?

Climate change and the impoverishment of nature cannot be curbed if natural resources are wasted. Recycling alone is not enough anymore, instead, in the future all consumption and production has to fit within the limits of earth’s carrying capacity. The circular economy helps create well-being in a sustainable manner. In the circular economy, materials stay in use for a long time. Ingredients and raw materials are shared, loaned, repaired and recycled.

For the circular economy to become the new foundation of the economy, it requires action from everyone, including decision-makers, researchers and citizens. That’s why a circular economy programme was needed.

What did we do?

The common thread in the preparation of Finland’s circular economy programme was cooperation. The Ministry of the Environment set up a steering group with a wide range of expertise from different fields. In addition, theme groups were set up to think about concrete actions in various fields, from real estate and construction to municipalities and public procurement. Citizens took part in the preparation through a citizen jury and open online discussions. Scientific panels and organisations also took part in discussing the proposals for programme methods. The steering group and ministries gained lots of information, ideas and lessons on the basis of which they could clarify their thoughts on the programme. 

We developed a strategy for the circular economy programme’s communication, designed how the information will flow within various preparations, and how citizens’ views are taken into account from the beginning.

The circular economy is not an easy concept to grasp. At the outset of the preparation, public debate addressed it from a narrow perspective. “The circular economy is not just about recycling” was one of the guiding ideas of communication throughout the preparation. We compiled Finnish success stories about the circular economy to support the communication. Through the stories, a more diverse picture of the circular economy was painted: among other things, the circular economy includes textile raw material innovations, packaging that gets rid of throwaway culture, combating food waste and replacing cement with ash. The programme’s objectives were presented to the public through animation. 

Please note! The video is in Finnish.

The finished programme was unveiled in a spectacular virtual launch event, the ministries’ social media channels and other media.

How did it go?

Ambitious, concrete, comprehensive and shared – these are some words that have been used to describe the circular economy’s strategic development programme. The programme and its preparation received praise for their wide participation and uncompromising end results. In the programme, Finland was the first in the world to set concrete goals for the sustainable use of natural resources. In addition, the programme lists concrete actions that will give a new direction to the Finnish economy.

The announcement of the programme was an important boost to the circular economy discussion. All major news media wrote about the circular economy and the circular economy became one of the top ten topics on social media. The circular economy was tweeted about almost 1,500 times at the time of the programme’s publication, and the topic had more than 5 million views.

The greatest impact of the work was the enthusiastic and committed collaboration that emerged during the preparation. In a matter as large as the circular economy, words can only become actions through cooperation.

Find out more about the circular economy programme here.

The preparation of the circular economy programme challenged us, as it involves a fundamental overhaul. We have received praise for inclusion and the premise of the programme that the foundation of the entire economy needs to be renewed. The circular economy is not seen as just one tool among others.

Taina Nikula, ministerial adviser, Ministry of the Environment

Virtual work did not reduce participation or enthusiasm. Instead, the foundation of a new economy was laid by hundreds of people. Broad participation from start to finish doesn’t mean confusion and contradictions, even though it requires careful planning and reporting. The ambitious outcome of the circular economy’s strategic development programme is strong evidence of the power of cooperation and inclusion.

Karolina Kinnunen Mohr, strategy director, Kaskas