At the heart of sustainable development is the long-term approach, the famous future generations, that the Brundtland Commission so beautifully named as one key stakeholder in 1987. The importance of longer-termism is now gaining root among the investors and company leaders, as a recent article on ESG investment in Financial Times argued. On the one hand, there is the short-term survival in the midst of pandemic. On the other hand, there is growing awareness on the links between the pandemic and long-term systemic issues that can have short-term impacts.
One example of such systemic issues is the root cause of whole pandemic: the unsustainable way we consume and deal with the ecosystems globally.
Applying a longer-term view in the usual governance routines might not always be easy. We wrote about this an article with Lassi Perkinen at the National Audit Office of Finland, using the UN Agenda 2030 as an example. In the EU, the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs came in 2015 in the middle of the EU2020 strategy and in the beginning of the multi-annual financial framework 2014-2020. Perhaps understandably, the EU simply later noted that the EU2020 strategy is aligned the with the Agenda 2030 and did not initiate any new strategy process for it. But this can also be considered as a missed opportunity for the EU to seize the moment and make itself a SDG-leader.
In the case of Finland, the Agenda 2030 came into the context where sustainability strategy had been renewed couple of years earlier. The main challenge was to align the strategy with the SDGs. Quite interestingly the SDGs finally proved to be more attractive than the Finnish priorities: the latest Government Report on the Agenda 2030 is structured according to them.
The Agenda 2030 itself is reaching to year 2030 and is therefore not inter-generational. But reaching even to 2030 can be challenging in the existing government cycles.
The power of clear and colourful SDG logos is enormous. The recognizable iconography has helped the SDGs to become a truly global brand.