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Sustainable Development and Circular Economy

We have used a number of terms relating to sustainable development and circular economy in our Programme for Sustainable Development. This is why we have also wanted to specify what we mean by these concepts and how we understand the terms.

Sustainable development

In general, sustainable development means a continuous local and global change aiming to secure possibilities for a good life for the current and future generations. The three aspects of this concept are ecological, social, and economic. Ecological sustainability refers to adapting all human activities to nature’s carrying capacity. It is related to sustainable consumption, production, use of natural resources and, for example, biodiversity issues. Economic sustainability means balanced growth not based on indebtedness or squandering of reserves.

A sustainable economy is the foundation of social sustainability. The aim of social sustainability is to ensure that the prerequisites for welfare can be passed on from one generation to another. Among other things, it means equal opportunities for education, social inclusion, and safe life. The areas and objectives of sustainable development are examined in the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Circular economy

The objective of the circular economy is an economy which operates within the ecological boundaries. In circular economy, products and materials remain in the economic cycle, maintaining their value for as long as possible, and can then be returned to either technological production processes or biological cycles. Systemic approach as well as new modes of production and consumption business models are at its centre. 

The circular economy is considered a key means of achieving sustainable development goals in the areas of production and consumption. The European Union and Finland rely on the circular economy as their new economic foundation. It also enables the achievement of social sustainability goals.

For the circular economy to become a reality, extensive changes are needed in society and the economy, therefore a just transition and the impact of the changes on society’s organization must be accounted for. This can be referred to as a social circular economy, in which the perspectives of social sustainability are also included in examinations of the circular economy.