Critical afterwords

Hervanta campus in the summer
Photo: Marko Kallio / Skyfox / Tampere University

While compiling this sustainable development report, we received a great deal of supportive and constructive feedback which we have incorporated into the development of this report. We want to publish some of the critical comments we received concerning the areas of sustainable development, the SDG framework and the difficulty of creating this type of report. Thank you to all those who provided input, especially Elli Aaltonen, Eija Vinnari and Annina Lattu for their following comments:

The different areas of sustainable development are not separate entities but closely intertwined, and an organisation’s success in one area will affect its performance in the others. Economic sustainability must be the trickiest of all the areas where organisations are looking to measure their sustainability performance, and the development of indicators for measuring economic sustainability is still in its infancy.

For example, GDP is only a rough indicator of a country’s overall sustainability performance. The pursuit of financial growth will always have a negative effect on ecological and social sustainability, at least to a degree, and therefore it is important to fully define economic sustainability and find the right indicators for measuring it. Polarisation in wealth threatens both social sustainability and ecological sustainability. A major challenge to achieving economic sustainability is the widening gap in income and wealth, which also reduces social sustainability. Whilst financial growth can have a negative effect on the environment, sustainable financial growth can increase well-being and contribute to protecting the environment.

Elli Aaltonen, Professor of Practice, Social Policy

As a researcher who studies social responsibility reporting, I may be allowed to offer some critical comments on the framework for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For one, many of the goals and indicators are not that well suited for measuring sustainability performance in the so-called Western world. I have noticed this while studying the sustainability reporting project of the Finnish government, and I suspect the team that put together this report has also found it difficult to group research projects under the different SDGs.
In addition, the SDGs were defined as a result of a political process and have not been prioritised. It is therefore easy to arrive at the (faulty) conclusion that seeking financial growth were as important as fighting climate change and preventing the loss of biodiversity.

Eija Vinnari, Professor, Public Financial Management

As you may have noticed, all the research and teaching activities underway at Tampere University could be included in this report. The University undertakes research, provides education and delivers impact for society and thereby contributes to the creation of a more sustainable future. The choice to highlight projects that specifically explore sustainable development themes in this report is, of course, justified.
I hope that future sustainable development reports focus more on quantifying the University’s direct and indirect impacts on the environment (such as the environmental impact of the investment portfolio) and illustrating, with the help of quantitative and qualitative data, how the University’s research, teaching and societal interaction promote sustainable development. Future reports should also assess the University’s social sustainability not only from the perspective of staff and students but also as an institution that generates new knowledge and has social and cultural impacts on society.

Annina Lattu, Doctoral Researcher, Administrative Sciences