Arctic Council meetings in Finland environmentally sustainable
Exploring Common Solutions - Finnish Chairmanship - Arctic Council

Arctic Council meetings in Finland environmentally sustainable

During its Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Finland will host several senior official and expert level meetings as well as Arctic conferences and seminars. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in cooperation with WWF Finland have developed guidelines on how to arrange environmentally sustainable meetings. These will be followed in all Arctic Council meetings organised by the Foreign Ministry in cooperation with various service providers. The guidelines emphasise the purchaser’s responsibility for choices related to catering, procurements and planning of informal events and programmes.

Arktinen kokous. Kuva: Annariina Kukkonen
Arctic Council meetings seek joint solutions to Arctic wellbeing. Photo: Annariina Kukkonen

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will hand over the chair’s gavel to Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini in May 2017 to mark the start of Finland’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The Arctic Team at the Ministry’s Unit for Northern Europe has been working on preparations related to the upcoming meetings for a long time before the start of the term.

Arctic Council meets in different parts of Finland

A number of meetings will be organised in different parts of Finland during the two-year Chairmanship.

The Arctic Council’s main goal is to protect the Arctic environment and to support sustainable development in the region. With these matters in mind, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs adopted the environment as the common thread running through the preparatory phase.

Purchaser’s responsibility

Meetings will be organised in good cooperation with different service providers, such as hotels, meeting venues, kitchens, and goods suppliers. The Foreign Ministry wants to emphasise its obligations as the purchaser of services and, consequently, its power to require certain kinds of services and activities. Decisions will be made in cooperation with the service providers case by case, based on what is possible.

 “As the guide on environmentally responsible solutions is not yet available, it has been great to cooperate with different service providers and seek feasible solutions together. The expertise provided by WWF Finland, in particular, has been indispensable,” says Annariina Kukkonen, Assistant Desk Officer from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Small decisions, big entities

When meetings are organised and decisions are made concerning catering, purchases and informal events, environmental considerations will be emphasised.  For catering, it is easy to find environmentally sustainable solutions: WWF Food, Seafood and Meat Guides, organic and sertified products, use of as much of local foods and vegetables as possible.

Many catering providers and hotels and chefs of meeting venues have already adopted these practices.

Green meetings. kuva: Annariina Kukkonen
A logo indicating our cooperation with caterers that follow the principles of environmentally sustainable guidelines will be displayed on tables. Photo: Annariina Kukkonen

Electronic meeting materials

In procurements related to the Arctic Council meetings, the Foreign Ministry will observe careful discretion and purchase only what is essential. A notebook and a pen will be provided at meeting venues. The chains of the pass are made of rPET and they are ordered without printing to ensure that people may use them later.

Folders have also become largely unnecessary. In Arctic Council meetings in Finland, paper copies will not be distributed but all materials will be available in an electronic format.

Additionally, for the most essential purchases the best possible material will be selected. All products to be used during Finland’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council will be printed on FSC certified paper or prepared of otherwise environmentally friendly materials. For instance, smart static posters, developed and produced under licence by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, will be used to mark the visual look of meeting venues. Static posters can be attached on nearly any surface again and again. Such posters’ disposal is also easier than the disposal of traditional roll-up posters, for example.

Arktiset liput. Kuva: Annariina Kukkonen
 In Artic Council meetings, the flags of the Arctic States and Indigenous People’s organisations will be hoisted, but in Finland tabletop flags will be used to make savings in transport and energy. Photo: Annariina Kukkonen.

No to unnecessary transport

In connection with Artic Council meetings, the host has traditionally taken the participants to visit certain local sights. The informal evening programmes will include receptions, where the participants can network with local actors. Visits to local places or introduction to activities supporting sustainable development will also be organised.

Different elements of the informal programme will be planned to take place without separate transport. Walking from place to place is not always possible because of a lack of time or a long distance. In Helsinki, a tour from the meeting venue to the National Museum, for example, can take place by a tram.  We will use the services of the summer guides employed by the City of Helsinki.

Kukkonen is pleased to note that thanks to the Chairmanship’s emphasis on sustainability, small environmentally responsible acts will attract public attention.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs hopes that the next Chairmanship, Iceland, will continue to work for the same cause.