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The importance and meaning of sustainable finance

The sustainability principles are by far the most important generic competence for employees in the future. But what exactly is meant by the concept of sustainable finance?


Jani Siirilä

yliopettaja, vaikuttava ammatillinen pedagogiikka
principal lecturer, engaging vocational pedagogy
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 18.05.2020

According to the Finnish National Agency for Education report (2019), the sustainability principles are by far the most important generic competence for employees in the future. Moreover, Finance Finland (FFI), Finance Latvia (FLA) and Finance Estonia (FES) are all committed to the United Nations (UN) sustainable strategy and the Baltic Sea Region strategy goals.

But what makes sustainability principles such important competences in the future?  Well, we think that the meaning of wide-ranging competence and interdisciplinary collaboration play a crucial role in the future working life.

To understand the meaning of sustainable finance we must understand some basic principles of sustainability science. Sustainability science is a new and growing branch of science. The evolution of sustainability science began 20 years ago as a solution proposed by the scientific community to better understand and cross-disciplinary boundaries in tackling global sustainability issues such as climate change.

So what exactly is meant by the concept of sustainable finance?

From an institutional point of view, this means the process of sustainable investment decisions. But also individuals play a significant role as customers because we think that the role of values is essential when making purchasing decisions. Through that, we can affect directly the supply and demand of responsibly produced products.

Let´s take Fairtrade products as an example. During the ’90s there were only a dozen products available. Now the selection of goods can be counted to hundreds and the Fairtrade product range is expanding. That´s what happens when the awareness of sustainable issues become more common.

You get what you want because markets are made for you. You are not made for the markets!

According to the European Commission all the dimensions – environmental, social, and governance (ESG) – are integral parts of sustainable economic development and finance.

The environmental dimension contains besides combating climate change, environmental impact standards, certificates and programmes, energy efficiency, environmental favourableness, and awareness of the specific meaning of vital biodiversity.

The social dimension contains for example personnel policy of the company, well-being of the employees, human rights including, especially rights of children, and product liability.

The dimension of governance contains reasonable rewards, payment of taxes, and actions against corruption and bribery. (Table 1.)

  Environmental       Social     Governance  
climate change resource depletion waste
human rights
modern slavery
child labor
working conditions employee relations  
bribery and corruption
executive pay
board diversity and structure
political lobbying and donations
tax strategy  

Table 1. Examples of ESG issues.

Responsible investing can be approached in a variety of ways: through ESG integration, thematic investments, positive screening, negative screening, active ownership, and engagement as well as impact investing. One responsible investment approach does not rule out another as the investor can combine different approaches.

The school of vocational teacher education coordinates the Sustainability in Finance (SuFi) Interreg project during 2020-2022. In this project, a vocational Sustainability in Finance open online module (15 etcs) will be developed for vocational education and training (VET). The project will involve students, teachers, and stakeholders in new competence and modular development.

Testing and piloting the module takes place on the Moodle platform by Estonian, Finnish, and Latvian vocational partner institutions. The module will be rooted in all partner institutions and made available for all, on an open educational platform within the Central Baltic region.

The project is needed in order to match employment demand, and to enhance competitiveness, work opportunities, mobility, and new required competencies among business graduates in the Central Baltic region.

European Commission. 2020. Sustainable finance.
Haaga-Helia. 2020. Haaga-Helialle iso kansainvälinen hanke – “Sustainability in Finance” vastaa työelämän kestävän kehityksen osaamistarpeisiin.
Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education. 2020. Sustainability in Finance (SuFi).
Interreg Baltic Sea Region. 2020.
PRI 2020. Principles for Responsible Investment.