Sustainability in northern Europe

Talking about sustainability has never been a hotter topic. The northern periphery and arctic (NPA) region is somewhat forgotten in the debate however. This brief study concludes that the projects in the Interreg NPA programme are contributing to sustainability socially, environmentally and financially in the region as well as globally.

Två personer som åker skidor med ryggarna vända mot kameran.

Climate awareness is not only a political debate, but also something that many prominent public figures take a stand on, ranging everywhere between lowering meat consumption to cutting down on flights – people are starting to make changes in their lives to create a more sustainable society for the future.

In the regions of northern Europe there are huge land masses that are very sparsely populated, but with much resources and much potential for future development. There are several social obstacles that hinder population growth (really cold weather excluded). This region is often far away from larger cities, meaning that transportation and infrastructure is fundamental for both residents and potential tourists and visitors, but with less population funding and priority often end up elsewhere. The same goes with health care and education for example.

In an attempt to reduce these obstacles a number of interregional projects have been conducted in the NPA region. Ten of these projects have been briefly analyzed with the sustainability concept in mind.

10 projects that contribute to sustainability

Craft Reach Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. is a project that focuses on keeping and evolving local traditions in food and handcrafts, by creating an international platform for producers to connect and promote their products. By attempting to preserve local traditions you get a richer culture and a more diverse society.

Creative Momentum Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. promotes entrepreneurship in the creative sector through a digital platform, to create international networking for businesses that works in visual and preforming arts, design or media in the norther region. Besides promoting entrepreneurship and work opportunities in remote areas, the project uses a digital platform in their project management, such as skype and digital documenting, reducing their emissions from travels and paper usage. The project also promotes non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all.

eCap Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. is a project that brings new solutions for services that provide mental health care for children and adolescence in remote areas. Health care overall can be difficult to access in remote areas, and new innovations such as this project can help create a more secure health care system thus improving the social sustainability and making the remote community more attractive to live in. By creating health care over digital media one could also argue that the project contributes to lessened travel emissions and in an improved environment.

Improve Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. is a project that aims to improve the design of public services that often can be challenging in remote areas due to long distances over which services must delivered, and lack of skilled staff. By involving the community as much as possible, the project contributes to inclusion and non-discrimination. The project also has partners who plans activities for specific target groups, such as the sight loss community or school pupils. The project also uses digitalization as a means for resource efficiency and reducing travel emissions.

Recent Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. aims for remote communities to render solutions for reliable and energy efficient public infrastructure. As mentioned above, working infrastructure is essential for the development of remote communities, and this project are finding new ways to improve infrastructure on the community’s own terms, helping to make the area more attractive. The project requires their partners to all have sustainable development policies in place, as it is one of the keys to ensuring that the project is successful and can continue after the project period is over.

Bild på spegeklart vatten omslutet av en skog.

Regina Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. works with innovation on a large-scale in the Nordic Arctic and Scotland with a special focus on environmental protection, climate change, pollution reduction, and waste management. The project aims to protect and promote the natural and cultural heritage in the region. Local community involvement is key for the success of the project. The project not only contributes to an improved climate, but also to social sustainability in terms of work security and stability by making remote communities prosper.

RemoAge Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. is a project that promotes remote support for the elderly community. By new innovations and solutions, the project aims to improve the support for elderly people in remote communities by improved access to personalized services, improved support to family carers, improved support to health personnel, and improved involvement of the community at large. This project, as well as the eCap project, brings health care to remote communities and creates a more stable and secure social welfare. In many small communities the population is elderly, which makes this project even more relevant. Frail elderly people are often excluded from social participation and activities, something that the project hopes to change.

SAINT promotes slow adventures in northern territories, and according to the website slow adventures can be defined as a form of tourism which avoids the adrenaline quick-fix activities of classic adventure experiences. Instead slow adventures prefer slow, immense journeys, travelling slowly through nature in order to really appreciating it. By creating international networks, marketing can reach new costumers both overseas and domestic. By promoting adventure packages, increase in tourism can lead to a more sustainable economy, leading to improved job opportunities. Slow adventures also have the benefit of bringing tourists closer to nature, and perhaps giving them a higher appreciation for the local nature. In terms of project management, SAINT is driven by a strong environmental ethics, using skype when possible to advocate responsible travels.

SPARA2020 Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. is a project with the aim to increase and develop resource efficiency at northern airports. The ability to access remote communities is key for development and improved northern airports would benefit this purpose. And although many argue that aviation is one of the largest contributors to climate change, perhaps improving airports in regions that is otherwise inaccessible is viable and reduce aviation transportation between destinations that are otherwise accessible instead. One could also argue that by improving the standards of aviation it could improve the effects on climate as well as making the remote destinations more attractive to visitors and residents.

Target Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. aims to make regional manufacturing globally competitive and innovative in the NPA region. The project work towards reducing the knowledge gap in manufacturing. With this project, the work market of the NPA region can possibly become more attractive, thus leading to more people seeking to live in more remote areas. The project aims to be inclusive and non-discriminating to create an environment that welcomes all diversity. By minimizing any negative environmental impacts from manufacturing and maximizing the use of resources, the project seeks to be environmentally sustainable.

Author: Erika Raaby, Tillväxtverket

Karta där delar av Finland, Sverige, Norge, Skottland, Nordirland, Irland, Island och hela Grönland är fyllda med en grön färg. Resten av kartan är vit.

Northern Periphery and Arctic

The ten projects presented are all part of the EU- program Northern Periphery and Arctic that uses the knowledge across boarders to strengthen the regions. Different countries with similar population and remote areas experience similar difficulties and strengths which means interreg programs link them together to learn from each other.

The ten projects that have been studied for this article are all in the late stages of their project period, being finished either at the end of 2018 or start of 2019.

The main source of information has come from the different projects’ own webpages, or information from the collective NPA webpage Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster..

Additional information has been gathered with the help of the NPA programme secretariat in Denmark who kindly sent the latest progress reports from the targeted projects.