The Nordic View on Sustainability – Learnings from the Local Level

This Nordic Voluntary Subnational Review (VSR) is the first cross-national report of its kind in the world. It has been developed as a joint venture by the Nordic Associations of Local and Regional Governments (LRGAs) and Nordregio. The aim of the report is to highlight how the Nordic municipalities and regional authorities have localised the Sustainable Development Goals – progress made, as well as obstacles they have met in their work. Through the report and a toolbox, we want to share learnings and tested methods with local and regional authorities globally.

Development happens locally. At least 105 of the 169 SDG targets depend on active engagement from local and regional authorities. The 2030 Agenda can serve as a tool to pinpoint sustainability challenges and track progress holistically, fostering collaboration among citizens, businesses, and civil society. Nordic welfare states, known for their autonomy at the municipal and regional level, have long served as a global benchmark for systematically addressing sustainability challenges.

This Nordic VSR is based on surveys sent to Nordic municipalities, complemented by interviews with representatives from the LRGAs regarding the strengths and weaknesses of national support to the local level, as well as the role of LRGAs in building competence and promoting municipal cooperation. The report also includes subchapters on methods for meaningful citizen engagement by The Nordic Youth Network for Sustainable Development and the Nordic Civil Society Network. 

The report’s official launch took place as a side event at the UN High-Level Political Forum. See a recording of it here

Five highlights from the report

  • The majority of responding municipalities are engaged: over 95% of municipalities in Sweden and Norway report active work to localise SDGs, 80% in Denmark, and 64% in both Finland and Iceland.
  • Holistic integration: Most responding municipalities integrate the SDGs holistically: focusing on economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
  • Strategic implementation: Many municipalities integrate the 2030 Agenda into local strategies, planning systems, budgets, and procurement guidelines.
  • Priority SDGs: While all SDGs are recognised as important, some municipalities prioritise specific goals, with SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 13 (Climate Action) at the top.
  • Measuring progress: 68% of responding municipalities in Finland and Sweden measure progress, 45% in Norway, 38% in Denmark and 18% in Iceland.

Nordic Toolbox

An important complement to the Nordic VSR is the Nordic Toolbox: an interactive, online map of Nordic municipalities showcasing transferable methods and initiatives for implementing the SDGs. The Nordic Toolbox offers a diverse collection of examples and tools that you can filter by SDG or by topic.

The Nordic View on Sustainability – Learnings from the Local Level has been developed by Nordregio in close collaboration with the Nordic Associations of Local and Regional Governments, with funding from The Nordic Council of Ministers.