Saara Kankaanrinta and Carbon Action have been nominated for the Nordic Council Environment Prize. The prize goes to a company, organization, or individual for exemplary efforts to integrate respect for the environment into their business or work or for some other form of extraordinary initiative on behalf of the environment.
The prize has been awarded since 1995 alongside other Nordic Council prizes, such as the Literature Prize. The theme of the 2020 Environment Prize is biodiversity and its importance as a source of well-being and a prerequisite for life. The jury selects initiatives from the first round of nominations that have significantly contributed to biodiversity.
Carbon Action aims to promote and scientifically verify soil carbon sequestration by agricultural practices. In Carbon Action, biodiversity is both a goal and a means: a field with a diverse ecosystem is more sustainable and sequesters carbon efficiently.
Saara Kankaanrinta is the originator of Carbon Action, which has grown into an internationally unique platform that includes 100 farms, several research projects, and companies in the food supply chain. Carbon farming alongside food production will mitigate climate change and advance food security as extreme weather conditions increase. Healthy soil is full of life and its structure retains nutrients for plant use and reduces the eutrophication in waters.
“Combining the work for mitigating climate change, the Baltic Sea, and actions toward advancing biodiversity and reversing the agricultural paradigm is crucial. Because we have top scientists, enthusiastic farmers, and pioneering companies involved, we can work together to make a big impact. That is why the international networks are very interested in our results “, says Kankaanrinta.
“The nomination is, of course, an honour, and, it applies to the entire consortium. The Finnish Meteorological Institute coordinates the research, which involves many research institutes. And without open-minded farmers, we would be in danger of staying on a theoretical level or producing good but practically useless solutions on paper. This demonstrates the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, Kankaanrinta concludes.
The Environment Prize is the only Nordic Council prize that can be nominated by anyone. This year, a record number of Nordics have seized the opportunity. Next, the National Prize Boards will select their nominees for the final competition based on the proposals. The Nordic Prize Committee will meet, and the winner will be announced on 27 October 2020.
News on the Bain collaboration
BAIN EMPLOYS ITS EXPERTISE FOR THE BALTIC SEA
We received an interesting proposal from Bain & Company last fall. Bain wanted to offer BSAG its expertise to develop our operations on a pro bono basis. Bain was familiar to us as a pro-bono partner from previous years, so it was easy to take up on the offer.
“This kind of collaboration is very important to Bain. Both in terms of the fact that we want to do our part to help society and the environment, and also because of the personal interest and enthusiasm of the employees. Our way of collaborating is to bring Bain & Company’s know-how to innovative partners that make a real impact, such as BSAG”, says Jani Kelloniemi, Bain’s partner.
The first project was the development and clarification of BSAG’s business cooperation concept. We thought this could be a meaningful topic for Bain. For BSAG, this was a timely issue that we had been considering for a while, and we needed an outside sparring partner.
Bain offered the means for this project with a strong team that worked intensively and very enthusiastically for several weeks all through winter and spring. Various background studies, surveys and interviews were conducted, which provided a lot of useful material for the development of our business cooperation. Indeed, many of our partners received various contacts from Bain and we want to thank everyone involved for the valuable input!
We refined the information further together in workshops and several discussions. A huge number of new ideas were hatched within the enthusiastic group. As a cherry on top, the work was also very inspiring and fun. At BSAG we also learned a lot and identified needs for improvement.
At the same time, we were also able to conclude that BSAG’s activities and the basic idea of business cooperation will stand the test of time and are likely to be even more in demand in the future. With a defined and even more ambitious presentation of our activities, we are able to provide even more added value to companies in various industries. This way, we help companies to improve the state of the Baltic Sea in the long term and create good business at the same time.
“The Baltic Sea can be helped in many ways. Assistance may take the form of donations, the development of one’s own business activities or the providing of expertise pro bono to develop the activities of a Baltic Sea NGO. The close cooperation project with Bain early this year represents pro bono collaboration at its best. We are very grateful that Bain offered its extensive network, high level expertise and vast experience for us to use. The result of the cooperation is extremely valuable and useful to us”, says Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, CEO of BSAG.
“Both the core team that worked together with BSAG and the entire office that participated in brainstorming were really excited about the collaboration and the impact that was achieved with BSAG,” Jani Kelloniemi continues.
To ensure business continuity, every organization must constantly improve its performance. It does not always happen on its own and often examination done by an outsider is needed. However, BSAG is an NGO that runs on donations and project money and therefore does not have the means to purchase external consulting services. A carefully selected and tailored pro bono partnership is therefore a great way to help us help the Baltic Sea.
To mitigate climate change, we need to dramatically curb emissions. But that is not enough. In addition, we need to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The only know technique to remove carbon in a large scale is the nature: photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide naturally.
Trees and plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it to the soil. Soils store more carbon than the earth’s atmosphere and all its plants and animals combined. Soil also has 25% of all the biodiversity of the earth, and diversity above is intrinsically connected to diversity underground. So, we need to manage the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis together.
The amount of carbon on the planet is finite. It’s the same now as it always has been. it’s a question of where carbon is and in what form. Carbon and hydrological cycles should be in balance. To ensure this, we need functioning ecosystems.
Human activities affecting soil processes can lead to carbon loss or improved storage. In Finland, we are running an ambitious platform called Carbon Action to enhance the soil carbon sequestration. We wanted to create a globally useful pilot example of paradigm change needed in the food chain. Global food security is at stake too, as we need to find farming methods with which we can produce food for the growing population.
Carbon Action is a platform for systemic change. The platform is a large multi-disciplinary network of researchers, farmers, companies and NGOs. The aim is to speed up the paradigm shift from destructive agricultural practices to regenerative practices that build soil, sequester carbon, nurture biodiversity, keep nutrients away from water bodies and enhance farmer’s profitability. At the same time, we make food production more resilient in the changing climate.
The Carbon Action platform has several funders and hosts several projects. The platform enables close cooperation between projects. The holistic approach is awakening interest also internationally.
An important objective is to develop a practical quantification and verification system of carbon sequestration and climate impacts. This is done by combining various measurements and modeling, and requires a lot of interdisciplinary research.
Verification is essential in order to make climate policy or create result-based incentives for the farmers. And as EU is developing its Common Agricultural Policy, we should make sure it steers the system towards regenerative practices and produces public goods together with food.
We need actions in the field and among real farmers at the same time. Our 100 pilot Carbon Farms test practices and collect experiences including effects on soil health and yields. Detailed field experiments study the impacts on carbon fluxes and sequestration, enhance the professional knowhow and motivation of the farmer. Companies are interested in this too as it helps them develop their supply chains and respond to increasing consumer demand for sustainable products. Business has a lot of possibilities to speed up the regenerative practices.
Success of the Carbon Action work has proved us that we have hope and a paradigm change is possible, though not at all easy. To stress my key message once again: we need to mitigate climate change and stop the biodiversity loss. These two crises go hand in hand. We need to cut emissions, put a price on carbon and make sure that nature can work – ensure that land use is based on wellbeing of the ecosystem and human activities are regenerative. We need science, politics, NGOs, business and citizens all aboard. And we need actions, not only words.
Chair of the Board and Founder
Baltic Sea Action Group
The difficulty of reaching political decisions in an era of enormous global challenges has made sustainable investing an interesting channel to achieve major positive impact. The cooperation between eQ Asset Management and Baltic Sea Action Group offers investors a unique opportunity to leverage investments for a wide societal impact.
While devastating wildfires destroy land and habitat in Australia, southern Finland is experiencing a record warm winter without snow. Changing weather conditions, depleting biodiversity and decreasing land fertility impact food supply in vast areas globally. Relatively tepid winters in Finland, with no ice cover and vegetation to help bind soil, nutrients from agricultural land flow into the sea more than usual. When summer comes, the fragile state of the Baltic Sea manifests itself in algae. Gradually over time, owing to the structures we have built, we have created interwoven, serious and complex problems.
– Inevitably mounting global problems, such as climate change, are in danger of being overshadowed by the inwardness of many political leaders and populist policies pushed by tweets. Systemic issues take time and strategic, even transgenerational vision to implement bold decisions, the impact of which will happen way beyond the myopic horizons of election cycles. With climate change, we have now reached a tipping point where citizens and consumers demand action from all decision makers in society. Leadership in problem solving can take place also outside of politics by cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders in society, including businesses. Businesses are a crucial link between consumers and the environment. The companies we invest in the Blue Planet fund understand this, explains Esa Saloranta, Director of Sustainable Technology and portfolio manager of Mutual Fund eQ Blue Planet.
eQ Blue Planet BSAG fund series offers investors a new way to accumulate wealth and achieve positive impact. Blue Planet is a sustainable global equity technology fund. An investor in the fund will be participating in the transformation from carbon dependency to a more efficient and smarter use of scarce resources. Furthermore, the BSAG series turns a large chunk of management fees into direct support for the Baltic Sea. When you invest in the BSAG series, the management fee is slightly higher than the standard 1.5% per annum. However, this extra 0.25% goes directly to The Baltic Sea Action Group and in addition to that, eQ boosts the donation by awarding 85% of management fees to the same cause which multiplies the donation of the investor six times. This is truly innovative and ground-breaking even on a global scale. A 10,000 euros investment in the BSAG series bears 25 euros increase in total cost but supports BSAG by 150 euros annually. Some existing Blue Planet investors already seized the opportunity during the first full year of cooperation by switching to the BSAG series. New investors also found their way to the fund to support the Baltic Sea this way.
– Donations from the BSAG series contribute significantly to the operations of BSAG. It helps to ensure that we can support the Baltic Sea more widely and beyond projects already undergoing. A BSAG series donation enables us to plan forward and seize new challenges with added financial flexibility, explains Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, managing director of BSAG.
eQ and BSAG share a philosophy to approach problems from a holistic point of view. A deep understanding of the interwoven problems directs attention to the root causes of the problems, instead of just trying to treat symptoms. BSAG aims for concrete actions, with a holistic view based on science to enable system change in cooperation with scientists, businesses, farmers and government.
Fundamental sustainability makes businesses future proof
In this age of increasing awareness to global challenges, greenwashing may sound tempting to many businesses. You have to work hard to find truly genuine and fundamental sustainability. Blue Planet analyses companies for signals of strategic and balanced sustainability. Companies need to demonstrate how social and environmental sustainability is core in the strategy and leads to, or maintains financial sustainability. Fundamental sustainability helps companies to overcome also unforeseen challenges better and this is exactly what you want to see as a long-term investor, remarks Saloranta.
eQ Blue Planet has delivered consistently better returns than its benchmark MSCI World. The strategy has a long track record from 2015 to prove it. Sustainable investing is not charity. On the contrary, better return is a reasonable expectation from companies doing business in a way, which is increasingly what the world wants. Sustainability strategy is not brand polishing. Fundamental sustainability can produce lasting competitive advantage, which is worth looking for if you are an investor. Competitive advantage, aligned with the well-being of people, planet and the society, also creates economic value.
– The ongoing change to focus on fundamental sustainability in the minds of business leaders comes from the changes in values and demand for action by the consumers. Finns are increasingly interested in the impact of their investments. Blue Planet BSAG series is an innovative solution to the great challenges of our time. Good return, wide net positive societal impact and an opportunity to turn practically all costs to the charity of your choice – what else do you need if you are a long-term investor considering the footprint of your savings, concludes Saloranta.
Sinebrychoff takes on its second Baltic Sea Commitment. Over the years 2020–2022, the beverage company joins BSAG’s Carbon Action platform and will work with questions relating to carbon throughout the value chain. In addition to committing to improving its own activities, Sinebrychoff will work with its suppliers to make the production of malting barley more sustainable.
Sinebrychoff strives towards brewing a Christmas beer produced using carbon sequestering farming methods, which sets the course for the primary production of malting barley. Sinebrychoff and BSAG have previously worked alongside Viking Malt to promote sustainable nutrient management in primary production. The new commitment represents important steps forward on the same path. In addition to ensuring a sustainable use of nutrients and preventing nutrient leaching, the producers of the Christmas beer will focus of nurturing the soil and farm using methods that capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Producing a Christmas beer using carbon farming practices is a step in the long-term process of making the production of malting barley sustainable. Sinebrychoff’s goal is to eventually ensure sustainability throughout its production chain.
Sinebrychoff’s Baltic Sea Commitment also includes steps to making the brewery operations more environmentally sustainable. The company commits to reducing its carbon emissions and its use of water and plastic. Staff at each part of the value chain play an essential role in implementing the Commitment. Therefore, a major focus will be put on training staff and providing information regarding BSAG and the Carbon Action platform in particular. Sinebrychoff will also provide its parent company Carlsberg and its key staff members with information on carbon farming and the Carbon Action platform.
Sinebrychoff joins the Carbon Action business network which enables it to co-operate with other businesses in the food industry and develop its own operations in regard to carbon farming. The Carbon Action platform, its activities and carbon farming will also feature in Sinebrychoff’s communication with stakeholders.
“We’re very excited about the new commitment. The co-operation is deeper and more holistic and features a strong focus on primary production and advances the Carbon Action platform, which provides an excellent basis to continue our collaboration” says Nicholas Wardi, Project Manager at BSAG.
“We will continue to reduce the brewery’s carbon footprint so that by 2030 we are a carbon-free brewery. For water use, our goal is to achieve a 70,000 m3 decrease from the 2019 level by 2022. Other parts of the commitment are largely related to the implementation of a new way of thinking i.e. promoting Carbon Action and sustainable agriculture,” says Marja-Liisa Weckström, Head of Communications and Responsibility at Sinebrychoff.
Sinebrychoff’s first Baltic Sea Commitment focused on decreasing the environmental impact of its brewery operations and developing the farming practices of the primary producers of malting barley through an auditing system.
Sinebrychoff developed an auditing system in co-operation with Viking Malt, enabling farmers and suppliers to take their farming practices in a more sustainable direction. Through the auditing Sinebrychoff sought to improve water management, decrease nutrient leaching and consequently improve soil fertility.
As part of its Commitment which started in 2015, Sinebrychoff has during the past four years produced its traditional Christmas beer using Baltic Sea friendly farming practices. The malting barley used in the production of the Christmas beer is produced by one of Viking Malt’s farmers which enables the tracking of the barley from farm to bottle. The 2019 KOFF Christmas beer came from Finskas Farm in Iitti, located in the Kymenlaakso region. BSAG assessed the farm’s environmental performance and the auditing carried out by Viking Malt.
During the period of the Commitment Sinebrychoff has further optimized its use of water at the Kerava production plant. In addition, Sinebrychoff has been able to reduce the brewery’s carbon dioxide emissions significantly over the last five years, through heat recovery. In 2014, Sinebrychoff began using the Eco2Brew carbon dioxide recovery plant which captures and cleanses carbon dioxide from the beer brewing process, for it to be used in all carbonated drinks produced by the company.
In addition to substantially improving its production activities Sinebrychoff has supported BSAG’s work for the Baltic Sea with an annual donation of 15 000 euros.
“Actors such as Sinebrychoff are an integral part of BSAG’s work for the Baltic Sea. Businesses in agriculture and food production have an excellent opportunity to affect the state of the Baltic Sea and the climate. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with Sinebrychoff” says Nicholas Wardi, Project Manager at BSAG.
”For us, making a commitment for BSAG has been part of our environmental work. Commitment commits us to action, but above all it motivates us. Clean water is vital for us, and Finland’s image is largely defined by the Baltic Sea. For our part, we want to continue to promote the well-being of the Baltic Sea, ”says Marja-Liisa Weckström, Director of Communications and Responsibility at Sinebrychoff.
The vision is to create a sustainable business ecosystem in the Baltic Sea. By doing this we create a new economic model that fights the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea in a commercially viable manner.
The Commitment of Origin by Ocean is focusing on macro algae marine cultivation and harvesting of blue green algae (Cyanobacteria). Algae cultivation and collection can remove surplus nutrients from the Baltic Sea. In addition, as a Baltic Sea key species, cultivation of bladder wrack holds potential to increase biodiversity in marine areas that are currently in poor condition.
Firstly, Origin by ocean is always committed to considering the environmental needs of the Baltic Sea (e.g. in terms of marine biodiversity) in their business. Origin by Ocean is committed to planning the bladder wrack cultivation practices in a manner that benefits the Baltic Sea and biodiversity. Regenerative agricultural practices are very topical, and the long term plan is to create regenerative cultivation practices also for marine environment. Cultivation process is planned together with scientists and it will also converse with the BSAG’s Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project
More info: https://www.originbyocean.com/
The Baltic Sea Action Group’s annual Christmas campaign collected a record-breaking 231 050 euros from 150 businesses and organizations. The campaign focused on the Baltic Sea’s underwater biodiversity, and the campaign slogan was Long live the Baltic Sea.
As usual, the Long live the Baltic Sea campaign was targeted at companies and other organizations, offering them the chance to donate money for the Baltic Sea instead of spending it on material Christmas presents. In exchange they received communications material, with which to inform their partners of the donation. The donors can be found at the campaign site, where they can be seen as different species of the Baltic Sea. The campaign site became livelier and more diverse as the donations increased!
Once again, the campaign result broke all previous records. Biggest donations were received from PwC Finland (20 000 euros) and the S-group (10 000 euros). With their 20 000 euro donation, PwC Finland got to swim on the top of the campaign site as a rare porpoise, and the S-group was featured as a legendary codfish.
The Baltic Sea is often presented through its problems, as it is one of the most polluted seas in the world. The sea suffers from eutrophication and poor oxygen conditions, and climate change is predicted to exacerbate these issues. However, the Baltic Sea is also beautiful and bustling with life under its surface. One of the Long live the Baltic Sea campaign’s missions was to honor the unique habitants of the sea and to bring attention to the need to secure their future.
”A living and healthy Baltic Sea is the purpose of our work. The Long live the Baltic Sea campaign served as a reminder that despite being in poor condition in many places, the Baltic Sea is far from dead. We are glad that this positive message of defending the sea’s biodiversity reached donors so well. Saving the Baltic Sea requires cooperation, and for example businesses have an important role in this endeavor”, says BSAG’s Managing Director Michaela Ramm-Schmidt.
The species in the Baltic Sea are unique since both freshwater species and marine species need to adapt to the water’s low salinity. Even small changes in the surroundings, for example as a result of climate change, can be fatal to the sea’s habitants. Ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity are more resilient and able to adapt to changing environments. This is one of the reasons why protecting species richness in the Baltic Sea is important.
BSAG works to protect the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity in the Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project. To ensure underwater biodiversity, problems such as eutrophication also need to be solved. BSAG fights eutrophication through, e.g., advancing sustainable agriculture and nutrient cycling.
Watch the Long live the Baltic Sea campaign video here. The campaign site and donors can be found here: www.jouluahjaitamerelle.fi. The site and the campaign video are in Finnish.
Atria’s Baltic Sea Commitment aims at improving the sustainability of livestock production
Atria has made a Baltic Sea Commitment to the Baltic Sea Action Group with the aim of improving the environmentally sustainable food chain and livestock production together with Atria’s contract producers and A-Rehu’s contract farmers. The commitment is part of Atria’s sustainability strategy, which aims at carbon-neutral food production.
Atria’s five-year commitment consists of three parts:
Atria is committed to reducing the environmental impact of livestock production by, for example, optimising feeding, utilising food industry side streams, improving nutrient cycling and by using the best production methods utilising data from the said research and development projects.
Atria will advance cooperation between livestock farms and arable farms to enhance nutrient cycling through improved manure application, make more efficient use of the current agricultural area, reduce emissions from peatlands, increase the production of domestic protein crops and improve crop rotation.
Atria promotes the introduction of cultivation practices that improve the soil and enhance carbon sequestration on livestock farms and arable farms by training its own experts and sharing best practices and communicating research results.
– We share common concerns about climate change, which calls for action from all of us. Atria wants to be part of the solution and that is why a carbon-neutral food chain is our main goal. We believe that this will be possible by 2035, says Merja Leino, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, at Atria Group.
– Food chain companies like Atria have a direct opportunity to influence both practical emissions and wider changes in the food system. Atria’s five-year Baltic Sea Commitment includes both immediate actions and more research and development to promote a circular economy and carbon neutrality, says Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, CEO of BSAG.
– For the Baltic Sea, more effective recycling of nutrients and good soil management will provide immediate help. Carbon neutrality requires for example actions on peatlands and imported soya to be replaced by domestic protein crops, Ramm-Schmidt continues.
– Food contributes about 20% of the carbon footprint of consumption. The most significant environmental impacts of food production in the whole chain are in primary production. Co-operation with BSAG will provide us the latest research information and support to put this knowledge into practice to reduce the environmental impact of arable farming and meat production. We are very pleased that the cooperation has started, says Leino.
The loss of nature’s biodiversity is a problem in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Species and habitats are lost in an accelerated pace on land and at sea, and our Baltic Sea is no exception. The collaborative Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project, initiated by BSAG, seeks to utilize existing, comprehensive data on valuable underwater habitats to facilitate practical work for marine protection.
The habitants of seas and oceans can be protected by establishing marine protected areas (MPAs). The challenges facing MPAs differ somewhat from the protected areas on dry land. Eutrophication and the rise in temperature and decreased salinity, brought on by climate change, affect the ecosystems regardless of their protected status. However, MPAs can help to ensure species’ wellbeing by limiting additional human-induced pressures.
Biodiversity hotspots in Finnish marine waters have been inventoried in the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment (VELMU). The uniquely comprehensive VELMU data allows us to determine those underwater areas that would benefit the most from protection. The data also shows that most of the areas with the highest species richness fall outside the current MPA network. This is understandable, as data concerning underwater biodiversity has previously been lacking. MPAs have often been established based on the species and habitats above water. These aspects of biodiversity are also important but to ensure underwater biodiversity we must shift our attention below the surface.
It is important to keep in mind that biodiversity doesn’t only refer to the number of different species. Each species lives in a way that is specific to them, and their way of living affects the ecosystem. Species have different interactions with each other and the abiotic environment that surrounds them. This complex web of interactions is extremely difficult to grasp. This so called functional diversity needs to be included in our perception of biodiversity, and it cannot be addressed solely bu counting species. MPAs that are sufficiently large in size and cover many different habitats will likely help to support functional biodiversity.
Establising a successful MPA requires sufficient data on the species and habitats in the area, as well as identifying the pressures that they face. The ecological requirements of different species, and their different life stages needs to be well understood. The restrictions to human activity in the area need to be adequate, and different stakeholders must commit to reaching the protection goals. The area must be large enough, and ideally it would also be connected to other nearby MPAs. After the MPA has been established, it should also be further monitored to make sure that the protection goals are reached.
This list of demands is extensive, which is why MPAs quite often fail to reach their targets. Too small or scattered MPAs do not offer sufficient shelter to species. MPAs established with insufficient data can lead to the protection of relatively low value areas, while areas in need of protection are left out. The restrictions to human activities in the area can be inadequate if too big compromises with different stakeholders need to be made.
Involving stakeholders in the planning process is essential to the success of an MPA. Establishing MPAs by dictating from above usually leads to resistance and stakeholders’ unwillingness to respect the necessary restrictions to human activities. It is important that the part-owners of waterbodies get to participate in the discussion concerning their property already in the planning stages. On the other hand MPAs often benefit the owners as well, since they not only provide the owners with a healthy marine environment, but also prevent unwanted large-scale future operations in the area.
In spite of the challenges, MPAs are necessary to safeguard underwater marine biodiversity. In Finland, many issues related to knowledge gaps can be solved with the help of the VELMU data. The collaborative Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project, initiated by BSAG and with start-up funding provided by the Bank of Åland’s Baltic Sea Project, aims to figure out the complexities of establishing privately owned MPAs, as VELMU data has shown that most of the biodiversity hotspots are located on privately owned waters. Encouraging private owners to protect their waters and making the process of creating an MPA easier is in the heart of the Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project.
However, even the most well-planned and managed protected areas won’t help if the surrounding ecosystem is degrading. Ultimately, to protect biodiversity in the Baltic Sea we must work for the well-being of the entire sea.
Communications coordinator, Baltic Sea Action Group