KESTO – Leadership and Implementation of Sustainability Goals in Finnish Municipalities

The KESTO project (Leadership and implementation of sustainability: Action research on the localisation of the SDGs in Finnish municipalities) supports strategic and integrative approaches to sustainable urban development. Our hypothesis is that a participatory process, where the sustainable development goals of the Agenda 2030 are localised in a cross-sectoral manner, gives the opportunity to bring sustainable development to the very centre of the strategy work in cities.

Project goals: Localisation of SDGs

With the Sustainable Development Goals ratified by all UN countries we are taking global responsibility of our shared planet. Reaching the goals requires both international collaboration and focused local actions in each member state. Cities are in a particularly vital role: in an urbanised world, many of the most significant sustainable initiatives are carried out locally. In order to implement the SDG Plan of Action (17 goals and 169 subgoals), the goals must be interpreted on a local level; ie. localised. The localisation process requires a cross-sectoral understanding of the cities’ preconditions and the will to implement the goals with a strategic and integrative approach. 

The hypothesis of the KESTO project is that the sustainable development goals form an excellent framework for strategic and integrative city development. The process is carried out with 15-20 cities/municipalities chosen from existing networks (of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities).


The project identifies the current baseline in cross-sectoral strategy work and co-creation. It also tests a set of easy-to-use indicators that the municipalities can use to follow their own progress. The project results in replicable models that support strategic leadership in operationalising city-specific sustainability goals and allocating the necessary resources to reach them. These models are tested by a selection of the collaborating municipalities.

We use the strong definition of sustainable development, where success in a sole dimension of sustainability (ecological, social or economic) does not count as pioneering. Instead, we are pushing for a paradigm shift: economic activities should be redefined as one part of our socio-cultural system, which must operate within sustainable planetary boundaries. A cross-sectoral SDG framework guides the research, co-creation and analysis of our project. We will map the current sustainability goals of the participating cities and bring to light the knowledge basis they stem from. We will analyse the factors that hinder or support sustainability issues becoming central in strategic development. We will locate best practises and analyze their replicability and scalability. We will analyse the co-creation methods used in municipalities and test them within the project.


The KESTO project started in March 2019 and will finish by April 2020.

Project Partners

Kaisa Schmidt-ThoméDemos Helsinki

Suomen ympäristökeskus SYKE
Suomen Kuntaliitto