Smart & Clean

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area’s Smart & Clean Foundation was a joint five-year change project between cities, companies, universities and research institutes in the Helsinki region as well as the Finnish Government. The project involved 29 partners from the public and private sectors. The Foundation operated from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2021. It orchestrated effective climate solutions for the systemic challenges of cities related to transport, energy, construction and the waste and water supply sector. Solutions that reduce emissions also produced a new kind of business and yielded export references for companies.

The Foundation was an innovative and long-term finance and administration model. Its operations were funded by donations and grants from partners. The Foundation’s Board consisted of the CEOs, mayors and other managers of the partners. Smart & Clean aimed to create an operating model that would promote a systemic shift towards a ‘1.5°C society’ through cooperation.

The Circulating All Plastics project, which started as the Foundation’s spearhead project, aimed to have all recyclable plastic in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and the City of Lahti recycled more efficiently. This ecosystem, which consists of private and public operators, is developing effective actions to meet the common goal, covering the plastic production chain from manufacturing to reuse. In the Circulating All Plastics initiative, a diverse group of local operators is committed to the goal of maximally increasing the volume of plastic being recycled. The operations focus on scalable solutions that mitigate climate change and promote circular economy while also creating new business and jobs. At the moment, significantly less than 10% of all recyclable plastic in the Metropolitan Area is being recycled. It would be possible to increase this proportion to 70%, at the maximum.

Another example of the Foundation’s work is that it worked with ITS Finland in 2020 as part of the National Growth Programme for the Transport Sector on developing a model for affecting the sustainability of the transport system and promoting the achievement of the 1.5ºC climate target in particular.

During its existence, the Foundation actively facilitated cooperation between companies and the public sector and accelerated a shift towards cleaner and more sustainable business. These operations that aimed to strengthen ecosystems and promote new solutions also drew notable international attention. Furthermore, the Foundation’s operational support also extended to coaching related to Helsinki’s services and network operations more widely.

When the Foundation’s fixed-term operations ended, the projects that would continue were integrated into the other operations of the project partners. The groundwork laid by the operations was also one of the incentives to strengthen Helsinki’s work on developing business for clean and sustainable urban solutions. The development of ecosystems and competencies will continue e.g. through various accelerator and incubator operations and closer cooperation with universities.

Cityscape in Pasila, Helsinki.
Image 18. The Smart & Clean Foundation was a joint five-year change project between cities, companies, universities and research institutes in the Helsinki region, along with the Finnish Government. Photograph by Jussi Hellsten.