Geoparks as pioneers of sustainable development

UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and actively participate in solving global problems.

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development aims at safeguarding opportunities for a good life to the current and future generations. This requires that the environment, people and the economy are equally taken into account in decision-making and activities.

The concept of sustainable development emerged as a result of the work of the UN Brundtland Commission in 1987. Since then, sustainable development policy has developed into increasingly comprehensive and diverse practices. Sustainable development is a way to do things more sensibly and fairly. Learn more about sustainable development.

A better future for people and the environment through the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate poverty and improve people’s living conditions and opportunities for a good life while protecting our planet. In 2015, UN member states agreed on these goals and Agenda 2030 for the next 15 years.

There are 17 UN sustainable development goals which have a total of 169 sub-goals. Some of the goals focus on the environment, some on society and some on the economy. The Sustainable Development Goals are binding for all states, and their implementation and effectiveness are monitored. The UN has declared the current decade the Decade of Action, which aims to accelerate the achievement of the goals by 2030. Learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Finland is committed to promoting sustainable development

In Finland, the Society’s Commitment to sustainable development “The Finland we want by 2050” has been built as a tool for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through this commitment, public administration is committed to promoting sustainable development in all its work and activities together with other actors.

Businesses, communities, educational institutions, administrations, parties, cities and others can make their own concrete commitment to action to achieve common goals. More than two thousand commitments have already been made. Learn more about the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development.

UNESCO Global Geoparks are model areas for sustainable development

UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and actively participate in solving global problems. Geoparks are responsible for protecting the area’s valuable natural and cultural heritage. Awareness of the region’s heriage is raised through research and education. By enhanced knowledge it is possible to operate more sustainably. Learn more about sustainability in UNESCO Global Geoparks.

UNESCO Global Geoparks have ten priority areas, the main tasks. With the implementation of the tasks, geoparks contribute to the realization of the sustainable development goals.

  • Sustainable use of natural resources
  • Geological and other hazards
  • Climate change
  • Education
  • Science
  • Culture
  • Women
  • Sustainable development
  • Local and indigenous knowledge
  • Geoconservation

Learn more about top 10 focus areas of UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Geoparks belonging to the UNESCO Global Geoparks network are required to promote a sustainable local economy. The vitality of the area will be enhanced, for example, through sustainable tourism. Geoparks help tourism service companies to operate more sustainably.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), sustainable tourism is tourism that takes into account the effects of tourism on the economy, society and the environment now and in the future. Sustainable tourism takes into account the needs of tourists, the tourism industry, the environment and the host communities.

When tourism is sustainable, environmental resources are used optimally and the natural heritage and biodiversity are protected. Sustainable tourism destinations respect local communities, value local culture and promote intercultural understanding. In sustainable tourism, economic measures are viable and long-lasting, and the economic benefits are shared fairly. Learn more about sustainable tourism.

UNESCO Global Geoparks network has its own global GEOfood brand for local food. GEOfood is locally and traditionally based, sustainably produced food and beverage products produced in Geoparks and based on the local geological heritage. GEOfood is becoming an integral part of sustainable tourism in Geoparks. Learn more about GEOfood.

Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark contributes to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. An action plan for sustainable development is being prepared for the Geopark, which will help to promote sustainable development even more strongly in the future. Communication will raise awareness of sustainable development goals and related measures in the Geopark.

Lauhanvuori - Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark promotes the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1. No poverty

Much of the world’s people still live in poverty. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty. Favorable developments have been achieved, but poverty is on the rise again due to the corona pandemic.

We are doing what we can to improve people’s income levels in our own area and, if possible, elsewhere too. We prefer the services and products of local small businesses. We choose certified products, such as Fairtrade Products, that allow us to make a positive impact on the livelihoods of people in developing countries.

Goal 2. Zero hunger

Through the UNESCO Global Geoparks GEOfood brand, we promote the livelihoods and sustainable practices of small producers in the region, as well as cafés and restaurants.

GEOfood is a local food produced in the Geopark area. GEOfood products and menus are based on the geology and natural conditions and traditions of the area. Learn more about the GEOfood brand. We prefer certified products, such as Fairtrade Products, which allow us to support sustainable food production in developing countries.

Goal 3. Good health and well-being

Geopark promotes health and well-being by offering diverse opportunities for nature hiking and cultural experiences. Studies show that staying in and moving in nature enhances people’s well-being and health. There is a special wellness trail, Rantareitti, in the Geopark. Businesses in the area offer guided tours in nature and other nature-related wellness services.

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Goal 4. Quality education

Education is one of the most important tasks of UNESCO Global Geoparks. Geoparks are required to provide education for  a wide range of target groups of all ages. Environmental education increases the understanding of the area’s geological heritage and its effects on the area’s living nature and human activities.

We cooperate with universities and colleges, schools, associations and other parties related to education and provide guided tours for school groups and others interested in the topic. Read more about education in the Geopark.

Objective 5. Gender equality

Equality of all people and equal opportunities for participation are a matter of course in Geopark’s operations. We strive to guarantee opportunities for all types of people to participate in the activities of the Geopark and enjoy what the area has to offer.

Objective 6. Clean water and sanitation

We promote water conservation by communicating the importance and means of water protection. We report on projects related to the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems in our area. We communicate sanitation opportunities on our sites and routes.

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Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

We encourage public actors and companies in our region to seek energy efficiency and to use renewable energy sources. Municipalities in the area are encouraged to join the Hinku network of municipalities aiming for carbon neutrality. Of the Geopark municipalities, Parkano already belongs to the Hinku network.

The region’s tourism service companies are being assisted towards more sustainable practises and the Sustainable Travel Finland brand. To reach the STF label it is a necessity for a company to have some of the responsibility certifications. These certifications often require energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in the firms. For example, Valkoinen Puu Café, one of the Geopark’s member companies, develops and verifies its responsibility through the Ekokompassi certificate.

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Objective 8. Decent work and economic growth

We promote sustainable economic growth in our region by developing sustainable tourism and supporting entrepreneurship. Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark ry and the projects it manages employ local people and favor the region’s products and services in their purchases.

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9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

The Geopark promotes research in its area by collaborating with universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes and by communicating research made in the area.

The Geopark promotes sustainable transport in its area by communicating sustainable transport opportunities. A cycling route will also be created across the area, which will allow the Geopark’s destinations and services to be reached by bicycle. The cycling route will be connected to existing cycling routes, public transport stations and nearby towns.

The project develops the cycling opportunities in the area holistically. In addition to the routes, services are also being developed, such as guidance and accommodation services, as well as bicycle maintenance and electric bicycle charging facilities. In addition to tourists, residents of the area also benefit from improved cycling opportunities. Read more about the project.

10. Reduced inequalities

We strive to reduce regional disparities domestically and globally. Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark is located on the fringe of three provinces, far from growing city centers.

The Geopark seeks to gain positive visibility to the region, create opportunities for cooperation and the development of the area, and to promote livelihood of the residents of the area. Learn more about the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark association, which manages the Geopark.

Many of the Geoparks of the world are located in remote areas. We also promote these other Geoparks as sustainable tourist destinations.

11. Sustainable cities and communities

The main goal of the UNESCO Global Geoparks is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the territory. Geoparks must have valuable geology whose international significance has been scientifically proven.

The geological story of Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas  Geopark tells about the transformation of the landscape from an ancient mountain range to the present low lying mire rich landscape. Local natural conditions have always influenced the lives of the people in the area and the formation of unique habits and traditions. The Geopark and its sites tell the common history of people and the environment. Read more about the valuable natural and cultural heritage of the Geopark area.

Geoparks are not protected areas, but Geopark’s sites are protected by the law, either in terms of geology, the living nature, or cultural heritage. Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area has a wide range of nature reserves, such as mires, ridges, bird waters and old-growth forests.

Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland has prepared management and use plans for its key protected areas, which aim to safeguard the protection values ​​of the areas and coordinate the needs of different interests. The plans are updated regularly. The environmental impact and sustainability of human activities in protected areas are assessed using the Least Acceptable Change method.

Hiking infrastructure, such as stairs, boardwalks and viewing platforms, have been built at the Geopark sites to guide visitors and protect nature from wear and tear. The Geopark promotes sustainable transport in the region by developing and communicating sustainable transport opportunities.

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12. Responsible consumption and production

The Geopark promotes responsible consumption through its own operations and communication. We carefully consider what and how we consume. In our communications and educational materials, we emphasize the importance of conserving nature and sustainable consumption, such as waste prevention and recycling. For example, we tell people about equipment rental and maintenance opportunities in our area. The Geopark seeks to bring prosperity to the area with the least possible harmful  impact on the environment.

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13. Climate action

The Geopark’s communication and educational materials tell about climate change, it’s impacts on our region, and how we can adapt to it and influence it.

Mires store carbon, and peat formation is a carbon sink. The interaction between different types of mires and the atmosphere is a complex entity on which the Natural Resources Institute of Finland is actively making research in the area. Learn more about peatland and climate research.

The Geopark staff will prevent climate change by favoring remote work, traveling as little as possible and favoring climate-friendly alternatives in all consumption. We also encourage our stakeholders to act in a climate-friendly manner.

14. Life below water

There are no marine areas included  in the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark, but the sea is close by and water-related activities in the Geopark area directly affect coastal and marine ecosystems.

Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland implement water protection and rehabilitation measures in the Geopark area. The Geopark communicates about these actions and includes the topic in educational materials. The Geopark encourages the residents and tourists of the area to act for protection of water bodies.

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15. Life on land

In Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark there are two national parks, Lauhanvuori and Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Parks, one nature park, protected mires, ridges and other sites belonging to the Natura 2000 network, the Hyypänjoki Valley Landscape Management Area, one Ramsar area and nature monuments.

Through sustainable nature tourism, the areas are utilized in such a way that their conservation values are preserved and the sites suffer as little as possible from tourism. Indicators have been developed to monitor the preservation of values (LAC method), and the impact of tourism in protected areas is constantly monitored.

Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland restores mires, rapids and other ecosystems. Traditional biotopes are also maintained and alien species are controlled. The Geopark area is home to endangered species, such as Dianthus arenarius and Caryocolum arenariellum, for which certain habitats are crucial.

Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland protects and rehabilitates areas and sites in the Geopark. Geopark communicates Metsähallitus’ measures and uses communication and educational materials to guide the area’s residents and tourists to the practices that the protection requires. We participate in conservation and restoration measures and communicate good practices and achievements that enhance biodiversity in the Geopark area.

Most of Geopark’s sites are located in areas managed by Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland. Metsähallitus maintains the camping structures and monitors the use of the areas. Some of the Geopark’s sites are located in areas owned by municipalities, and the structures and use of these sites are taken care of by the municipalities themselves.

16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

One of the basic principles of UNESCO Global Geoparks is a bottom-up approach. Geoparks are created and developed in close cooperation with the residents of the areas and taking into account the needs and starting points of the local residents. The purpose of geoparks is to increase well-being among the residents of the area.

Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark is constantly working to ensure that the Geopark’s operations are as transparent as possible and that everyone who is interested has the opportunity to participate in the Geopark’s operations and the development of it.

UNESCO Global Geoparks must have a legally functioning and efficient governance model. The actors in the area must be broadly and equitably represented in the administration.

Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark is managed by an association founded by the municipalities in the area. The board of the association has a representative from each Geopark municipality. In addition, the board has business representatives from each of the three subregions. The association develops and maintains the Geopark in cooperation with Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, supporting member companies and associations, and other stakeholders.

The measures that are part of the Geopark’s core tasks are planned and implemented by various groups of experts and local residents, coordinated by Geopark staff.

Learn more about the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark Association and its operations.

17. Partnerships for the Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without cooperation. Diverse cooperation is also one of the basic tasks of the UNESCO Global Geoparks. UNESCO Global Geoparks are members of the Global Geoparks Network as well as regional networks such as the European Geoparks Network.

Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark cooperates at the national level with Rokua UNESCO Global Geopark and Saimaa UNESCO Global Geopark as well as Salpausselkä and Kraatterijärvi Geopark projects aiming at UNESCO status.

Representatives of geoparks network with each other, exchange information and ideas, and work on joint projects to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Geopark also cooperates very extensively with other stakeholders.

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Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photos: Kari Leo, Terttu Hermansson, Pasi Talvitie, Juha Viitala, Sannamari Ratilainen, Ismo Nousiainen, Flora of Finland, Valkoinen Puu, United Nations, Prime Minister’s Office


Global Geoparks Network:

UNESCO Global Geoparks:

United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals,

Prime Minister’s Office: Sustainable development,

World Tourism Organization: Sustainable development,

We can all do our own share to promote sustainable development