Last Friday, Smart Innovation Norway, one of the two Norwegian hubs, broadcasted live from the largest Nordic digital sustainability conference, "A Sustainable Tomorrow." With the goal of turning words into actions, the conference provided attendees with both valuable advice and food for thought.
"We should take the example of Tuvalu, the island nation that will be submerged if sea levels rise. When asked what Tuvalu's greatest strength is, the president answers, 'our community.' They are strong and stand together, finding solutions collectively," says Brita Staal.
She is Climate Lead at Smart Innovation Norway and responsible for the company's role as a hub or meeting place for the largest Nordic digital sustainability conference, A Sustainable Tomorrow. Through 150 hubs in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Spain, last week's conference, celebrating its tenth year, was attended by 20,000 people.
Helsingborg leading the way
With prominent names on the speaker list, including world-renowned scientist Johan Rockström, political economist, entrepreneur, and climate enthusiast Märtha Rehnberg, and former Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, the audience received a solid introduction to this year's focus area, "disruption." The word typically refers to an innovative and sudden change in technology and society.
"The aim is to show the way in sustainability work, where we need to go, and what can be found there. We've been saying for a long time that we need to stop talking and start doing. Today, Helsingborg was highlighted as an example. They have truly taken action and are a shining example within the EU system. Helsingborg is investing in human-friendly, renewable neighborhoods, working on social equality principles, gender equality measures, and succeeding with the cultural network we depend on," notes Staal.
She highlights the latter as the key to succeeding in facing the upcoming climate changes.
"To build resilience in the face of these changes, we must create a safety net for society and ensure that everyone talks to each other a little. From research on climate communication, we know that you trust what your neighbor, colleague, or family member says the most and are less influenced by the media. If we are to change, we need direct interaction, and we must all assist each other in seeing that a more climate-friendly future is possible."
Solidarity creates resilience
The Climate Lead believes that Norwegian communities still have a long way to go in becoming sustainable enough and, more importantly, resilient.
"The way the political landscape is in Norway right now, I feel that we are far from where we should be. What we need to do to withstand more extreme weather, a warmer climate, and greater geopolitical unrest is to build resilience. I don't think we can withstand all the changes that are coming unless we can build a strong social network and solidarity, as we saw demonstrated today by the residents of Tuvalu," says Staal.
She reminds us that this is precisely why the meeting places and inspiration created through "A Sustainable Tomorrow" are so important - and reveals that she will bring new enthusiasm to her own sustainability work after hearing and seeing how others solve various challenges.
"After today, I will bring more enthusiasm into the development of a technical, research-based dashboard that will help make better decisions for all development, whether it's at the municipal level, cluster level, or for an individual company. Days like this are an inspiration to work even harder," says Brita Staal.
Inspired municipal employees
It wasn't just Smart Innovation Norway's Climate Lead who felt motivated after attending "A Sustainable Tomorrow 2023." The transmission of the conference in Smart Innovation Arena at Remmen was open to all, and several people attended. Among them were Martine Ringdal and Gunnhild Marthinsen, both environmental advisors in Halden municipality.
"We work on climate action in the municipality, and it's useful to get professional input. The conference gives us a better understanding of why what we're working on is important, and we see that there are others working on it all over the world," comments Ringdal.
The colleagues are currently working on a project with Smart Innovation Norway, and that's how the two learned about the opportunity to participate in "A Sustainable Tomorrow."
"And I'm very happy about that! This is absolutely fantastic, and I wouldn't want to miss it. Today, I've received more input than I have in the past year," says Marthinsen. She elaborates:
"Personally, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to do the most for a sustainable society, reflecting on my own role and what can be achieved. Hearing that 'the sky is the limit' and the impact of seeing what others are doing - that others can get tired but still find hope - I felt that very strongly."