Sustainable development is one of the key principles guiding the structural fund activities. The aim is to ensure that the activities support the achievement of the sustainable development objects laid out by the community in social, ecological, cultural and economic fields and that the overall impacts on the environment, climate and human well-being are positive. This requires the inclusion of the environmental perspective in programming during its different stages.
Ecological sustainability is promoted through ERDF measures by improving the environmental expertise and responsibility and energy efficiency of SMEs, by investing in material research and technology, production technology, efficient logistics and activities making use of side streams and waste energy contents. Economic sustainability can be improved by developing new green business opportunities, which are available in such sectors as cleantech and bioeconomy and by promoting longer working careers. Social and cultural sustainability can be improved by increasing inclusion and by promoting the working and functional capacity of people facing the risk of social exclusion, by promoting diversity management at Finnish workplaces and by strengthening development based on citizen actors at local level.
Sustainable growth is now accepted as a tool for promoting more resource-efficient, greener and more competitive economy. Achievement of EU's climate and energy targets and the transition towards a more resource-efficient economy are prioritised issues. The key measure is to promote energy and material efficiency and to increase the use of renewable energy sources. It should also be remembered that under the higher national aim set for ERDF measures, 25 per cent of the funding must be directed at measures promoting low-carbon activities.