New strategy focuses on catalyzing large-scale and fast-acting cuts in GHG emissions

The Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation has completed its strategy for the period 2020–2025. Operations will undergo major changes as the foundation’s resources are reallocated to finding quick and efficient ways to cut emissions.

Expert knowledge and insight were the cornerstones of writing the new strategy. In the first stage of the process, interviews were conducted with ten leading experts of sustainable development and climate matters, who offered their views on the most urgent matters in these fields. They were also asked to share their ideas on how an organization like the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation could achieve the best possible near-future outcomes in these fields.

The message from the experts was clear and largely unanimous: more investment is needed in disseminating research data throughout society, and a thorough understanding of the scale and depth of the crisis must be made clear to all decision-makers. There was a general desire for foundations to use their authority to call for penetrating political vision and action plans for society. Reduction of fossil emissions plays a key role, and many of the experts would directly focus on cutting consumer emissions.

“The situation is serious, but we can alter the current course of development if we resolutely address the systems that enable people’s contemporary lifestyle. To do this, we will need unwavering politicians, activists, business leaders, chefs, mayors, researchers and so on to step
into bigger shoes and create a new normal in their own sectors”, says Eeva Furman, Director for Environmental Policy at the Finnish Environment Institute.

Volume and efficiency for cutting emissions – on the conditions of the environmental crisis

The 2020s will become a crucial decade for decision-making and the implementation of rapid solutions in the fight against climate warming. This is why the decision was made to shift the foundation’s strategic focus to rapid global emissions cutting. The new strategy also states that climate warming is just one dimension of a much larger environmental crisis and that comprehensive ecological reconstruction must not be postponed.

“There is no single environmental crisis; rather, we are faced with several simultaneous challenges. Still, it is best to allocate tasks according to potential. During the strategy process, we realized that the foundation’s networks and shared determination steer us towards rapid action in finding ways to cut emissions. At the same time, we can focus attention on sustaining Earth’s carrying capacity and the more extensive social change that is needed to achieve this”, says the foundation’s Head of Development, Anna Herlin.

Marjaana Toiminen from the Ellun Kanat change agency facilitated the foundation’s strategy work. She highlights the unique possibilities offered by the fact that foundations are free to choose their methods of operation – and the accompanying responsibilities of that freedom. According to Toiminen, “Foundations are important influencers in society. That is why they should review their methods of operation, now more than ever, as we are living in a time of great historical change. Having followed the foundation field for a long time, I venture to suggest that foundations consistently fail to take full advantage of their potential. The courageous decisions that the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation has made to radically change its method of operation and shift its focus in line with the demands of the environmental crisis demonstrates true leadership attitude”.

Overall effects are decisive

The environmental crisis is a good example of a challenge that must be fought together to overcome. In Finland alone, there are numerous excellent parties involved in climate action. Through its strategy process, the foundation has determined the role that best corresponds to its strengths in addressing the environmental crisis and the climate debate. Creating partnerships and enabling encounters are natural ways for the foundation to operate, and these were highlighted as the most important methods of operation.

In the years to come, the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation will invite its stakeholders to work on a more sustainable future together. The foundation has acquired a 19th-century wooden villa in Helsinki’s Kaivopuisto Park, which is being repurposed as a venue for meeting and networking. Once the now ongoing renovation project is completed, the foundation will relocate to the villa, which it will occupy together with the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation. The Puistokatu 4 villa will then become a venue for important encounters, multidisciplinary research and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The new strategy also means that the foundation will no longer organize annual, open grant application cycles. Although past application cycles have helped find and finance extremely important research and civil society projects, the foundation believes that the open application method is inefficient in relation to the total amount of money awarded. From now on, collaboration partners will be sought out on the basis of expert review and discussion. Fast and efficient positive impact on climate change, achieving change at the system level, and the scalability of projects will be the most important criteria for financing and partnerships from now on. The first new projects are currently in the preparation phase.

We cannot let climate warming take us by surprise

The foundation’s strategy process was completed during an extraordinary time. The global COVID-19 pandemic has caught practically every country, company and individual unawares. Yet the danger of a pandemic came as no surprise to scientists and researchers, who had already described the current scenario in amazing detail in advance.

“The climate crisis is an even greater threat than COVID-19, and one which is easier to overcome than surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in theory. The ‘medication and vaccines’ already exist, we just need the go-ahead to use them. Fighting a crisis before it turns into a disaster is also the most viable solution financially”, says Antti Herlin, founder and chair of the board of the foundation. “Since we are now faced with a situation where reconstruction is inevitable, we should take resolute steps to preserve our living environment. We can still achieve a change of direction at the system level, but we will soon be pressed for time.”

Read the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation’s strategy 2020-2025 in English here.

For more information, please contact Anna Herlin, Head of Development at