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Elli Aaltonen: Social sustainability

Published on 10.5.2021
Tampere University
Elli Aaltonen.
Elli Aaltonen is a professor of practice in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Her job is to bring her extensive experience from the public sector and NGOs in Finland and abroad to the academic community. Aaltonen's research focuses on social sustainability.

“My years of working on welfare issues have led me to ask how we can create the kind of well-being that will bring long-term sustainability to clients, employees, and entire society. That is what social sustainability is about,” Aaltonen says.

In the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report, social sustainability is defined as reducing inequality and ensuring that no one’s left behind in society. According to Aaltonen, social sustainability is always based on human dignity that is demonstrated by equality and fairness.

“When the content of social sustainability is defined in terms of concrete measures, the most common ones are related to reducing poverty and inequality, involving and empowering people, and ensuring intergenerational equity,” Aaltonen sums up.

When support for social sustainability is inhibited, inequalities manifested by income gaps, health differentials and exclusion begin to worsen. Experiences of satisfaction with life and education falter, and faith in the future diminishes.

“If people have a poor general sense of security and inadequate levels of basic services and welfare, society will not be socially sustainable,” Aaltonen points out.

Elli Aaltonen's contact information