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- A global portal for learning the Nordic way of advancing sustainable development including the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations

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Nordics – the world’s most sustainable region, have long been working with strategies and action plans for advancing sustainable development. The unique Nordic experience gained by practicing social democracy and free market welfare state policies will immensely benefit any country aspiring to undertake forward looking reforms aimed at better addressing the present day multiple challenges – environmental, social or economic – in the post-COVID context.

The Nordic countries are well-known for successfully adopting human rights-based approaches to development. Denmark is the first and the only UN Member State to have introduced a comprehensive human rights mechanism and guide to help implement the 2030 Agenda including the Sustainable Development Goals ( - the Danish Institute for Human Rights).


LEEG-Net, a global partnership for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is concerned with the Nordic experience in advancing sustainability. The purpose of launching “the Nordic Lead in Sustainability” as a learning portal of LEEG-Net is to facilitate knowledge sharing between the Nordic countries and the rest of the world, especially developing countries and LDCs.

The Nordic Region

The Nordic Region consists of five sovereign states — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — plus the three autonomous territories connected to these states: the Faroe Islands and Greenland (Denmark) as well as Åland (Finland). With a population of over 27 million, the Nordic economies combined represent the 12th-largest in the world.


Top global ranks

The Nordic countries collectively top the charts in terms of all global sustainability rankings. Some of those charts with top Nordic country ranks include:

(a) the UN Human Development Report

(b) World Happiness Report  -

(c) Sustainable Development Ranking - UN SDSN -

(d) Social Progress Index -

(e) RobecoSAM Country Sustainability Ranking of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) metrics - and

(f) Global Sustainable Competiveness Report 

Sweden is leading the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index (GSCI) 2021, followed by all other Nordic nations with the exception of Switzerland taking the 3rd place.  

The Nordic region is looked to as leading by example, sending strong signals on human rights, social and welfare levels, environmental protection, climate actions, circular bioeconomy and continued commitments to development aid.

Resources from our Knowledge Partners


Association of Nordic Engineers (ANE)


1)  TOWARDS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY - Skills and competences for STEM professionals

This report provides an overview of the future need for STEM and engineering skills during and after the transition to a circular economy. It also introduces the Circular Economy Competence Framework for STEM specialists. This framework presents a set of essential technical and analytical skills for creating circular solutions. The ANE suggests that technical universities use it and embed it in STEM educational programmes. 

Link to download the report 



Future skill and workforce requirements for engineers working with climate technologies in the Nordics    

So far there has been little knowledge about what engineering and STEM competences will be needed now and in the future for the rapid green transition of our societies to succeed. However, this report from the ANE is the first attempt to provide a unique picture, though quite specific, of the particular STEM skills needed to drive the ongoing and necessary development of a greener Nordic energy sector. 

Link to download the report 

3) Sustainable limitless work - opportunities, challenges and future scenarios  

Limitless working brings flexibility and freedom to be able to choose where and when tasks are performed. At the same time, digital site-independent workplaces put new demands on the relationship between employees and employers. This report explores the effects of limitless working. It is based on a survey on limitless work conducted by the ANE. 

Link to download the report 

Hurdal ecovillage - Norway.jpeg

Hurdal Ecovillage of Norway is a place where you can enjoy both fruit garden and high-speed internet.  The houses are built from breathable natural materials and heated with solar and wood energy. Facilities include a farm with fields, woodland and organic vegetables and ecological center with cafes, a bakery, a school and office space for rent.

The ‘Nordic Model’

In a world where inequality is on the rise alongside an increase in income, the Nordic region has been cited by many scholars as a role model for economic opportunity and equality giving rise to well-performing economic and social indicators.

The Nordic Model is a term coined to capture the unique combination of free-market capitalism and a generous welfare system that have given rise to a society that enjoys a host of top-quality services, including free education and healthcare and generous, guaranteed pension payments for retirees.

The Nordic model has created much discussion, pro and con. Many people see the Nordic model as an attractive alternative to the winner-take-all brand of capitalism that has resulted in poverty, a lack of affordable quality healthcare and education, a deteriorating social safety net, a lack of retirement security, massive scandals in financial markets, and tremendous income disparity.

The Nordic countries as top performers of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

All the Nordic countries have long been working with strategies and action plans for sustainable development. The work has laid the foundation for and continues in implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National action plans have been drawn up to implement the 2030 Agenda in most of the Nordic countries. The action plans reflect the individual countries’ strengths and challenges, and there are interesting variations in national prioritizations and in the processes of how the action plans were drawn up.

The Nordic countries rank highly in international measurements of how far countries have come with regard to implementing the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nevertheless they are still facing major challenges regarding unsustainable consumption and production, climate change, and the biodiversity crisis.

How are the Nordic countries, and the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland, actually working on the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs? The following review provides the answers, with an emphasis on the national political structures for implementing the 2030 Agenda, i.e. action plans with national and international prioritisations, along with follow-up work and areas for improvement.


Also read the Action Plan for 2021 to 2024 (Our Vision 2030: The Nordic Region – towards being the most sustainable and integrated region in the world).



Understanding the exemplary Nordic way of realizing sustainability through human rights

The following resources may serve as a guide:

(a) From Nordic Model to Future Model (Article, Nordic Circular Summit  3/15/22)

With a skilled and highly-educated workforce, a high degree of trust, social cohesion, social capital, transparency and governance, a commitment to values as well as a world-class infrastructure and regulatory framework, the Nordics already have some of the basic “ingredients” needed to cook the “circular dish,” ……. How can the Nordic way of thinking, living and working help transform the economies in the region and beyond? Continue reading --

(b) Nordic Values in Hard Times - John R. Christianson, emeritus professor of history, Luther College. Link:


(c) The Nordic Model as a Development Strategy. An empirical study of the Indian manufacturing sector. Pauliina Brynildsen, MPhil thesis in Economics, Department of Economics, University of Oslo, May 2016

This thesis investigates the possibility of applying elements of the Nordic model as a growth strategy for developing countries. Common features among the poorest developing countries are relatively high levels of inequality and widespread poverty. In the classic growth literature, it was common to find the concept of a conflict between the goals of growth and equality; the idea that one could not be achieved with the other. The Nordic model has made it possible for the Nordic countries to develop into highly industrialised countries while at the same time achieving low levels of inequality, and providing a social welfare system that affords income security to all inhabitants. From a human welfare perspective, it would be desirable for today’s developing countries to be able to achieve something similar.


(d) What the world can learn about equality from the Nordic model

Rising inequality is one of the biggest social and economic issues of our time. It is linked to poorer economic growth and fosters social discontent and unrest. So, given that the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – are some of the world’s most equal on a number of measures, it makes sense to look to them for lessons in how to build a more equal society.

The Nordic countries are all social-democratic countries with mixed economies. They are not socialist in the classical sense – they are driven by financial markets rather than by central plans, although the state does play a strategic role in the economy. They have systems of law that protect personal and corporate property and help to enforce contracts. They are democracies with checks, balances and countervailing powers.

Nordic countries show that major egalitarian reforms and substantial welfare states are possible within prosperous capitalist countries that are highly engaged in global markets. But their success undermines the view that the most ideal capitalist economy is one where markets are unrestrained. They also suggest that humane and equal outcomes are possible within capitalism, while full-blooded socialism has always, in practice, led to disaster.

The Nordic countries are among the most equal in terms of distribution of income. Using the Gini coefficient measure of income inequality (where 1 represents complete inequality and 0 represents complete equality) OECD data gives the US a score of 0.39 and the UK a slightly more equal score of 0.35 – both above the OECD average of 0.31. The five Nordic countries, meanwhile, ranged from 0.25 (Iceland – the most equal) to 0.28 (Sweden). Continue reading:

(e) The Success of the Nordic Countries as a Blueprint for Small Open Economies. By Johannes Tiemer



(f) The Nordic Model. Embracing globalization and sharing risks. By Torben et al. The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA)


(g) The Making and Circulation of Nordic Models, Ideas and Images

2022 Routledge. Edited by Haldor Byrkjeflot, Lars Mjøset, Mads Mordhorst

and Klaus Petersen


Open access content available at:

(h) NORDIC Model Application to Society to Give People a Better Life. A Policy Redesign Guide for Academics and Decision Makers, (ebook) Jan Stenis

The Naturally Optimised Revenue Demand in Communities (NORDIC model) is a novel and comprehensive tool. This book describes how the NORDIC model can give people all over the world a better life by providing economic incentives to improve society. The book is based on the six, scientific papers on the NORDIC model published by Dr Jan Stenis 2020-2021.

Free ebook:


In hardcover/ paperback:


(i) The Nordic welfare state model. January 2017 | In book: The Nordic models in political science. Challenged, but still viable? (pp.219-238) Chapter: 9. Publisher: Fagbokforlaget Editors: Oddbjørn Knutsen Authors: Axel West Pedersen and Stein Kuhnle


PDF version:


(j) The Nordic Model of Social Democracy (Palgrave Mcmillan book) Authors: Nik Brandal, Øivind Bratberg, Dag Einar Thorsen Link:

Please send/suggest relevant resources to be linked on the Nordic Lead webpage.


Image credits: 

(i) Nordic country flags: Hansjorn, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

(ii) Hurdal ecovillage, Norway

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