September 1, 2009, almost exactly 3 years ago, Sitra announced the winners of our Low2No competition. It was a very exciting moment with a successful competition process behind us, and the promise of a brave new world ahead—little did we know of the joy and tribulations that this initiative would bring us. It has been a very positive learning experience to work with the on-the-ground challenges of shifting development patterns towards a low carbon future. Building our understanding and ability from an integrated approach to the challenge, we sought to implement a transitional, low carbon urban development model.
Our role was unique: an enabler of market transformation. Low carbon/sustainable development has not (and will not) emerge by itself. Our lever in low2no was our direct investment in the building complex in the form of Sitra's new, more collaborative office space, We supported this work with our unique role in Finland as an "influencer" who was able to work between the various stakeholders. This impact investment role (aligning our endowment capital investments with our strategy) enabled us to shift the conversation about value to another place and help de-risk the notion that sustainable development was a poor investment.
As some of you now already know, in early May Sitra's Board asked us to explore options to divest from the Low2No (Airut) office building. During its May 28th meeting, the Board officially made the decision to divest of the project, and this news was made public in Finland on Friday June 8th, 2012. The official Sitra press release can be found here. Clearly, the Board's request caught us by surprise and we have since been busy adjusting to a new reality. I must note that it has been surprising to see that our change in position has not generated more of a public conversation in Finland. We are not sure what to make of that…
Since the June announcement, we have been negotiating with SRV, VVO (our development partners) and the city to transfer the development rights to our partners and are negotiating our potential role in the venture going forward. We are also exploring our options in pursuing Low2No through complementary national applications that would explore how to create the conditions for the market and municipalities to transition cities burdened by structural challenges towards carbon neutrality and other related questions). Between cleaning house on our investor/owner role in the Airut block in Jätkäsaari, and our next steps there is some positive news too: we are happy that our Low2no food theme has found robust roots in the “Open Kitchen” initiative aimed atdeveloping food entrepreneurship in Finland. Read more about the great work Bryan, Dan, and Kalle (and the rest of the team) are doing on this front here.