The Baltic Sea Action Group was founded in 2008. The work of this independent non-profit foundation is based on constructive cooperation with authorities and the private sector, says Anna Kotsalo-Mustonen, one of the founders of BSAG.
"The foundation was established as the previous approaches did not yield enough results. Instead of looking for short-term gains, we strive to shape the structures so that harmful practices would not occur. One of our current focus areas is nutrient cycling. We want minimize the nutrient runoffs from agriculture in the Baltic Sea Region. It is more effective to prevent beforehand than to remove the emissions from the sea afterwards", Kotsalo-Mustonen points out.
Do what you do best
BSAG's activities are based on voluntary commitments from different kind of organizations. "Through the commitments everyone contributes with what they can do best and where they can affect the most. For example, Fazer has recently committed to introducing more environmentally friendly farming practices and reducing emissions at different stages of the food chain.”
Commitments that turn into concrete actions have been made, among others, by all the countries around the Baltic Sea. “We have really been able to get a wide range of stakeholders to act together”, Anna Kotsalo-Mustonen says.
From summits to the everyday life at a farm
Baltic Sea Action Group has twice organized a Baltic Sea Action Summit, latest in St. Petersburg in spring 2013. "Our advancements could be clearly stated in St. Petersburg. For example Russian Prime Minister Medvedev promised that the problems at the hazardous waste site of Krasny Bor will finally be addressed. This is an issue that no one has been able to influence earlier."
The top level summits are balanced by acting on the very local level, too. "Our expert visits farms and discusses with farmers. Together they try to find ways to benefit both the environment and save money. This pays off to all parties. Also we at BSAG gain a lot of valuable information about the everyday practices at the farm. This will help us to find the bottlenecks which are currently preventing the farmers to act in a more environmentally friendly way. It is important to find new ways to encourage the farmers – we can’t assume that they will quit their business due to emissions”, states Kotsalo-Mustonen.
Together on a long term
After the discussion with the founder it is easy to summarize BSAG’s work in two principles: only a permanent change counts and no actor alone can solve the problems of the Baltic Sea. Collected funds form a key factor to promoting this mission. "The support we get makes it possible to get new actors on board. A new actor might have a new solution to one of the sub areas, which in turn can have a significant overall impact on the well-being of the Baltic Sea", Anna Kotsalo-Mustonen concludes.
Text: Hanna Harjula
Pictures: Baltic Sea Action Group, Janne Gröring