Natural resource use high in Finland

Long-term progress:
The total material requirement has almost doubled in the last four decades.
Short-term progress:
The total material requirement has remained fairly stable since 2006 except in the worst year of economic crisis 2008.
Progress in relation to targets:
The EU Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources aims to enhance the efficiency of natural resource use. This is achieved as the relation of total material requirement to gross domestic product decreases.

The total material requirement of Finland’s national economy was 539 million tonnes in 2015, i.e. around 100 tonnes of natural resources per capita.

In comparison with other countries, Finland uses a remarkably high quantity of natural resources. In terms of direct material input alone, Finland consumed around 40 tonnes per capita in 2015, while the EU average is some 16 tonnes. This does not include material flows outside Finland related to imported goods nor extracted domestic natural resources that remain unused such as logging residue left in the forest and excavated waste rock left on mining sites.

Since 1970, Finland’s total annual material requirement has almost doubled. Use of fossil fuels, metals and other minerals is nearly four times that of 1970.

Imports account for almost the entire increase in the use of natural resources. While the extraction and use of domestic resources has remained largely unchanged for the last 40 years, the quantity of imported raw materials and ready-made products has more than doubled. Hidden flows of imported products have increased even more, being approximately 3.5 times higher than in the 1970s. Such hidden flows cover resources associated with overseas production, which do not appear in the weight of the imported raw materials and products.

Nevertheless, material efficiency is improving which helps to curb growth in natural resource use. Today, significantly more services and products can be derived from of a given quantity of natural resources than was the case a few decades ago. Finland’s gross domestic product is almost ten times higher than in 1970, even though natural resource use has only doubled.

A permanent downturn in the use of natural resources can only be achieved when material efficiency grows faster than economy.


  • Annual national accounts. Official Statistics of Finland. Statistics Finland. 2015.
  • Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources.


Published 2015-04-15 at 9:29, updated 2017-06-02 at 10:30