First report on the National Library’s carbon footprint released

Date published

According to the first carbon footprint assessment of the National Library of Finland, most of the Library’s emissions in 2019 were generated by procurement and energy consumption at its facilities. In the coming years, the intention is to investigate the carbon footprint of other operations, including digital services and digitisation. This requires close cooperation with the University of Helsinki and the CSC – IT Centre for Science.

Carbon footprint of the National Library of Finland: A report on carbon footprint assessment for 2019

The National Library launched its carbon footprint assessment in spring 2021 to investigate what information is currently available on the carbon footprint of the National Library’s operations. An additional goal was to facilitate the identification of measures the National Library can take to be carbon neutral by 2030. The target to be carbon neutral by 2030 is included in the National Library’s sustainable development programme and is in accordance with a similar goal of the University of Helsinki.

Energy consumption at National Library facilities represents two-thirds of all its emissions

The work was conducted by a working group of National Library staff, and included Environmental Advisor Virpi Kuitto from the University of Helsinki. The purpose of the working group was to create the first assessment of the carbon footprint for those operations for which information was readily available. Additionally, the intention was to survey the National Library’s understanding and competence regarding the assessment of the ecological sustainability of its operations. A further goal was to determine which kinds of tools exist to calculate emissions. The aim was to use this work as a basis to form an understanding of areas where the National Library would need to rely on experts from outside its organisation.

According to the calculations in the report, the total amount of emissions from the National Library in 2019 was 1,018 tonnes of CO2eq. Two thirds of the emissions were generated by energy consumption at National Library facilities. The second largest amount, approximately 21%, was attributed to procurements, which are mainly purchases of ICT services and library materials. This figure does not include emissions from the National Library’s own digital services and its digitisation efforts.

Investigating the carbon footprint of digital services requires cooperation

One of the main findings from the assessment was that currently available information does not allow for a full investigation of the carbon footprint of digital services. Digitalisation/Digital solutions and the provision of digital services for the Finnish library, archive and museum sector are a key part of the work of the National Library. Determining the emissions from digital infrastructures requires close cooperation with both the University of Helsinki and the CSC – IT Centre for Science.

“The assessment increased our understanding of how emissions are calculated, and provided a preliminary basis for planning emissions cuts, even though we did not have access to all of the information,” states Planning Officer Susanna Eklund, member of the working group, regarding the significance of the report for the National Library.

As the National Library is part of the University of Helsinki, it cannot make independent decisions on where it gets its energy, but the National Library will continue to work together with the University towards the shared carbon neutrality goal. The National Library also follows the University’s guidelines regarding acquisitions and work-related travel. Taking the ecological perspective into account in the National Library’s own digital services requires skills development in Green ICT and sustainable web design.

The cultural heritage sector generates added value for society

Any assessment of the emissions generated by the National Library, or any organisation in the cultural heritage sector, should consider the context in which the emissions are generated. The services are provided centrally and with public funding, and they create added value in terms of cultural, social and economic sustainability. For example, openly available library resources and research knowledge increase equality and strengthen democracy.

“The basic duties of cultural heritage organisations support social and cultural sustainability by definition, but it is of crucial importance for their services to be produced in an ecologically sustainable way. Here reducing the carbon footprint is one of the most important measures. It’s wonderful that we have made a start in these efforts at the National Library,” says Susanna Eklund. 

The National Library’s carbon footprint assessment report is available in its entirety in the Doria publication archive.

Further information:
The University of Helsinki published its Carbon Neutral University of Helsinki by 2030 roadmap in April 2023. 

National Library of Finland’s Sustainable Development Programme (published in 2021): Boldly towards sustainable change

Further information on sustainability and responsibility work at the National Library.

Contact person

Liisa Savolainen
Deputy Director
+358 (0)50 341 7384
National Library
P.O.Box 15 (Unioninkatu 36)
00014 University of Helsinki
Susanna Eklund
Planning Officer
Finna Service
National Library