The Arctic Academy for Sustainability


“Finding pathways to a socially responsible green transition, intertwined with sustainable resource management in the Arctic, is imperative for the long-term well-being of Arctic peoples and for reducing the impact that resource exploitation has on Arctic ecosystems,” explains Professor Karin Buhmann, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility.


By Karin Buhmann, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility, Professor, Copenhagen Business School and Giuseppe Amatulli, Post-doctoral Fellow, Carleton University and Paul Bowles, Vice-lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility, Professor, University of Northern British Columbia and Dorothee Cambou, Assistant Professor, University of Helsinki and Jamie Jenkins, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki


To contribute to this challenge, our Thematic Network has developed the Arctic Academy for Sustainability with generous funding from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

The Academy is a multi-year project (2022-2025) spanning over the European and Canadian Arctic with university partners in Canada, Denmark, and Finland. The Academy acts as a venue to organize and host four scientific fora to promote transdisciplinary research dialogue concerning the environmental, economic, and social aspects of sustainability in the Arctic focused on the identification of solutions.

A crucial feature of the Academy is that it brings together senior researchers, early career scientists, practitioners, Indigenous leaders, and the next generation of researchers from across the Arctic and beyond. These intellectual exchanges are rooted in place-based experiences and interactions with local rightsholders as well as stakeholders from companies, governments, and civil society. By facilitating these interactions, the Academies aim to develop networks that can sustain longer-term empirical research, promote information and knowledge-sharing, and lead to tangible solutions to achieve a just transition to renewable energy and sustainable resource management in the Arctic. At the same time, the Academies advance interaction between Academy participants and members of the Thematic Network as well as researchers at the host institutions.

Two Academies have been held to date. The first took place in Finnish and Swedish Lapland in 2022, hosted by University of Helsinki. With a focus on exploring the energy transition in the region, the Academy included wide-ranging transdisciplinary discussions and field visits to Kiruna, the site of the largest underground iron ore mine in the world, and to Piteå, the location of what will be the largest wind park in Europe with over 1,100 turbines. The possibilities for a socially responsible transition which empowers local communities as well as addressing climate change challenges were the subjects of lively debates and investigations.

In the second Academy, held in Prince George, Canada and hosted by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in 2023, the main goal was to provide insights on sustainability challenges in the Canadian context, intertwined with First Nations’ rights, resource exploitation, and changes affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. As UNBC Chancellor Darlene McIntosh, an Elder with the Lheidli T’enneh Nation, highlighted in the opening remarks, it is fundamental to conduct research on sustainability and Indigenous-related issues with an open mind and positive attitude to find answers to the many challenges of the current world. The Academy is informed by a similar line of thinking.

Central to the 2023 Academy’s goal were a keynote speech by Chief Joe Alphonse from the Tsilhqot’in National Government on “Indigenous worldview and Aboriginal Title” and the hosting of a delegation from the Doig River First Nation. Shona Nelson (Band Manager of Doig), Garry Oker (previous Chief and current councilor) and Levi Davis (community and staff member) agreed to come to Prince George to offer us cross-cultural training and provide updates on what the Doig River First Nation has achieved during recent years in terms of socio-economic development and ensuring cultural continuity in the face of intense industrial development in Northern British Columbia and the province of Alberta in areas adjacent to the First Nation’s territory. The original plan to undertake a field visit to the Doig River First Nation had to be hastily revised as wild fires in that region prompted evacuation orders. This brought home the immediacy and scale of the climate crisis in stark fashion to all Academy participants.

To foster dialogue and learning taking into account different perspectives, we also organized a roundtable discussion focused on sustainability, the green transition, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This was held as an open discussion among policymakers and practitioners from different First Nations, research institutes, NGOs, and municipal and provincial governments.

Evaluation comments from participants demonstrate that the learning experiences the Academies offer are highly valuable for junior researchers. Agricultural University of Iceland PhD student Maria Wilke summed it up: “I found it so rewarding to come together with so many different people from around the Arctic and beyond the Arctic. We all have some sort of connection to Arctic landscapes or people.” UNBC PhD Student Ann Doung added: “The Academy featured a considerable number of participants with backgrounds in law, policy and social sciences. The conversations and discussions really offered insights into ways to empower younger generations to create a more significant positive influence within their communities and to become involved in leadership positions.” The Academy also serves as a knowledge hub for others; as the Thematic Network lead Karin Buhmann noted, “we, as faculty, learned as well.”

The next two Academies will be hosted by Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2024 and by the Copenhagen Business School in 2025. To apply and read more, visit