Pioneer in focus: Värmdö, Sweden - Sustainability as a mission

Värmdö Municipality in Sweden participated in the Baltic Sea City Accelerator. We take a deep dive to learn about the city, its Blue Vision and their work in the Accelerator programme. This article was originally published in our Baltic Sea City Accelerator magazine.


The municipality of Värmdö comprises more than 10,000 small islands with 3,000 km of coastline in the Stockholm archipelago. The proximity to Stockholm and an extensive ferry network makes this a much sought-after area for vacation homes, while several of the larger islands are part of the rapidly expanding suburban area of metropolitan Stockholm. With a growing local community, an increasing number of summer residents and tourists, and an ambition to encourage small business development, Värmdö is investing in sustainable growth - and is keen to ensure the health of the Baltic Sea by taking a leadership role.


Growth in tourists, permanent residents and SME’s  

Drawn by the beauty and numerous recreational opportunities in the archipelago, Värmdö’s population more than doubles during the summer months and tourist revenues, which are up 6 per cent in 2016 to nearly 1.5 billion SEK, are growing. Seasonal residences are being winterized for year-round or permanent use to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings, and the general growth of metropolitan Stockholm is driving a local building boom. These developments have also led to growth in the number of SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises) - primarily in the building and tourism sectors - and the creation of local jobs.  


Raising awareness and supporting innovation to achieve Blue Vision

Värmdö has sustainability as their mission. They envision Värmdö at the heart of the Swedish archipelago and a natural place to enjoy the sea. To achieve a sustainable ecosystem and environment, Värmdö is committed to implementing innovative approaches.

We have a political commitment to actively work for a healthy Baltic Sea. We want sustainable growth around the Baltic Sea. We’ve been working diligently to come up to high standards and comply with environmental codes, but the best way to achieve results is through cooperation and by making people aware of the socioeconomic benefits from tackling environmental challenges.
— Deshira Flankör  Chairman of the Executive Board, Värmdö Municipality


Local Responsibility for the Baltic Sea

Värmdö has a number of initiatives to meet national and HELCOM nutrient reduction targets. Like many of the island-rich communities on the east coast of Sweden, one of Värmdö’s primary aims is to complete the inspection of all small-scale, private sewers in the municipality. Not only does the municipality want to ensure that all are brought into compliance, it is also encouraging the development of entrepreneurial solutions that will provide ongoing inspection and maintenance services that guarantee long-term impact.

Approximately 8,000 of 15,000 sewers in the municipality have already been inspected and only 20% of these sewers are compliant with environmental regulations - illustrating the potential for making improvements, but also for entrepreneurial enterprises to build business that encompasses helping homeowners manage their wastewater responsibly and secure the value of their property.

There is broad acceptance for our being proactive in these inspection efforts, but for many property owners, this is a big investment they haven’t planned for. We seek to have a constructive dialogue so each property owner recognises the value of investing in restoring their existing sewer or building a new one - and by encouraging innovative solutions for long-term success, we hope to create an example that other municipalities can follow.
— Deshira Flankör  Chairman of the Executive Board, Värmdö Municipality

Värmdö intends to reduce their phosphorus load by 4.6 tonnes/year and 172 tonnes/year of nitrogen from the 15,000 sewers in the municipality. This is 90% of the total phosphorus load and 50% of nitrogen then its high protection level in the municipality.

Other initiatives Värmdö is pursuing to reduce its nutrient load during 2017-2021 include:

  • Improved services and availability regarding latrine tanks for private boats

  • Reuse of nutrients from private sewers for local agriculture. Värmdö intends to reduce their phosphorus load by 0.2 tonnes/year

  • Coordinating with neighboring municipalities who share water sources

  • Planning and Environment departments following up on private sewers that do not meet regulatory standards 18 months after the initial inspection

  • Surveying how local horse stables and businesses affect the quality of water