At the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, we put our hearts into all that we do. Our work is very meaningful to us, but even more importantly, we want it to be meaningful to others. That is why we must also ensure the well-being of our society and environment.
The strategy of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, which covers until 2025, lists responsibility as one of our four values. The effectiveness of our responsibility measures is monitored via strategic targets and metrics. Financial and artistic responsibility to the society, responsibility for our personnel, and environmental responsibility are the three key elements of this work.
We have included some examples of our ongoing responsibility work below. To us, responsibility involves continuous development and improvement, and consequently we will be updating the contents of this page regularly.
We are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In 2021, we selected five key goals to which the Finnish National Opera and Ballet will particularly contribute: Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption, and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. We consider these goals every time we review our focus areas. They also help us to further develop our sustainability reporting.
As the only professional opera and ballet company in Finland, we serve the entire society by offering high-quality opera and ballet experiences to different audiences and age groups across the country. Now more than ever, we want to ensure that our performances reflect contemporary values and touch people regardless of their age and background. We work with a long term perspective, as the creative process of individual opera and ballet productions takes several years, and some productions can stay in the repertoire for years, even decades.
Stage24 delivers extraordinary experiences
Though we mainly operate in Helsinki, our Stage24 service enables us to deliver opera and ballet performances and related content everywhere in Finland and often around the world.
As we were unable to perform at the Opera House during the first COVID year, we expanded our digital content offer enormously to give people the opportunity to take a break from everyday life. It was wonderful to see how many found their way to our Stage24 broadcasting site, producing a sevenfold year-on-year growth in visitor numbers.
We consider, implement and promote diversity and equality within our work community, audience, and productions. This includes offering diversity training to everyone at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. In 2021, we established a diversity-themed education and discussion forum for our personnel.
The stories of several opera and ballet classics feature stereotypical representations of minority ethnic characters. It’s important to discuss how these works can modernised without losing their artistic core. As the production process takes years, influencing content and execution tends to be equally time-consuming. Fast changes are by no means impossible, however. Our modifications of the scene depicting the indigenous population of New Zealand in Pippi Longstocking before the ballet’s return to the repertoire in August 2022 is a good example of this.
Culture for free
For one week each month, the Almi Hall foyer is packed with babies crawling towards the First Taste of Opera and Ballet workshop. The balcony foyer echoes with laughter and enthusiastic advice on the days when pre-schoolers enjoy the Mini Opera performances. Witnessing these moments always remind us about the importance of our audience outreach projects, which offer free performances and interactive creative workshops to people of all ages across Finland.
Perhaps the most important, though less visible, element of the audience outreach work is our collaboration with schools. This includes, for example, dance workshops and opera performances created by schoolchildren and professionals.
For senior citizens, we organise afternoon dance sessions in the Main Foyer of the Opera House. Live broadcasts of the Opera Teatime Dance are offered to sheltered accommodation providers all around Finland.
We worked with an intimacy coordinator at the rehearsals of Salome.
On average, we offer 339 free performances every year.
In 2021, we reached 1.2 million people with our digital broadcasts together with our media partners Yle and Helsingin Sanomat.
We’re actively monitoring and minimising the ecological footprint of our operations. In practice, this includes digitalising our customer service and internal processes, improving the energy efficiency of our lighting and stage technology, choosing environmentally sound materials, and enhancing recycling.
Working towards carbon neutrality
The first ever carbon footprint calculation of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet was completed in 2021 (based on the data of 2019).
Bought products and services cause the largest share of our total emissions (56%), followed by production goods (14%). In set design, the majority of emissions result from the sourcing and use of metal products. On stage, the lead culprit is electronics, while in costume design the most emissions arise from the sourcing of fabrics and textiles.
”We also calculated the carbon footprint of three productions, which are all different but share a typical set design format. The set design of Pippi Longstocking had the lowest footprint, as its sets are mostly based on wooden structures.” – Tapio Säkkinen, Head of Set Workshop / Environmental Head
In the future, regular calculations will enable us to our direct our resources even more sustainably and to monitor the effectiveness of our environmental responsibility measures.
A new life for materials
Though metal products comprise less than 10 percent of our yearly set material purchases, they represent the largest share of the set workshop’s emissions. We’re currently exploring the possibility of replacing metal components with wooden L-beams used in the construction industry.
When a production reaches the end of its performance lifecycle, we separate the materials of its sets and recycle them. We also supply set components and furniture to a circular economy service provider.
During refurbishment projects we save items for future repairs or replacements. When revamping our dressing rooms, for example, we stored the old green glass doors, which were still in good condition.
We forward our cutting waste and other forms of textile waste to a Finnish company, which, for instance refines textile fibre into products used in industrial maintenance. Larger pieces of cutting waste are handed over to children’s daycare centres for craft material. Our unique costumes are given new lives either through alterations or at our popular flea markets.
Rooftop solar power and carbon neutral heating
In summer 2020, a solar power system was installed on the roof of the Opera House as part of the Senate Properties’ national solar programme. Our rooftop system currently comprises 122 solar electricity panels, the total size of which amounts to more than 200 sqm. The system’s annual electricity production, approximately 34 700 kWh, reduces our carbon emissions by 16 tons. The rest of our electricity consumption is covered by 100 percent renewable hydropower.
The district heating and cooling used at the Opera House are 100 percent carbon neutral.
By fostering equality, transparency and integrity, providing opportunities for continuous personal development and supporting our personnel’s health, safety and well-being at work, we ensure that the Finnish National Opera and Ballet is an attractive and inspiring place to work. We also offer employment opportunities to professionals who do not speak Finland’s official languages.
Health and safety
During the COVID-19 pandemic we were suddenly unable to fulfill our most important mission – to perform to audiences. As a result, we did everything we could to ensure performances could be resumed safely. We were the instigator and key player in a network of performing arts institutions, which drafted a national list of recommended practices to enable safe performances in the exceptional circumstances, published in June 2020. We were awarded the Theatre of the Year prize for our contribution to the project.
The COVID-19 taught us important lessons about safety, agility, creative problem solving, and the power of collaboration.
Behaving responsibly at work
An art institution is a workplace just like any other, and everyone has the right to work in a safe environment. In 2012, we launched our Workplace Conduct guide, which outlines a set process for preventing and addressing inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment in our work community.
The process makes it easier for everyone to understand what constitutes appropriate behaviour at work and what does not, as well as to flag inappropriate behaviour so that it can be dealt with immediately. Situations are resolved together with workplace mediators, employee representatives, occupational health and safety representatives, and occupational healthcare professionals.
The readiness to flag inappropriate behaviour in our workplace has improved, and transparency helps us make even further progress.
Occupational health at every age
Our personnel often describe the Finnish National Opera and Ballet as being like a family. Careers are long, and people commonly have a genuine passion for their profession. This has its downsides, too, and our personnel must be regularly reminded about the importance of rest and time off. We support the occupational health of every one of our employees as holistically as possible, taking into account their physical, mental and social wellbeing alike.
Since 2018 we have implemented two extensive occupational health projects, one for 40 to 50-year-olds and one for over-50s. These projects have provided tools for tackling occupational health challenges at different ages in a variety of ways, such as mentoring, recovery coaching, trying out new sports activities, and improving community spirit. Varma Pension Insurance Company has supported the implementation of these projects.
Our personnel includes 33 nationalities.
In 2021 we adopted gender neutral titles for all our professional roles.
We took part in drafting the Safe at Every Stage guidance, which aims to eliminate harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behaviour from the Finnish music industry.
As an operator mainly covered by public funding, we continually strive to improve our operational efficiency, increase our self-financing ratio, and invest responsibly. We plan our operations also from a financial point of view for several years to come.
Virtual stage design
Our virtual stage design tool XR Stage enables us to get as far as possible in our production planning well before the beginning of stage rehearsals. The sharp 3D image of the stage, set in a custom virtual space within each venue, is informative and adaptable and ensures an artistically and technically viable end result.
The virtual model allows artistic teams based in different countries to work together, considerably reducing the need for travel. It also improves the reliability of final plans and prevents the production of unnecessary sets and last minute changes. This, in turn, means less wasted material and effort.
Our working days are brightened by the young ballet students whizzing through our corridors. The Ballet School of the Finnish National Ballet moved premises from Sörnäinen in East Helsinki to the Opera House in early 2022. Warehouse spaces were converted into three ballet rehearsal rooms as well as new dressing rooms and a break rooms. The move allows the Ballet School to collaborate even more closely with the professionals of the Finnish National Ballet.
Sharing premises makes our operations both more financially sound and sustainable. It also helps children and young people to collaborate even more closely with the professionals of the Finnish National Ballet and gives them a better grasp of what the profession of a dancer entails. The new premises also better serve the needs of visiting groups performing at Almi Hall and the productions of our audience outreach work.
The Ballet School teaches approximately 40 vocational students aged 16 to 18 and about 150 students aged 7 to 15 in basic arts education and ballet beginners’ classes.