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Introduction

Nordic front-runner municipalities in SDG achievement often have two things in common: committed leadership and a holistic steering process encompassing the Agenda 2030 framework. With 8 years remaining, the integration of the SDGs into local strategies will require leadership willing to revise budgeting systems, alter ways of working, transform conflicting interests into synergies, and serve the needs of the local community. Steering tools are an important foundation in many Nordic municipalities to govern sustainable development in a systematic way. Without them, efforts to address pressing social, economic, and environmental issues can be futile or, a minimum, difficult to monitor.  
This policy brief is based on the first of Nordregio’s three Localising Agenda 2030 webinars in 2022. It aims to highlight the shared experiences between Nordic municipalities and inspire local officials and decision-makers to invest in adaptive leadership and smart steering tools. During the webinar, municipal leaders from Finspång, Sweden, and Kristiansund, Norway, presented their tested tools and learnings, followed by a panel discussion with Kópavogur, Iceland, and Espoo, Finland, addressing several questions: How is sustainability work organised within the municipalities to achieve genuine progress? How do mayors and officials collaborate to build commitment and momentum around Agenda 2030 in all departments? Which are the main barriers and success factors to efficiently integrate the SDGs into local planning and budgeting tools – and turn goal conflicts into synergies?