Overview of Finnish Forest Policy


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Over the past decade, numerous interests have engaged in European politics and have pushed for a shift towards a bioeconomy, based on an increased use of renewable resources, such as the forest-based bioeconomy in Finland. However, different ‘shades of green’ and trade-offs among the different objectives stated in forest and bioeconomy strategies, and the diverse forest owner objectives, have become widely discussed recently. The question of whose voices get heard and which interests served are particularly reflected in debates over the Government’s forest policy and its target to increase annual cuttings from 66 to 80mill.m3 towards 2025, which – if materialized to full extent -will require intensified forest management and may result in more segregated and intensified forest management and lead to negative effects on biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Scholars ask to which extent an intensification of wood production for industrial purposes, accompanied by targeted incentives and service structures, is representing business as usual – rather than a transformation of the forest sector in response to growing sustainability challenges such as climate change ands ocial inequalities .

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As Lähtinen et al. (2016) showed, conformity between insights on ‘what constitutes environmental sustainability’ is already found to diverge between Finnish forestry professionals and sawmill managers. At European level, Primmer et al. (2017) have stressed the usefulness of empirically testing of the mismatch between individual and social values for detecting dissonance between different levels in order to ease tension and potential conflicts in natural resource management. In this context of tension and conflicting interests, participation in agenda setting and policy making can be decisive for the quality of policy outcomes.

Tikkanen (2017) identified a downturn of participation in regional forest programs and pointed out that the most recent program process was oriented clearly towards implementation of national strategies to fulfill needs of the forest industry and thereby strengthening top-down hierarchical decision-making. In a recent study, a treadmill coalition with a coordinating state within a tripartite system linking also business interests (and labor unions),was found as the main influence in explaining weak climate policy outcomes in Finland, maintaining business as usual and prioritizing economic over ecological values.

In conclusion, Finnish forest policy seems to reflect similar type of prioritization and being part of a treadmill of production. The service sector is reflecting this prioritization as well, as services seem to be primarily targeted to enhance industrial wood supply. However, striving towards global goals of sustainable development, a substitution of non-renewable material use with bio-based materials is becoming more and more interconnected with dematerialization and servitization. This growing service sector role beyond facilitation of wood supply is nevertheless largely neglected area in sector-level policy programs (e.g. MMM 2015). In practice, the business opportunities around landowner targeted services are not well catered.

Häyrinen et al. (2016) identified theoretical foundations on customer needs based on the emerging service-dominant logic (SDL) by Vargo and Lusch (2004). Further, based on Karppinen and Berghäll (2015), it is the younger (“new”), urban and female forest owners that feel more norm pressures and are more responsive to professional advice, especially from extension personnel of the local forest management associations. Clearly, the need to extend our understanding on the development opportunities in service offerings to better meet diversifying landowner needs and values can be considered acute.

As found for wider climate and forest policy processes, a diversity of more or less powerful voices aim at influencing policy making –and preference structures- in favor of their objectives. The Finnish Forest Act was revised in 2010-2013, and as pointed out by scholars, in recent Finnish public discussion at multiple levels, and across societal actors, within governments and the research community, conflict and disagreement has emerged: over the interpretation of data and information, which sustainability to aim for and which trajectories to build to ensure that the country’s rich forest resource can contribute to a sustainable future and for the benefit of the society as a whole.

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