For the forest-based bioeconomy, finding innovative solutions for satisfying the demand for sustainable urban living, packaging and bio-based chemicals is envisaged as an important renewal opportunity and a way to support transition to resource-wise, low-carbon economy. However, how to accelerate this transition, and what are the main barriers, remains open.

Our study investigates pathways to bioeconomy by using two stage futures research approach. To explore how well the characteristics of forest bioeconomy are present in Finland, and what kind of obstacles there are for developing more sustainable business activities, we first organized three thematic workshops. The workshops focused on the changing use of wood in multistory construction, fiber-based packaging and bioechemical business. In each workshop the same four basic themes were discussed, namely 1) regulation and its functionality (e.g. the possible barriers the regulation creates as well as the issues that could or should be targeted with regulation, i.e. possibilities of regulation), 2) sustainable development and the sustainability investments (e.g., how well the Finnish forest based bioeconomy can contribute to the goals of sustainable development), 3) the needs and behavior of consumers (e.g., what is the role of consumer in designing the consumption practices), and finally 4) mapping of the future prospects (e.g., the most promising products and co-operation possibilities between sectors). The invited 35 participants represented wide range of stakeholder groups, namely business collaborators (17), researchers (13), lobbying organizations and interest groups (3), ministries (3) and NGO’s (3). In the workshops, given questions were first discussed in small groups, then the discussion of each groups were summarized collectively, after which there was time for discussion. Based on the discussion, we were able to identify five interlinked aspects particularly relevant for the development of circular forest bioeconomy as health and product safety, environmental perspective of sustainable development, user-driven market changes and bioeconomy business networks, regulatory design, and transfer of knowledge and capabilities in the value networks. After analyzing the material collected from the workshops, we created a questionnaire to elaborate further the central themes of the research. The questionnaire was sent to the participants and we received 18 responses.

The second stage results indicate that there are expectations towards regulation as means of decreasing uncertainties and settling the operational framework for businesses. For example, the respondents perceive the legislation is most efficient in promoting the sustainable use of biomass when compared to investors, company management, consumers or raw-material purchasers as a driving force. We asked the respondents’ views on barriers that hinder co-operation among bioeconomy actors, and their capability to solve sustainability challenges with the cross-sectoral business fields. While there was not any one specific thing that would clearly stand out from the data, the respondents brought out issues, such as several uncertainties in the business environment, that create unwillingness to invest, and the difficulties in cross-sectoral co-operation.

The expert views regarding sustainable use of forest resources were divided. A slight majority perceived that the current use of forests in Finland is not climate neutral, and many commented that the topic has become “increasingly complicated”. Statements that emphasized the strong role of regulation, such as “climate friendly options should be emphasized in public procurement”, and “the products’ carbon foot print should be visible to the consumer” were supported among respondents. In the Finnish case, transition to bioeconomy seems to emphasize substitution impact and reducing dependency on the fossil based fuels and materials, thus resonating with the national bioeconomy strategy from 2014. Instead, the emphasis on the biodiversity was relatively low as compared to the other focal needs of industrial transformation, such as creating jobs or reducing dependency on the plastics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Sustainability Transitions Conference 2019
Number of pages13
Publication date23 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeD3 Professional conference proceedings
EventInternational Sustainability Transitions Conference 2019: Accelerating sustainability transitions: Building visions, unlocking pathways, navigating conflicts - Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada
Duration: 23 Jun 201926 Jun 2019

Fields of Science

  • 4112 Forestry
  • 511 Economics

Cite this