Society places a deep emotional value on forests and, quite justifiably, pays close attention to the sector that depends on harvesting this re-growing resource for the supply of raw materials. The European forest-based sector needs to explain and clarify the rationale behind modern forest management and convince the public that forest raw material extraction is carried out responsibly and sustainably. Market, socio-economic and social analyses enable the sector to better understand and predict citizens’ and society’s demands and perceptions of itself and its products. Conflicting demands on different links of the value chains and potential misperceptions of different services, industries and products need to be addressed with concepts and approaches which consider individual branches and the overall performance of the sector, as well as influences from outside the sector.
State of the Art 2012
Most forests in Europe are certified under globally-accepted certification schemes such as FSC and PEFC, addressing concerns of sustainable forest management, forest degradation and loss of biodiversity. Nevertheless, studies show that a perceived conflict of interest between sustainable forest management and nature conservation persists among European citizens, often leading to a negative perception of the performance of the forest-based sector, even in comparison with truly unsustainable sectors. Measures to improve sustainability are not fully appreciated and the sector is considered neither very ‘green’, nor fundamental for job creation and the prosperity of rural regions. These perceptions impact on policy-making, consumer behaviour and recruitment.
Expected achievements by 2020
Public perception of the sector will be improved by applying social sciences to forest-based sector governance issues, for example, through the innovative communication of research results to different target audiences. Improving the public understanding of what the sector is striving to achieve and enhancing stakeholder engagement will be a critical success factor to achieving the FTP Vision 2030.
Required Research and Innovation Activities
A. Raise public awareness of the role of forest biomass and forest-based products in climate change mitigation.
B. Strengthen citizens’ knowledge of the role of forest-based industries in a biobased society.
C. Monitor emotional and fact-based societal perceptions of forest management practices, reused and recycled wood-based products, bio- and nanotechnology and its derived products.
D. Improve decision-making processes and knowledge transfer systems by taking into account both scientific knowledge and citizens’ perceptions (including civil society, customers, forest managers and policymakers).
E. Monitor and predict shifting societal demands including scenarios for future priorities in raw material use, forest management and ecosystem conservation.
F. Predict future demands through quantitative and qualitative behavioural economics.