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Published - 2023/11/21

Forest Industry

Navigating the Goal Conflicts: Sustainability Challenges in Sweden's Pursuit of a Fossil-Free Future

We had the pleasure of attending a seminar about key conflicts in the forest industry and the way forward in Stockholm on October 15th, organised by IVA. There were plenty of issues to think about, all involving an understanding of the bigger picture. Here’s a snapshot and some reflections:

Navigating the Goal Conflicts: Sustainability Challenges in Sweden's Pursuit of a Fossil-Free Future
  • How to quantify biodiversity: The world is hungry for fossil-free alternatives to just about everything and that requires land. But land is in short supply and there are calls for more not less to be set aside in the name of preserving biodiversity. Universal agreement on how to measure and control biodiversity is hugely controversial but necessary.


  • The fight for land: As demands on land use increase, who should have the final say? Those who own it or those who use it? And should those in more developed countries have the right to restrict land use if it is to the detriment of helping the poor raise their quality of life?


  • Consumer pockets: Sweden has declared its intention to be a leader in the race to becoming a fossil-free welfare country by 2045. But the green transition will come at a cost. Will consumers be willing to pay the price? Our research suggests probably not. This begs the question: Is it wise to rely on consumer demand for climate-smart products to drive change, especially if they prove unwilling to pay a premium, or should the push come from legislators?


  • The bigger picture: Conflict between forest, climate and energy policies are considerable and intensifying. Is the EU up to the challenge of solving this? Historically, financial instruments and incentives have been needed to reach ambitious targets and the consumer ends up paying up the bill.


  • Will there be enough forest to go round? We think not. Sweden could already be close to its harvesting limits but demand for wood keeps rising from an increasing number of sectors. Lack of resources will be a challenge for the industry.

 

Clearly, these are all questions we have yet to resolve and they are beyond the control of any one company, indeed any one country. We do, however, know that history tends to repeat itself and can offer helpful hints, for example on consumer behaviour and the effect of legislation. We also know that future proofing a business as far as it is possible involves understanding the drivers of change and the bigger picture, which is where meaningful, accurate data can be so helpful.

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