Sustainable development is highlighted in different national bioeconomy strategies as the overarching goal of the shift towards bioeconomy. In fact, in many of these strategies, bioeconomy is partly already renamed to “sustainable economy”. However, it is important to understand that bioeconomy in itself cannot be considered as “self-evidently sustainable”. Even more so,  visions about the relationship between bioeconomy and sustainability differ substantially among experts, scholars and researchers. 

So how is sustainable development approached in the political discourse of bioeconomy?

One way to look at this issue is through the lens of Environmental Policy Integration (henceforth EPI). Lafferty and Hovden (2003: 9) describe EPI as the “incorporation of environmental objectives into all stages of policy-making in non environmental policy sectors, with a specific recognition of this goal as a guiding principle for the planning and execution of policy” . In this sense, its relevance for this discussion becomes obvious as  EPI can be regarded as a “first-order operational principle to implement and institutionalize the idea of sustainable development”.

Interaction of three concepts: sustainable development (SD), environmental policy integration (EPI) and Bioeconomy

Do different national bioeconomy strategies incorporate environmental concerns?

For this we use a comparative approach to understand the meaning of EPI in the bioeconomy discourse of the EU and four of its member states : Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Preliminary findings indicate that environmental concerns are addressed but mainly as a challenge rather than an independent goal or as part of a win-win solution. In this sense, strategic path towards EPI are lacking or remain superficial in most of the political bioeconomy discourses.

Sustainable development is the overarching concept included in the political bioeconomy discourses. However, it is mainly addressed in a technocratic way that only narrowly highlights the relevance of efficiency.It is less about balancing economic, social and ecological objectives but placed on a continuum between economic growth and ecological concerns with clear emphasis on the former. For now, environmental objectives are in the backseat of the bioeconomy discourse.


This entry is based on current on-going research from :Kleinschmit, D., Arts B., Giurca A., Mustalathi I., Pülzl H. ,Sergent A.: Longing Towards Sustainability: Integrating Environmental Concerns in the Bioeconomy Discourse. Submitted to International Forestry Review in October 2015.

More details can be found in the Proceedings of the Global Bioeconomy Summit (25-26 Nov. 2015), Berlin, Germany; pp: 69.  or in the Proceedings of Towards a Sustainable Bioeconomy conference (21-23 Oct. 2015), Barcelona, Spain; pp: 26-27.

Recommended reading:

Lafferty, W., Hovden, E., 2003. Environmental policy integration: towards an analytical framework. Environmental Politics 12, 1–22




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