This is the thought provoking question that my colleague Daniel Hodge is trying to answer in his recently published Master thesis. For this, he took a closer look at the Swedish forest sector and the recent discussions around bioeconomy. Bioeconomy is currently a “hot topic” in Sweden, considering the country’s favorable position for transitioning towards a bioeconomy as it is both dominated by forests and has already embraced renewable energy as an increasing alternative to fossil-based energy. Sweden also has a tradition of forest policy that has historically emphasized production. In fact, the Swedish forest industry is not shying away from calling itself the main driver of a sustainable bioeconomy.

But what do the diverse actors that make up the “Swedish forest sector” actually think of bioeconomy? Is bioeconomy a concept that  is actually bringing the diverse range of forest actors together? or is it being used to promote individual agendas ? or maybe even cause a divide within the forest sector? To answer these questions, different forest sector representatives were interviewed, including ENGOs, forest industry and forest owners.

BioeconomyConcept

Potential perceptions of the bioeconomy concept by groups of actors

The results  show that the bioeconomy concept is broadly accepted. Not surprisingly, the concept seems to be supporting the notion that bioeconomy is a natural extension of the Swedish forestry model. Thus, some actors did not recognize any need to change their behaviour, instead using the concept simply to promote their own opinions. Despite this difference, there was a general agreement that bioeconomy represented a positive development for society, with a transition from fossil fuels to biomass being a way forward towards a greener future. Results indicate that there is great potential for bioeconomy to act as a bridging concept within the Swedish forest sector, as one interviewee stated, “it’s a buzzword, but a useful buzzword”.

My personal opinion is that one should be cautious of such “Nirvana concepts” (no one is against bioeconomy) as they can risk being hijacked by groups seeking to legitimize their own agendas .Significant structural changes and creative destruction are anticipated  under a bioeconomy, even for the Swedish forest sector. Recently, the Swedish forest model has been increasingly coming under fire by environmental groups. What a truly sustainable bioeconomy actually means for the Swedish forest sector remains to be seen.

You can Download and read Daniel’s thesis HERE

Recommended Citation: Hodge D. (2016) Forests in a bioeconomy: Green future of greenwash? Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Master Thesis no. 257,Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Alnarp.

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