14 October 2009
‘SHAPE YOUR SUSTAINABILITY TOOLS – and let your tools shape you" - Final EFORWOOD conference
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‘SHAPE YOUR SUSTAINABILITY TOOLS – and let your tools shape you,’ the final conference of the EFORWOOD project was held in Uppsala on 23rd and 24th September 2009. The project consortium returned to the city where it all started four years ago, to demonstrate the latest and almost final project outcomes: primarily the Tool for Sustainability Impact Assessment (ToSIA), but also other valuable methods and approaches that were used to assess the sustainability impacts of alternative production chains in the forest sector.

The EFORWOOD project has been running for four years and was funded as part of the 6th Framework Programme of the European Community, under the ‘Strategies for sustainable land management’ area of the ‘Global changes and ecosystems’ sub-priority. One of the goals of the research undertaken under this sub-priority was to strengthen the necessary scientific base, including socio-economic assessments, tools and management practices, for the future orientation of the European Sustainable Development Strategy.

The aim of the project was to evaluate and improve the contribution of the European forest-wood chain (FWC) in the context of the European Union’s strategic goal of becoming the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy, capable of sustainable economic growth with better social cohesion. For the first time, the whole FWC was assessed using the indicators for all three pillars of sustainability; namely the environmental, economic and social. The main project outcome, the ToSIA tool, is a dynamic sustainability impact assessment model that analyses the environmental, economic and social impacts of changes in the forest-wood production chain, using a consistent and harmonised framework from the forest to the end-of-life of final products.

The final EFORWOOD conference served as an official platform to report the project outcomes, and it was also open to everyone interested in improving the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

The event attracted more than 130 participants from different spheres of the forest-based sector (FBS) and beyond, including scientists and researchers, and policy and decision makers from national, private and public funding institutions, and representatives of the European Commission and industry.

The conference programme included about thirty oral presentations and almost the same number of posters, covering four different themes:
Theme 1: Sustainability impact assessment in a knowledge-based bio-economy
Theme 2: Methods for the evaluation of sustainability impact from process to sector level
Theme 3: Case study applications in sustainability impact assessment
Theme 4: Scenario analysis of the forest-based sector and parts thereof

The event hosted four guest speakers, who highlighted some of the main issues that the FBS currently faces and underlined the different aspects of sustainability.

Roger Sedjo, director of the Forest Economics and Policy Programme at Resources for the Future, and Christopher Prins, an independent consultant with many years experience in the forest and wood sector, addressed some of the more general perceptions of the concept and the challenges to sustainability assessment and the use of sustainability indicators in their presentations.

Andreas Kleinschmit von Lengefeld, manger of the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform, highlighted the importance of closer collaboration between economic actors and research providers in order to secure the best exploitation of research results and to ensure their implementation in the industry and service sectors. Only joint action between economy drivers and science can bring about a sustainable and fruitful future for the European FBS.

The policy framework for sustainability impact assessment, the importance of having reliable assessment tools in order to better assist decision making and some practical examples of where these tools can be used (e.g., effects of the economic slowdown, of climate change and of energy policy decisions on forestry and forest-based industries) were some of the aspects that Maria Gafo Gomez-Zamalloa from DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission presented to the conference audience. In particular, she mentioned the contribution that the EFORWOOD project can have in terms of providing the knowledge base needed to achieve competitiveness and to meet the challenges to sustainability.

The remaining conference presentations covered a broad spectrum of topics, from those that were more related to the EFORWOOD project outcomes (e.g., the functioning of ToSIA and its application, project case studies, the opportunities and practical challenges related to the application of the cost benefit and multi-criteria analyses, etc.) to those that referred to research carried out outside of the EFORWOOD project, but also related to improving the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

The event was an excellent opportunity for combining experiences and expertise with other EU projects that are developing similar tools to support decision making on policies related to various areas of science, such as land use, environmental economics, socio-economics and landscape research.

The application of the EFORWOOD results will provide an excellent starting point for future research, offering science-based and informed guidance on how to use renewable natural resources in a way that avoids non-sustainable exploitation. The tools and methods developed will offer powerful knowledge to different decision makers and aid them in the formulation of environmental policy. It is believed that the outcomes of the EFORWOOD project will make an important contribution to the implementation of the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy.

More information about the conference, including conference presentations and posters can be found on the project website, www.eforwood.org.