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Communicating Forest Sector Sustainability: Results from Four European Countries
- Korhonen, Elina, Toppinen, Anne, Lahtinen, Katja, Ranacher, Lea, Werner, Andrea, Stern, Tobias, Kutnar, Andreja
- Forest products journal 2016 v.66 no.5-6 pp. 362-370
- business enterprises, forest industries, forests, global warming, social networks, stakeholders, wood, Austria, Finland, Germany, Slovenia
- Communication is an important tool in maintaining legitimacy and acceptability of forest sector operations and activities, and expectations by the general public on the forest sector conduct in Europe are in general very high. Despite this, there is scarce research in cross-national contexts on how forest sector sustainability is communicated to the general public and what development areas can be identified in terms of communication content. This study applies a qualitative content analysis in four forestry-rich European countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, and Slovenia). The state of online communication of 61 companies and 19 industry associations was qualitatively analyzed in 2014 with a focus on eight core sustainability topics of interest that were identified via an international forest sector stakeholder feedback process. Our results show some great similarities, but also some interesting differences in terms of communication frequency and weight of hot topics across countries. The most frequently communicated area was economic contribution of forests (in Finland and Austria), followed by debate over forest conservation versus production (Germany) and the concept-added value of wood (in Slovenia). With the exception of Slovenia, the role of forests in combating global warming was emphasized more frequently within industry associations than among individual forest industry companies. Characteristically, current content of sustainability communication focuses on supplying factual information. Thus, there is a need for developing more targeted and bidirectional forms of stakeholder communication in the future, emphasizing also more active use of social media channels and empowering organizations to promote interactive communication and collaborative learning.