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Report2024Open access

Socio-economic indicators for the assessment of sustainability in the Swedish forest sector, and linkages with the national environmental quality objectives

Ahammad, Ronju; Aguilar, Francisco X


Sweden’s Environmental Quality Objectives (EQOs) have been adopted to help describe the environment the country wishes to achieve, and are a promise to future generations of clean air, a healthy living environment, and rich opportunities to enjoy nature. Here, we assessed selected socio-economic indicators adapted from the Montréal Process for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests (MP) to examine trends in the Swedish forest sector of direct relevance to the EQOs. We did this with the aim of raising awareness about important socio-economic dimensions related to the EQOs, and to explore the linkages between the EQOs and the forest bioeconomy. We focused on the forest sector because of its central importance to meeting the EQOs, and fundamental social and economic roles it plays in Swedish society.

The MP was chosen as our guiding framework because it was developed to assess national-level sustainable forest conservation and management, thus, incorporating critical economic, environmental and social dimensions. We applied a mixed methods approach based on a literature review, analyses of national and multilateral databases, and consultation with experts to identify and interpret selected indicators. We identified forest sector socio-economic indicators relevant to the EQOs related to forest property and ownership, economic value and consumption of wood and wood products, employment, wood energy, access to greenery, per capita forest availability, and cultural values.

Interpretation of national-level indicators estimated for the 2000-2020 period point to overall progress toward maintaining forest conservation and production areas and a sector that has added substantial economic value through the processing of wood and wood products. Forests are an importance source of renewable energy and increasingly support the location of non-wood energy sources through the placement of wind power mills across forested lands. Downward trends were observed in fewer forest owners, a shrinking workforce, and per capita forest area which might be explained by processes of bequeathing, higher industry efficiencies and continued population growth. Selected indicators related to production forests, wood energy, per capita protected forests and cultural importance suggest these can directly support relevant EQOs including living forests, limited climate impact, rich plant and animal life. Through exports and hiring foreign workers, the Swedish forest sector has kept a direct linkage with the consumption of wood products abroad and in supporting economic wellbeing in lesser-developed nations through wages from forestry and non-wood seasonal employment, respectively.

There is limited current information on cultural aspects such as heritage values and reindeer herding. Available data suggest a declining trend in damages to cultural remains within forest felling areas. We recommend regular and periodic assessment of the cultural and conservation values for Swedish forests to strengthen the ability to assess social and ecological sustainability relevant to the EQOs.

Published in

Future forests rapportserie
2024, number: 2024:1ISBN: 978-91-8046-702-5, eISBN: 978-91-8046-703-2
Publisher: SLU Future forests, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Future Forests

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science
    Economic Geography
    Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

    More information

    The Swedish version of this report is available at at URL: and DOI: 10.54612/a.4s34ii4mn9

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