Forest Academy for Decision Makers, a course and discussion forum aimed at decision-makers and other opinion leaders from the forest sector and the rest of society, has been arranged twice a year since 1996. In November, the Academy’s first international group visited Koskisen’s Järvelä mills as part of their programme.
Forest Academy aims to increase Finnish opinion leaders’ interest in forest matters and reinforce their understanding of forest-related issues, and to increase interaction and build networks between opinion leaders from various sectors.
Forest Academy’s main target group is precisely the decision-makers and influencers who operate outside the sphere of the forest industry. There have been 45 Forest Academy courses and several dozen follow-up events aimed at decision-makers who have attended Forest Academy. Some 1,500 Finnish decision-makers from various sectors of society have already participated in the course, and at the end of November, the very first Forest Academy for EU Decision Makers was arranged.
“At Forest Academy for Decision Makers’ 20th anniversary celebration, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä proposed arranging a course also internationally, for EU decision-makers. We jumped at the opportunity, as there was clearly interest in and a need for it,” says Elina Antila, Director of Forest Academy for Decision Makers. These first international pilots are being arranged jointly with Swedish forest industry partners. Forest Academy for EU Decision Makers will take place again next year in Sweden under the lead of the Swedish Forest Agency.
The well-planned programme gave the group of about thirty decision-makers a tour of a Finnish forest and the production side of things. “The concept behind it is to offer diverse knowledge and insight into the forest industry,” explains Antila.
At the morning event that took place at Koskisen, speeches were given by Håkan Wirtén, Secretary General of WWF Sweden, Lena Ek, the Chair of Södra, Sweden’s largest forest owners association, and Anna Wiberg, Programme Manager of BioInnovation. The keynote speakers offered broad perspectives on biodiversity, climate change, wood product innovations and future prospects.
“The programme is very interesting and broad. For me, however, the greatest value comes from meeting the other participants,” the secretary general for a Swedish NGO said at the event. “It is important to have a dialogue and to see the different approaches that others take. The programme allowed ample time for open discussions and questions.
After the speeches, the participants were given a tour of the Järvelä mills. “Koskisen was highly praised for its hospitality, warmth and reception,” says Antila. “We will collect feedback after the course, but we received positive feedback on the contents already during the day at Koskisen. Koskisen’s hosts presented their views and offered the opportunity for open dialogue, which was appreciated by the participants,” she adds.
Koskisen’s Chief Executive Officer, Jukka Pahta, talked about the family company’s operating principles and the use of wood. Pahta encouraged decision-makers especially to take a global perspective and the environmental impacts of wood into account. Wood is an environmentally friendly and sustainable raw material with a bright future. For example, emissions from wood are only a fraction of the emissions from concrete. “Global megatrends support this trend and demand for wood products,” said Pahta in his presentation.
According to him, wood construction will increase in future for environmental reasons, both in Finland and globally. This creates a solid foundation for the Nordic forest and wood products industry. “A stable wood products industry is the foundation for everything,” Pahta pointed out. “Without it there is no forest industry, chemical forest industry, wood-based renewable energy production and new, fibre-based innovations.”