On 28 September 2020, the InnoForESt consortium gathered key stakeholders with an interest in the supply and financing of forest ecosystem services (FES) including forest owners and managers, non-profit and non-governmental organisation representatives, researchers, and entrepreneurs to discuss central findings from selected Innovation Regions (IRs), lessons learned from accompanying research, and to further refine project recommendations as we finalise our project this year.

Part 1: Governance innovations for forest ecosystem services in practice

Governance innovations for FES in practice included new payment schemes and business approaches for the provision of FES within the InnoForESt project with contributions from the Waldaktie innovation in Germany from Peter Adolphi (ANE) and the Finnish Innovation, Habitat Bank from Minna Pekkonen (SYKE).

Waldaktie is a voluntary carbon market to compensate tourists’ carbon footprint by planting trees/climate forests. 1 Waldaktie pays for 5 m² of new climate forest which is equal to the CO2-emission of an average 2-weeks-vacation for a 4-head-family in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (the region in which this innovation takes place). These planting events for tourists support the educational perspective and even companies have started using Waldaktie as a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. However, one major challenge this innovation has faced during the project is the political decisions from the top level that influence the market vs. regulatory / administrative approach. A similar tree planting initiative and foundation idea was developed by the Minister in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is not yet clear how Waldaktie can survive with this top-down approach, but the recognition of this FES has reached a new level.

The Habitat Bank in Finland serves as an intermediary that brings together actors who play a key role in the demand and supply in biodiversity offsetting. Companies can decrease costs, improve their reputation, and increase sales and landowners invest in habitat restoration and generate profit from protection and restoration. However, creating demand for compensations is slow moving and without demand, the voluntary-based compensation market does not grow and thus supply is not necessary. InnoForESt has played an important role in overcoming some of these challenges by enabling discussions with stakeholders, organising workshops, and building a network. The first-time meetings with small scale actors (i.e. private landowners) and large companies (e.g. construction companies) were found to be particularly useful for the partners involved in this innovation.

The common idea of alliances and networks compiled insights from the innovations in Austria, Italy, and Sweden. Francesca Bussola (PAT) explained the innovation in Trentino, Italy, where they use forest pasture management for scenic beauty, tourism, and biodiversity conservation to encourage the revival of the traditional rural landscape. They do so via the restoration of equilibrium among wooded and open areas, which the Trentino region has lost in the last decades, due to the gradual abandonment of mountain areas and rural activities.

There have been challenges for the Italian IR to create new opportunities for economic development of mountain areas, through local tourism, develop new financing mechanisms, strengthen the collaboration network already activated in the region, and enhance the integrated management of rural landscape and forests. For this reason, when the Forest Service was involved by InnoForESt project, they saw the project as an opportunity to (1) foster the emergence of new initiatives to sustain the local economy by the promotion of local tourism, identifying interconnections to the restoration of traditional landscape, (2) foster the emergence of new financing mechanism, able to go beyond public funds and to make the system self-sustainable, (3) highlight the work done until now by the Forest Service to sustain the active management of forests and rural activities and (4) promote a bottom-up process starting from the stakeholders network already present.

Forest rich regions often do not value provisioning of wood and it takes many types of actors to create value from wood in a sustainable way. The Austria innovation, Value Chains for Forests and Wood, aims to increase the region’s socio-economic and ecologic resilience by strengthening stakeholder networks around the creation of innovative wood-based products and/or forest-based services. The InnoForESt project helped this IR overcome its challenges through several steps including gathering more than 100 stakeholders, steering the development of alliances and networks, promoting 3 different FES innovations, and building awareness in the region.

Love the Forest in Sweden (Älska Skog in Swedish) is a multi-stakeholder initiative for increasing high school students’ knowledge about forests and their ecosystem services in times of climate change. During the project, the innovation has been evolving through change of content, method, main target groups, funding and case partners, increased knowledge regarding children’s relationships with forest ecosystems and linkages between national policy and the ability to provide diverse ecosystem services.

Part 2: Enabling governance innovations development

Eeva Primmer (SYKE), lead on Work Package 2 (WP2): Mapping and assessing forest ecosystem services and institutional frameworks provided an EU-wide overview. WP2 is designed to collate a broad understanding of forest ecosystem services with the innovation potential from recent and emerging niches, in interaction with the existing socio-technical regime in the forest sector. For this purpose, WP2 merged European level information on ecosystem services and various governmental and industry sources to map the socio-economic and institutional landscape across Europe. From the analysis, a map and framework were produced, onto which further detailed innovation analyses can be based, and gain a deeper understanding of the social-ecological and institutional conditions for policy and business innovations. These maps can be found online here.

The introduction on WP3: Smart ecosystem services governance innovations, raised 2 key questions: (1) ‘what kind of governance innovations can support sustainable provision of forest ecosystem services in a long term?’ and (2) ‘what are the influencing factors (fostering/hindering) for governance innovations?’ To describe preferred future development for each IR there must be operationalisation of the SETFIS framework factors in innovation process, testing of reconfiguration of these factors, and prototypes to then upgrade and upscale these innovations. Factors in the SETFIS framework include actors, institutions, biophysical conditions, forest management systems, innovation systems, external factors, and governance innovation processes. Key preconditions were derived from the experiences of the 6 InnoForESt IRs. These include institutional robustness of local long-lasting institutions, local biophysical conditions and ecosystem and pro-environmental behaviour supported by informal institutions and mutual trust among forest community members.

Several best performing designs of innovation prototypes were then proofed in practice in WP4: Innovation platforms for policy and business. WP4 is dedicated to selection and matching, co-design and establishment of prototype development in WP3, and an implementation analysis of innovation networks in a real-world context. A mixed-methodological approach was used for matching the prototypes and case studies, as it can capture complex social-ecological system related interactions.

WP5: Innovation process Integration serves as the basis for the integrated multi-disciplinary, multi-actor and multi-layer approach of InnoForESt. WP5 compiled and connected the decisive economic, socio-technical, political-institutional, and biophysical-ecological conditions, as assessed in WP2 and identified in WP3, with the objectives of generating and integrating knowledge and innovations that serve as real-world input as well as empirically informed and holistic validation, sharing and merging the analytical and practical knowledge in InnoForESt.

Part III Preliminary findings and recommendations

Five overarching themes have emerged despite the variability in IRs’ local contexts, different FES-related objectives, and asynchronous developments during InnoForESt. They relate to issues that demand consideration during the entire process of working towards an innovative governance mechanism for FES provision and financing.  As such, they serve as the structuring backdrop to the target-group specific recommendations and options for action that follow. The project results suggest that all six targeted actor groups can contribute to securing FES provision and financing by catering to one of more of these overarching themes, or by addressing them through different means. Recommendations for boosting innovations to sustainably provide FES include: (1) Bringing diverse stakeholders together, (2) Structured, facilitated stakeholder network building, (3) Facilitated innovation development, (4) Maintaining direct link to FES provision and (5) Payment schemes for FES provision. More information about these recommendations can be found in Deliverable 6.3 and our targeted policy briefs, available soon on the project website.

Join us for our Virtual Final Conference on Wednesday, 28 October 2020.



More information 

The Multi-stakeholder Workshop was held on 28 September.

View the programme.

Download the ‘What is the InnoForESt project?’ infographic on our website.

The recording of the workshop will be made available soon on our YouTube channel.