Scenarios are storylines of plausible futures, alternative developments, and their consequences. More than providing precise information about the future per se, they can help us orientate towards alternative futures – also those ones that today are not considered likely or preferable. FutureForest2040 project (2019–2022) by EFI and ETLA Economic Research assessed the structural changes, market …

Scenarios are storylines of plausible futures, alternative developments, and their consequences. More than providing precise information about the future per se, they can help us orientate towards alternative futures – also those ones that today are not considered likely or preferable.


FutureForest2040 project (2019–2022) by EFI and ETLA Economic Research assessed the structural changes, market and employment prospects in the Finnish forest sector up to 2040. Three scenarios were created in a stakeholder workshop: 1) biodiversity and regulated economy, 2) circular economy, and 3) era of social connection. These scenarios were then scrutinized for further analysis of their impacts on the Finnish forest-based sector. The approach to future horizon, thus, was wider than in the forest-sector outlook studies or, for example, the projections of the forest products’ market trends.
The scenarios and their quantifications are not supposed to be read as forecasts. Future does not become better known or more precise because of the analysis. For example, the impact of technological development is often overestimated in a short term but underestimated in a long term. In the FutureForest2040 project the scenarios were designed to be used for testing ideas about the forest-based sector and future capacities needed. Yet, it is also tempting to ask the researchers to make conclusions about what would be the most likely near-future developments: what research can tell about the future.


Building scenarios reveals assumptions that we have about futures as well as making the future. Stakeholder dialogues and cross-disciplinary analyses can open eyes for the developments which are not yet in the radar of the horizon scanning exercises. The stakeholder workshops of the FutureForest2040 project were held in 2019, thus, prior to Covid-19 or war in Ukraine – events which made it concrete how challenging it is to assess the impact of abrupt changes and their consequences.


Food for thought

What would you raise today as the events of low likelihood but high impact? How future-proof are the bioeconomy plans and strategies? What remains peripheral on our radar?

Read more about the FutureForest2040-project and its outcomes

Kunttu et al. 2022. Exploring 2040: Global Trends and International Policies Setting Frames for the Finnish Wood-Based Economy. Sustainability, 14, 9999. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14169999

Project page at EFI website with links to outcomes in English and Finnish, incl. publications, webinars and podcast series.

Project’s final report in Finnish and supplementary material in English.

Photo: Copyright (c) 2019 patpitchaya/Shutterstock.