Can stakeholder partnerships in a civil regulated environmental practice, create sustainability? : The phenomenon of Forest Stewardship Council meets practice in Sveaskog and IKEA

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Institutionen för natur och miljö


Forest Stewardship council (FSC) is a good example of a civil regulated environmental labelling-initiative. It is also an arena for different organisations interesting in sustainable forestry to work and handle forestry issues. FSC has allowed many private initiatives to move ahead of poor national and international environmental legislation. Instead they have turned towards the market with consumer pressure and in co-operation with companies. The sustainable forestry initiative has become a part of organisations’ ‘Environmental Responsibility’ which is a part of their ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) work. The aim of my thesis is to describe the phenomenon of FSC, both practically and theoretically, from a stakeholder approach. I have picked out two companies which are heavily involved in the FSC practice, IKEA and Sveaskog. The two companies are important players in shaping and developing FSC. The different practices are handled as two separate case-studies. A third case-study explores FSC both on national and international basis. The following research question will be answered: From a stakeholder view, how does FSC works in practice? To describe these three forestry practices is a contribution in itself. I will also use an analysing tool inspired by stakeholder theory to make the studies’ stakeholder partnerships as clear as possible. With the knowledge exposed in answering the first question I will further ask: Can stakeholder partnerships in a civil regulated environmental practice, create sustainability? Kemp’s (2005) five dimensions for sustainability improve the understanding. Every dimension will be followed by an interpretation from my forestry practice in the previous chapter. Both IKEA and Sveaskog drives an ambitious work to create sustainable business, which will be analysed through an ethical-, social-, nature-philosophic-, economic- and legal perspective of the sustainability concept.

The thesis is analysed by an explorative methodological approach with qualitative data, since it best can encapsulate the essence of the complexity which constitutes the answers to the research questions. Each case study will be described in separate texts which make up multiple realities mentally constructed by ourselves.

The analysis shows, both for Sveaskog and IKEA, that stakeholder partnerships generate a number of things. The partnerships generate constructive interaction where new and experienced ideas are born; obligations, processes and responsibilities for their stakeholder engagement; and environmental and social benefits in terms of FSC and other civil regulations and what environmental and social benefits the work leads to. But my description and analysis of the practice and the stakeholder analysis do not answer the general question of the thesis: Can stakeholder partnerships create sustainability?

When going through the critical voices from the five dimensions of sustainability, the task of creating sustainability seems to be impossible. I have confronted the five dimensions with environmental and social responsibility practice in Sveaskog and IKEA, and found substantial efforts in each and every dimension of sustainability. This practical work seems hopeful, whether there is sustainability or not, a serious ambition and extensive goals sometimes makes a difference.

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