The Contribution of Sustainable Development Goals and Forest-related Indicators to National Bioeconomy Progress Monitoring

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The importance of a sustainable and circular bioeconomy in achieving the SDGs has been recognized at various political levels. The new article of Linser and Lier (2020)  explored whether and how the SDGs are considered in national bioeconomy strategies in eight countries (Denmark, Finland, Italy, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA), and in their indicator-based progress monitoring and assessment. This study focused on how the different national indicators used to monitor the progress of the bioeconomy were related to the SDG indicators and to the already well-established and widely applied intergovernmental regional or international forest-related indicators, as the forest sector is a major actor within a bioeconomy.

Is progress towards bioeconomy strategy objectives measured by using indicators?

The analysis shows that so far only a few countries have established a monitoring system based on indicators to measure progress towards objectives of national bioeconomy strategies. The studied national bioeconomy indicators varied not only in numbers but also within their focus, ranging from technological to socio-economic and ecological indicators, and level of detail. This is not only a result of different country characteristics in line with different national bioeconomy focuses, but is also related to “bioeconomy readiness”, including the technological readiness of national bioeconomy sectors and activities, political preconditions, circumstances, priorities, settings, and public demands.

"If a country decides to elaborate a bioeconomy strategy including the development of respective indicators for progress monitoring or to start a revision process, our results, including the gaps which we depicted, may serve as a starting point for discussions between the inter-ministerial and the inter-sectoral participants”, says Stefanie Linser, from Forest Policy Research Network.

Do the studied national bioeconomy strategies developed and adopted after 2015 contain references to the SDGs, their targets and indicators?

The analysis allowed to identify 14 out of the 17 SDGs which are relevant to the bioeconomy as related issues are mentioned in the surveyed national bioeconomy strategies. Only the most recently developed Italian bioeconomy strategy mentioned some SDGs explicitly. All other seven national bioeconomy strategies address issues of 11 up to 14 SDGs implicitly, in varying degrees of interest, depending on their national circumstances and priorities. Only some of the SDG targets (32 out of 169) and a range of SDG indicators (36 out of 244) were classified as relevant to the bioeconomy through the approach we applied. Overall, we identified potential for further additional bioeconomy indicators to be included in the indicator sets of the eight national bioeconomy strategies for progress monitoring of explicit or implicitly mentioned SDGs.

As the forest sector is one of the key sectors for the development of a bioeconomy, do the national bioeconomy indicators resemble the respective intergovernmental regional or international indicators for SFM?

The analysis showed that large interrelationships exist between SDG indicators, bioeconomy indicators, and indicators for sustainable forest management, the latter are often of cross-cutting nature and not univocal for the forest sector. Two-thirds of the bioeconomy indicators used in the eight national bioeconomy strategies and three bioeconomy indicator projects are forest-related or have a forest component in their underlying information. One-third of the bioeconomy indicators focus exclusively on other bioeconomy sectors. The high share of forest-related indicators reveals on the one hand that forests as a primary source for the bio-based manufacturing sector play a major role in the bioeconomy in the studied countries and projects. But it seems also obvious that forest-related indicators are chosen and applied as tools with a comparable long development-history and a fairly good data availability and validity.


Full reference

Linser, S.; Lier, M. The Contribution of Sustainable Development Goals and Forest-Related Indicators to National Bioeconomy Progress Monitoring. Sustainability 2020, 12, 2898.