European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 131, Issue 1, pp 57–71

Public policies as institutions for sustainability: potentials of the concept and findings from assessing sustainability in the European forest-based sector

Original Paper


It is becoming increasingly apparent that the institutional dimension is of critical importance for achieving sustainable development, which is why the view that it should be considered as a fourth dimension of sustainability is acquiring increased support. It is argued that the institutional dimension represents an important challenge to the full integration of the economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives within the necessary institutional setting. But despite its importance, the latter is often neglected when it comes to scientific assessments of sustainability performance. A fact that holds particularly true for the forestry sector. The aim of the present paper is to describe and discuss how the institutional dimension of sustainability can be incorporated into a Sustainability Impact Assessment of the European Forest-Wood-Chain (FWC) by using a policy database developed within the context of EFORWOOD. The policy database, covering all policies of key relevance to FWC-sustainability, was employed for the purpose of connecting the EFORWOOD sustainability indicators to its institutional and political background. This connection provides direct and detailed insights into the governance structures prevailing in the European forest-based sector and thereby into the institutional dimension of FWC-sustainability. The results illustrate that FWC-sustainability is governed and regulated rather inconsistently by the many political institutions involved, various types of policies in force, and different modes of governance applied. The connection between the EFORWOOD sustainability indicators and a comprehensive database of sector-related policies thus presents a feasible approach for overcoming the lack of consideration given to the institutional sphere of sustainability.


European Forest-based sector Sustainability Impact Assessment European Forest policy and governance Sustainable development Institutional sustainability EFORWOOD 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sustainable Energy and Climate ProtectionInstitute for Ecological Economy ResearchBerlinGermany
  2. 2.European Forest Institute Central-East European Regional Office (EFICEEC), Department of Economics and Social SciencesUniversity of Natural Resources and Applied Life SciencesVienna, WienAustria

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