“Forest policy is clearly seen as part of climate and environmental policies: forest strategy, biodiversity, forest regulation, taxonomy and so on. The EU is continuously producing regulations that affect the forest industry. We must get bio-based, not fossile, products and sustainable forest industry solutions on the agenda. That means changing the present carbon sink debate to a debate about solutions,” summarises Kaisu Karvala, who started as the Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s Director of European Union affairs in February 2023.
Karvala knows the EU culture and its practises well, since she has worked in Brussels since 1996.
She has previously worked, among other things, in digitalisation as the Global Director of Public Affairs for Telia and as a Board Member for GSM Europe.
Since February 2023, she has been promoting the interests of the forest industry.
In everyday terms, Karvala is a forest industry lobbyist.
“But what does lobbying actually mean? That’s what I’ve been pondering here for a long while as I considered the stories and products of different industries. As I start my new job, I can see that the situation is quite good. The forest industry has been spreading its influence here for a long time now and its cooperation networks are in good order.”
However, Karvala notes that the EU has its own character.
“That’s just the nature of Brussels, you have to be here on site all the time. It’s good that you can call someone after a meeting and say, would you like to have coffee and talk some more about that one section. The effect is completely different from trying to move an issue forward only in an official meeting.”
Talk about solutions
It’s often said that the reason forest industry has a hard time getting its voice heard in the EU is because this industry that is large in Finland is small compared to, say, German car, metal and chemical industries.
This is, of course, true.
“Nationally we are large and important. We need to hammer this home in the EU, as well. The innovativeness of the industry must be brought forward more forcefully than before. The EU loves employment and keeping the whole country inhabited.
The forest industry influences both.”
Rather than our relatively small size, we have suffered from our dry storytelling.
“We’ve been giving facts about forests. That’s not a bad thing, as such, but it lacks a story people can relate to. Forests don’t have the same meaning to the people here as they do to Finns. Most Central Europeans see forests mainly as parks you can take a stroll in.”
So, if there are complaints in Finland about how Brussels doesn’t understand us and our forests, it’s time to change the story.
“We need to talk about the solutions that forests can offer. About new products that help answer the challenges of climate change. That is, we should see the forest for the trees.”
Of course, one large reason for the challenges of the forest industry is the state of trade policies, with state subsidies being tightened, especially due to US influence.
“There’s a lot of debate in the EU about the state subsidies given to different industries. That’s also harmful to the kind of small, export-led and open economy we have.
Forests from the perspective of green growth
The goal of the forest industry for the near future is clear.
“We need to promote a green growth perspective in the EU during the next five-year period, including forests as a usable resource. And somehow we need to retain our cost competitiveness among these crazy subsidising policies.”
Practical influencing requires footwork, as well.
“I’ve been visiting the member associations of other countries with Paula Lehtomäki, the CEO of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation. You have to have friends in Brussels to be able to progress issues at the Council. Sweden alone is not enough. For example Poland, Germany and Spain are crucial forest industry allies for us. It’s also important to have a strong contact with the precidency.”
Karvala also notes that, at the end of May, she together with Paula Lehtomäki and Karoliina Niemi, Forest Director, will participate in the Round Table talk in Brussels about the restoration of forests, conducted by MEP Petri Sarvamaa.
“WWF has also been invited, because it’s no good for the forest industry’s cause to only talk among the so-called true believers.”
3 x Goals
1. In my work, I want to help ensure that my children and possible grandchildren can still roam on snowy glaciers and breathe the incredibly clean air of Lapland with their foreign friends.
2. In my personal life, I aim to take care of those I hold dear. My goal is to also find at least one new band or artist / author / book per month and to do sports and enjoy cultural activities alongside work.
I also challenge myself to be constantly learning, because I believe that versatile language skills, understanding history and the giddying effect of art can help you understand the world better. My rhythm is not the rhythm of others. Listen! Ask!
3. I want to do meaningful work abroad for my homeland. To be part of an educational and tolerant Finland, even abroad. I also want to do my part for the Finnish self-esteem in forest issues. I want to help the rest of the world to see how sustainable and regenerative our forestry already is, and what an innovative fossile-free future we are building here.
– Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s Director of European Union affairs starting February 2023
– Education: Master of Political Sciences (political history), CEP (international law)
– Family: spouse, daughter studying abroad, adolescent preparing for matriculation and a mixed-breed dog Vilma