Research: There is still much to be done in promoting diversity and inclusion in the forest industry

Diversity and inclusion, encapsulating the sense of belonging, remain unrealized aspirations within the forest industry. Despite respondents generally perceiving their work communities as diverse and positive, the industry itself appears homogenous. Notably, individuals from minority groups often find it challenging to express their authentic selves. A positive shift has been noted in the increasing number of women in the industry. While fostering diversity and inclusion is crucial for the industry’s future, the urgent need for change is not universally acknowledged among respondents. 

These insights stem from a comprehensive study conducted by the workplace design agency Workday Designers Ltd and the sustainability transition expert company Luontoa Consulting Ltd. This study delved into the actualization of equality and inclusion within the forest industry, with the participation of two organizations, Stora Enso Forest and the Finnish Forest Centre, along with members from two labour unions, Loimu and Teollisuusliitto. 

Although forest industry jobs are generally portrayed positively, with colleagues valuing each other’s expertise and fostering a sense of authenticity at work, the study uncovers concerning aspects such as bullying and discrimination. A notable 36 % of all respondents have observed instances of bullying or discrimination in their current workplace over the last two years, with an even higher figure of 47 % among women. Additionally, half of the women surveyed have experienced gender-based unfair treatment, compared to a mere 7 % of men. 

While efforts have been made to address the position of women in the industry, and progress has been achieved, the study reveals that women still face greater challenges in career advancement than their male counterparts. Furthermore, educational background plays a significant role in perceived respect, with individuals holding a university degree still being regarded more favourably, despite the industry’s recognition of the importance of education in recent years. 

The industry’s homogeneity is often overlooked or not recognized as a problem. Diversity, as understood by respondents, primarily revolves around having individuals of different ages, genders, and skills in the workplace. However, the data highlights the near invisibility of minorities in the forest industry, including people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, or gender and sexual minorities, who either do not seem to be present in the industry or are concealed in some manner. 

Surprisingly, 60% of respondents consider their workplace diverse, despite the apparent homogeneity concerning ethnicity, educational background, and gender within their work communities. While some respondents critique the industry’s lack of diversity and advocate for diversification, a significant portion perceives no issue with the existing similarity. 

Janne Partanen, Forest Director at Stora Enso, reflects on their continuous efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion in their work community, emphasizing that this cultural shift requires persistent, collective efforts. Anna-Liisa Louko, Administrative Director at the Finnish Forest Centre, expresses satisfaction with the study’s insights, outlining their commitment to addressing identified strengths and areas for development to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Henna Nätynki, a workplace designer at Workday Designers, highlights the typical initial oversight of diversity and its benefits in organizations embarking on their equality journey. She emphasizes that the study provides valuable insights for development, and the interest shown by participating organizations forms a solid foundation for promoting diversity, equality, and inclusivity within the industry. 

Conducted from April to June 2023, the study by Workday Designers Ltd and Luontoa Consulting Ltd comprised a qualitative survey analysed by iloom Ltd using the Wordloom® tool, supplemented by in-depth interviews. The survey includes 632 respondents. The project was funded by the Metsämiesten Säätiö (Metsämiesten Säätiö Foundation). 

Workday Designers Ltd, a workplace design agency, focuses on exploring and developing employee experiences while empowering individuals to become adept designers of their own work. Luontoa Consulting Ltd specializes in serving companies in the land-using sector, concentrating on the development of ecological and social responsibility, and elevating corporate responsibility standards. 

For more information about the study: 

Workplace Designer Henna Nätynki, tel. 044 352 3624,, Workday Designers Ltd 

CEO Inka Musta, tel. 040 634 9900,, Luontoa