Forest Owners Association – seeing the forest despite the trees
The Forest Owners Association (Metsaühistu) unites local forestry unions across Estonia. It acts as common ground between forest owners, the timber industry and the state. Its sole purpose is to impose a high universal standard of forest maintenance to provide higher value from forest property to the owners as well as society.
The work we undertook together with the association had as its primary goal to raise the trustworthiness of the organisation in the eyes of the forest owners and the timber industry. To achieve this we created a single service concept and implementation guidelines. This helped to motivate forest owners to join the local association, which in-turn motivated local associations to join the national organisation. Additionally, the common concept raises the general public’s awareness of why the organisation is necessary and of the benefits of good forest stewardship.
In Estonia there were a number of independent forestry associations. It was difficult for owners to find them and understand what they were good for while at the same time there were many shady characters that said basically the same thing. To solve the conundrum we approached it from the forest owners viewpoint, and eventually provided the central association with a clearly defined service standard and visual appearance.
To gather qualitative data on what forest owners, timber companies, the association’s employees and the state wanted from the Forest Owners Association, we conducted extensive interviews with property owners, association managers and other stakeholders including field studies and journey- and touchpoint mapping workshops.
During the course of the project, as additional local associations signed up to the national concept, the concept itself was tested and revised based on their feedback.
To date one quarter of local associations have joined the national Forest Owners Association. Considering that half of the local associations don’t meet current national quality criteria, the ambition to join helps to motivate them to meet the necessary qualification level. At the same time, forest owners are more and more turning to their local association to help the manage their forest. Since January 2015, the membership has increased from 2622 to 3461 in June 2016.
The results of the work show a 25% increase in income from the sale of timber for forest owners, which neatly mirrors the mission of the association, to support its members financial interests through more efficient and sustainable forest management.
According to the client representative, Tarmo Lees, one of the results of the project has been “tangible efficiency growth. Local association members don’t have to deal with things they have no idea and can instead focus on the job at hand – supporting forest owners through the single process of unified timber sales.”