Developing Organisational Culture & Resources Capability - Insights from Forestry Land Scotland

Case Study On-going
Date added: 10/08/2020

This case study provides an overview of Forestry and Land Scotland’s adaptation story so far and is followed by in-depth insights on the experience of using the Adaptation Capability Framework, focused on the Organisational Culture and Resources capability.

About Forestry and Land Scotland

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is the Scottish Government agency that looks after Scotland’s national forests and land. It does this in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry, conserves and enhances the environment and delivers benefits for people and nature. FLS was established as a successor to the Forestry Commission in Scotland, as an executive agency of the Scottish Government on 1 April 2019. It is a ‘public corporation’ involved in commercial trading activity, with all incomes reinvested into the management of national forests and land, more detail can be found in their corporate plan.

Adapting to Climate Change – the story so far

Adaptation is not new to FLS. It has been doing it for decades – both in its previous guise as FES and, since 2019 when FLS was established. That year also saw Scotland declare a Climate Emergency and this, together with new policies including Scotland’s Forestry Strategy and Climate Ready Scotland: climate change adaptation programme 2019-2024 culminated in FLS taking a strategic approach to adaptation and ensuring that the concept was integrated throughout the organisation and it’s forestry operations. FLS is committed to playing its role in climate adaptation and has been actively using Adaptation Scotland’s Adaptation Capability Framework since 2019.

Before using the Framework to progress tasks in practice, FLS’s Land Management team first undertook a Benchmarking Workshop (Oct 2019) to identify and understand its organisational position within the Adaptation Capability Framework. Benchmarking helps provide a baseline assessment of an organisation’s adaptation capabilities and highlights those areas the organisation is excelling in and others where more work may be needed.

The FLS benchmarking workshop identified which capability tasks were already underway and which ones needed to be acted upon. Mapping the corporate plan against the Framework identified which actions were relevant to FLS, illustrated how adaptation could support achieving corporate plan objectives and teased out what adaptation actions were still required. Running a workshop with representatives from different departments at the beginning of the process helped achieve understanding, buy in and support from across the organisation in using the Framework. Being honest about assessing progress is important to understand where the organisation currently is and where it wants to go. FLS used the Benchmarking assessment as a way to motivate further use of the Adaptation Capability Framework and taking adaptation action.

The organisation subsequently endorsed the use of Framework in January 2020 and adaptation is now a corporate programme and responsibility with senior management support. The Executive Team have taken ownership of adaptation and identified topic experts/change agents across departments, ensuring a holistic and joined up approach. Forestry and Land Scotland has greatly developed the Organisational Culture & Resources capability – and this has been integral to their adaptation progress.

Organisational Culture & Resources Capability in FLS

The experience of FLS demonstrates the huge role of organisational culture - and the importance of senior managers and adaptation champions supporting climate adaptation. Forestry Land Scotland’s launch, as a successor to FES, has enabled them to start to develop a new culture and provided a rich opportunity to engage on adaptation. The new Executive Team was willing to try new approaches and was cognisant of the importance of climate change adaptation and the vital role Scotland’s forests have in addressing climate change. Management buy-in to adaptation was secured by working closely with a number of supportive Executive Team members and helping them to influence other board members.

Identifying and Securing Resources for Adaptation

FLS recognises that adaptation is an important part of its role as custodians of Scotland’s national forests and land and is conscious that the trees it plants today need to be suitable for the climate of 2050 and beyond.

It also recognises that in the future, looking after our forests may cost more – for example, having to construct larger culverts, greater species variation when planting, adapting species choice to fit the changing climate or having to erect more fencing to prevent saplings suffering from browsing damage. However, quicker tree growth and higher yields resulting from a warmer environment will see an increase in income that will help to fund adaptation. The adaptation team is currently exploring what is needed in order to become resilient to climate change and associated impacts (such as increase in pests and diseases), an exercise that will inform budget requirements. It is recognised that future costs can be minimised with good adaptation planning now, including exploring how changes can be taken advantage of. By integrating adaptation responsibilities across the organisation, more suitable guidance can be devised and appropriate budgeting ensured. This work, guided by a risk register approach, also benefits from the organisation’s longer-term view, illustrated by its review of all land management plans on a decadal cycle. Climate change considerations are integrated into decision-making processes across the organisation so that FLS can make the best decisions for our forests both now and in the future.

Governance Arrangements for Adaptation

FLS has built different mechanisms at various levels of the organisation from identifying individual ‘change agents’ in key business areas, to steering groups to guide adaptation action; to leadership from the Executive Team. The Executive Team have oversight of all adaptation activities and this mandate across the organisation adds value and impetus to the work across all levels. By working together towards strategic adaptation objectives FLS has achieved a step change towards becoming a well adapting and mature public body.

Motivating and Engaging colleagues on adaptation – adaptation champions

Identifying and working with topic experts and change agents – and having senior level champions on the Executive Team and Finance Board - has been crucial for FLS.

An important factor in successfully engaging colleagues involved clearly communicating FLS’s role in achieving Scotland’s adaptation outcomes and aligning adaptation with other policy priorities, such as Scotland’s Forestry Strategy, Scottish Government priorities and the second Climate Change adaptation strategy. FLS value that the Adaptation Capability Framework is aligned to Scottish Government priorities, such as the National Performance Framework and the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, ensuring that action helps align with wider aims and can act as a useful ‘hook’ with colleagues.

Adaptation is recognised as being an iterative process and that embedding adaptation within the organisation will be a gradual process. This will be achieved both through the forest plan review process, and the establishment of an adaptation strategy/plan (centred on four adaptation outcomes) that will place climate change adaptation at the heart of all internal guidance, policy and practice .

How has adaptation work progressed since adopting the Framework?

The Adaptation Capability Framework has provided a clear outcome for everyone in FLS to work towards and has supported the organisation in making significant progress over a short time frame. To date the organisation has:

• Enhanced the visibility of adaptation and given strategic vision for the organisation

• Enabled the connections between policy areas to be identified and synergies taken advantage of

• Put in place change agents across the organisation who actively promote and take adaptation action within their departments or projects

• Built adaptation into training courses and integrated into corporate priorities

• Worked with Forest Research and other research organisations to identify adaptation actions needed

• Continued collaborative working through strong partnerships with Transport Scotland, SEPA, SNH.

Next Steps for FLS

FLS are currently developing an adaptation plan and will continue to integrate adaptation into business planning and practices over the coming years.

Top tips and learning for other organisations

• Avoiding adaptation is not an option for the public sector – climate impacts are already being experienced and public bodies, as providers of a range of local services, play an important role in adapting to a changing climate. Organisations do have a choice in which resources they use to support adaptation planning – “like making sure you pick up the right planting spade when you plant a tree –the Adaptation Capability Framework has been the right tool at the right time for FLS”. The Framework provides a structured way to progress adaptation and acts as a mechanism to ‘hang your work on’, be that pre-existing or planned adaptation activities.

• Take time to understand the Framework and the available resources before getting stuck in. Whilst it can look daunting at first, there are a lot of resources to help you understand and use the Framework like the Handbook and the Starter Pack – working through those first will give organisations a solid foundation to build further adaptation work on. When ready, start using the tools, and reach out to Adaptation Scotland for support if you need it.

• Get people involved at the start! Running a workshop with representatives from different departments at the beginning of the process helped achieve understanding, buy in and support from across the organisation in using the Framework.

• Figure out what is right for your organisation. The Framework is comprised of 50 tasks – it is important to realise you do not have to hit every single one of them straight away. Take time to consider what your organisation has already done on adaptation (and celebrate that), understand your organisational objectives and adaptation aims and figure out which capability tasks support you to get there. Undertaking a Benchmarking workshop helps identify what is relevant for your organisation and helps track progress over time.

• Let colleagues know what you are doing – provide regular updates and share copies of the Handbook, Benchmarking assessment or your organisation’s completed Starter Pack to others to keep them up to speed and provide opportunity to get involved. Be honest in benchmarking. It’s OK to find out that your organisation hasn’t already made much progress – the important thing is to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction from where you are now.

• Work with senior managers to demonstrate the benefits of adaptation and the advantage of using the Adaptation Capability Framework and make sure they are well briefed and fully equipped with understanding of the process before sharing with other board members. Get one and the rest will follow!

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