Global awareness of sustainability issues is growing rapidly, and business organizations are called to address wider social and environmental concerns along with economic performance. However, limited systematic knowledge exists on the interactions between forest industries and natural ecosystems. We thus investigated the role of ecosystem services in the context of China’s forest sector. A qualitative research approach was used to elicit company external expert viewpoints on the topic. Our analysis focused on three themes: (1) forest company dependencies and impacts on ecosystem services; (2) business risks arising from dependencies and impacts; and (3) risk response strategies. The interviewed 20 experts identified a series of forest company dependencies and impacts (including negative and positive impacts) on several ecosystem services. The extent of dependencies and impacts is largely influenced by the business portfolio of the company. The perceived business risks include intense competition and the consequently increasing price for natural resources, which would affect forest company business plans, costs and outputs. The suggested strategies for turning risks into opportunities include outsourcing wood, changing production focus, promoting industrial upgrading and implementing regular assessments of corporate dependencies and impacts on ecosystem services. The findings of our study can guide companies’ decision-making in managing forest ecosystems sustainably.
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