How UPM forestry meets global megatrends
United Paper Mills (UPM), has committed itself to wood, not only as a source of paper but to “the never-ending story of what you can get from wood”, said Timo Lehesvirta, sustainable forestry lead, Forest Global, at UPM as he took delegates to FIPP Insider London on a virtual tour through a forest in Finland, to explain the complexities of managing forests in a sustainable manner.
Lehesvirta works daily with researchers, NGO’s such as Greenpeace and WWF, government authorities, land owners and customers to not only address concerns about forest management but to ensure forests can sustain the demands of future consumers. He said the debate about sustainable forestry management must be conducted against the background of huge global megatrends which are driving the demand for sustainable and safe solutions. These trends include population growth, urbanisation, resource scarcity, digitalisation, climate change and the growing demand to conduct business in a responsible manner.
However, Lehesvirta warned that the current debate about sustainability transcends merely listing the dangers of these trends. Even Greenpeace, he said, is changing their role from alerting communities and governments to trends such as global warming to spreading the message of hope through collaborative actions.
Collaboration in managing forests around the globe in a sustainable way is a huge challenge, said Lehesvirta, because the demand for wood will grow up to four times more than current demand by 2050 as the world’s population grows from 7.6 billion in 2018 to 10 billion by the middle of the 21st century.
High performing communities will bring with them growing global consumer demand for which sustainable and safe solutions will be imperative. The circular economies achievable through innovation will be dependent on certain values, such as the values set by UPM in its sustainability agenda, which is to trust and be trusted, overcoming challenges together and taking on renewability challenges with the necessary courage.
“We need to ask how many of these values have really been discussed. Is it done in your weekly meetings, calls and Skypes? I believe if we live our corporate values daily we can achieve challenges together to bring about change.”
As a global business with a sales market of over EUR €10bn (US $11.3bn) and 54 production plants in 12 countries, UPM is responsible for planting 50 million tree seedlings every year, said Lehesvirta. That represents 95 new trees every minute of the year to be able to deliver 27 million square metres of wood to UPM mills annually. All of these are from sustainable sources.
“Wherever we operate, our target is to take good care of wood quality and volumes. We manage forests as carbon sinks to achieve climate positive solutions and protect water quality and quantity.”
But responsible forest management does not stop there, he warned. “We also need to take into account that people live in and around forests: from employees to contractors to communities and we have to look after their safety, wellbeing and skills development. This means not only internal social responsibility but also to recognise external people such as forest neighbours. We need to sit down with them to plan together. It’s a huge continuous social process.”
Lehesvirta said whereas 30 years ago, the industry did not take these matters on board, modern forest management now take all of these circumstances into account, with large teams employed to take responsibility for it.
Publishers, he said, are stakeholders in this process and he is looking forward to the publication of UPM’s white paper on the future of sustainability, which should offer a route map to how responsible publishers should approach and align themselves to sustainability goals in the future.
You can download Timo Lehesvirta’s FIPP Insider London slides here.
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