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Blog | 06/04/2020 06:12:29

Green growth through sustainable and circular bioeconomy

Stefan Sundman

Vice President, Public and Media Relations, UPM

The EU Commission has set the ambitious target of climate neutrality for the EU by 2050. One means to that end is the EU’s recently published Green Deal, which consists of a wide variety of legislative initiatives to be pushed forward during the next few years to increase climate ambition and create a growth strategy for the EU.

UPM is committed to an ambitious and effective climate agenda. Our forests and products have a positive impact on climate and we also take a great variety of actions at our mills. Climate change, environmental concerns and the scarcity of non-renewable raw materials are driving societies and businesses all over the world towards the use of renewable, non-fossil raw materials and circular economy.

The Green Deal approaches on forests from a limited angle. Mainly from the perspective of sinks and biodiversity. The responsible and balanced utilisation of renewable resources is not presented as a source of growth as is should be. I am afraid the Green Deal, as it currently stands, is not yet a growth strategy.

Circular bioeconomy is a real deal

Everything boils down to finding alternatives to the fossil resources that cause global warming. Replacing fossils is an unprecedented systemic change with vast economic, social and environmental repercussions. All economic activity needs to be increasingly based on renewable resources and circularity. That much is evident. The question is: How can we ensure growth and profitability in a world of scarce resources.

UPM sees the bioeconomy first and foremost as a value chain extending from forests to consumer products and back again. We make wood-based products to replace fossil consumption in building, packaging, transport, chemicals and even medical products. We believe our value chain presents almost endless opportunities for replacing fossil consumption, mitigating climate change and using sustainable resources efficiently.

 Sustainable forestry lies at the heart of our value chain. We see it as the golden ratio of growth, climate change mitigation and biodiversity improvement. A sustainably managed forest grows better, creates renewable raw materials, adapts better to climate change, and is an effective long-term carbon sink. Sustainable forestry safeguards biodiversity, water areas and the recreational use of forests.

Sustainability is not a burden to the forest owner. It creates more financial incentive to take good care of forest growth and thereby ensure the availability of wood for industries that produce wood-based consumer goods to substitute fossil consumption. All activity from planting of seedlings to manufacturing of products is ultimately guided also by profits and the invisible hand of the markets.

Incentive to innovate and invest

With the global economy in the process of shedding its skin, much ink has been spilled and a lot has been said about changing consumer behaviour and fostering innovative businesses and desirable guidance policies. But the suggested policies are often based on restrictions, bans or limitations. They may serve some desired goals well, but they seldom encourage companies to innovate and invest.

Therein lies a stumbling block of the Green Deal. By focusing on biodiversity, restoration and conservation, it overlooks the need to combine all three elements of sustainability for green growth to be achieved. A more holistic approach recognises the fact that safeguarding biodiversity and mitigating climate change is possible only when done in accordance with sustainable economic principles.

We at UPM believe that through sustainable circular bioeconomy we address three challenges at once: economic, social and ecological. The three are in balance in our value chain. If Europe aims to grow, we would be best off aiming for sustainable growth balanced upon the three pillars of sustainability. If we focus solely on one pillar, the other two will falter.

Put bluntly, sustainably managed commercial forestry is THE solution.

Author

Stefan Sundman

Stefan Sundman

Vice President, Public and Media Relations, UPM |