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A choice for the environmentally aware: UPM's timber, produced without fossil fuels

2020 was a groundbreaking year for UPM’s sawmills. Since the start of the year, any energy consumed during the production of the sawmills has been covered in whole by renewable energy. As the pioneer in the sawmill industry, UPM aims to provide customers with sustainable timber products that have a low carbon footprint and are made from renewable materials.

UPM Timber has four sawmills in Finland and all of them use only fossil-free energy in their production. Minimising the use of fossil fuels is the most important way to mitigate climate change.

“We have the ambitious aim to reduce the CO2 emissions of fuels and purchased energy used at our production facilities by 65 % by 2030. This target is part of the UN Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C, which we signed in January 2020. UPM Timber is ahead of its time and did it’s bit ten years early”, says Sami Lundgren, Vice President of Environment and Responsibility.

An environmentally friendly choice

Using wood in construction and as a raw material is becoming more and more popular – and for good reason. As a natural product, wood is a renewable, safe and recyclable alternative for competing materials such as steel and plastic. In addition, the demand for wood is on the rise, especially thanks to its positive impact on the climate.

“Nowadays, environmental aspects and sustainable values are very important to both UPM and many of our customers”, says Eeva Laaksonen, Manager of Quality and Environment at UPM Timber. "Now that we are able to produce our timber in a fossil-free manner, the carbon footprint of our products will be even lower than before. This will also lower the carbon footprint of our customers’ products and make it easier for them to reach their own emission targets. This will inevitably create competitive advantages for both parties,” says Laaksonen.

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Every end goal is equal to the sum of many actions

It is not particularly common or expected that a significant industrial operator such as UPM Timber would be able to run its production on renewable energy sources alone.

The sidestreams of wood used at the sawmills, consisting of wood chips, sawdust and bark, are used in pulp manufacturing and as fuel in energy generation. Both heat energy and electricity are used at all four UPM sawmills.

Approximately one year ago, UPM Timber set out to transfer their energy supply to solely renewable energy. For example, the Korkeakoski sawmill already has the facilities in place to produce the energy needed there from bark and wood chips with its bio-heating plant. The Pori Energia power plant provides the Seikku sawmill with renewable energy produced from the power plant’s sidestreams.

“Pulp mills are enormous renewable energy production facilities which produce more energy than is needed at them, so the excess energy can be used at the sawmills. At the sawmills located in the Pietarsaari and Lappeenranta mill integrates, we have used purely renewable energy produced at the integrates’ pulp mills since the beginning of 2020”, Eeva Laaksonen says.

The same way that consumers can order emission-free electricity produced with renewable fuels for their homes, sawmills buy their energy fossil-free. UPM Timber’s emission-free energy is verified and has received a Guarantee of origin (GO) granted by Fingrid Oyj. Fingrid Oyj grants a GO only to Finnish electricity produced from renewable energy sources.

Solutions one step at a time

In addition to emission-free energy use, UPM Timber has also been able to reach UPM’s recycling target. This means that zero landfill waste is generated by the timber business and that all raw materials are used and all waste recycled either by UPM or partners. This kind of circular economy creates clear benefits for the climate.

“UPM Timber’s emission-free production is a significant step towards a future beyond fossils, and inspires other UPM businesses to do their best. In addition to sustainable forest management and innovative product development, all emission reduction measures will make us and our customers the victors in the future”, Sami Lundgren summarises.