CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
2021 was a strong year for UPM. We successfully managed to navigate an exceptionally fast changing operating environment, delivering performance that exceeded UPM’s financial targets.
The world economy recovered quickly from the previous year’s deep slowdown. Demand for our products was strong in all business areas. Our earnings returned to strong pre-pandemic levels, and five out of our six business areas surpassed their long-term financial targets. We improved our margins, despite significant raw material and energy cost increases. The year ended with a solid Q4.
Overall, the year was excellent. Our sales increased by 14% and our comparable EBIT by 55% from the previous year. Delivery volumes increased in all business areas. Sales prices also increased in all of our business areas except for graphic papers. Operating cash flow strengthened further.
In February 2021, we joined the Climate Pledge, which aims for climate-neutrality by 2040 and to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement 10 years in advance. In 2021, our energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 8%. As part of our journey towards carbon neutrality, our goal is stop using coal energy by 2030.
In 2021, we again received several recognitions for our sustainability work. Our ambitious responsibility targets will continue to steer us in the right direction.
Progress in strategic growth projects
The year 2021 was significant in our strategic growth projects, which was reflected in investments of nearly EUR 1.5 billion. Our investment projects have taken place in an exceptional period when the pandemic and disturbances in the global supply chains have caused unpredictable challenges. Given the circumstances, the projects have progressed well.
The construction of the Paso de los Toros pulp mill is now at a point where the most material uncertainties have been resolved and we can fine-tune the project’s completion plan. The mill will start production by the end of Q1 2023, with a 10% increase in the updated investment estimate. Most importantly, the investment case remains strong because of the cash cost level of approximately USD 280 per delivered tonne of pulp.
Business preparation at UPM Biochemicals is proceeding at good pace and the long-term business opportunities for the project are excellent. There is keen interest in wood-based biochemicals. However, the pandemic and disruptions to global supply chains have affected the progress of the project. We estimate that the start-up will take place by the end of 2023.
At the beginning of 2021, we started the basic engineering phase of a next generation biofuels biorefinery. The potential investment would take place in Rotterdam. The current investment environment is very challenging for new major projects so we are not planning to make further decisions before the end of 2022.
These strategic investments remain our focus area also this year. We will do our best to ensure that they proceed successfully and safely.
Biofore strategy unchanged
Global megatrends are increasing demand for many of our products. The drive for more sustainable consumption affects customer and consumer behaviour. More and more people want to make responsible purchasing decisions.
Our purpose is to create a future beyond fossils. We offer our customers and consumers sustainable choices: renewable and recyclable materials and low-emission energy. Our strategy remains unchanged. We seek sustainable growth in businesses with strong long-term market fundamentals. We have defined our spearheads for growth loud and clear: fibre products, specialty packaging materials and biorefining. Performance, innovation and responsibility continue to be the cornerstones we build on.
Responsibility is an integral part of our Biofore strategy. We source our raw materials from sustainably managed forests and we foster biodiversity. We develop climate-positive products that replace fossil-based products. We also have ambitious and science-based emission reduction targets.