In the forestry industry, the circular economy might sound like nothing more than a new name for the operating model that we have been developing for years. However, on a wider scale, the circular way of thinking creates new business opportunities for us, as it combines environmental and economic targets. We are actively involved in the development of the bioeconomy and in the economic and industrial revolution based on it. The UPM Ecodesign concept that we have incorporated into product and process development is an excellent example of responsible business practices. We drive changes in attitudes and practices, aiming to effect permanent change.
Linear and circular economy diagram (source: EllenMacArthur Foundation)
The circular economy is becoming more widely accepted in Europe, and Finnish politicians have a good understanding of the possibilities it creates. Finland has the opportunity to emerge as a frontrunner in the circular economy in Europe, as we already have solid foundations in place. One of the challenges that the new government faces is to facilitate the development of the circular and bioeconomy by creating industry programmes and applicable regulations that support the initiatives. The industry is very concerned about the rigid bureaucracy and regulations that complicate aspects such as the utilisation of industrial side-streams. Close co-operation within all industry sectors in Finland is crucial. By creating unified systemic solutions across different sectors (the food, chemical and forestry industries and agriculture), we create new business opportunities, for example in the development of energy systems and nutrient recycling.
The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra has been a strong promoter of the circular economy, and this January it organised the Kiertotalous 2015 conference, which was attended by 600 representatives of various stakeholders at the Helsinki Kaapelitehdas. The conference keynote speaker was Joss Bleriot from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one of the global pioneers of the circular economy. The foundation has developed a circular model that takes into consideration the re-use and utilisation of technical and biological raw materials in addition to recycling. The old linear economic model, with its wasteful use of resources, needs to be replaced with the new cyclical model. Joss Bleriot also underlined the importance of education and pointed out that we need to make the circular economic model part of the education of tomorrow's professionals.
As the circular economy relies heavily on local operations, it is essential that we organise activities on a national level in Finland. The Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation—in particular FIBIC and Cleen—have the opportunity to play a major role in the promotion and development of circular and bioeconomy programmes. The bioeconomy value chain needs more players, which creates opportunities for large and small businesses and start-ups working in partnership with research institutes.
Why the circular economy makes business sense, read more:
Diagrams' source: EllenMacArthur Foundation