Water is an amazingly dynamic compound, continuously on the move in a cycle of evaporation, condensation, precipitation and runoff back to sees and lakes. As water flows through the water cycle it fuels most life and ecosystems on the planet.
Water also flows through every part of our business. It flows in and out of our production processes, it passes through our forests where trees and the forest floor help to purify and regulate its movement. We even leverage its flow to create an important source of clean renewable energy.
But water is also critical for human existence, a crucial element of day-to-day life in all of the communities in which we operate. Water scarcity is a major global challenge that manifests itself at a local and regional level, and today over one billion people have no access to fresh water.
This puts a great responsibility on companies like UPM who need a considerable amount of water for production processes. But it’s also an exciting opportunity for our business as a force for good. As a signatory to the CEO Water Mandate we follow recognised principles of water stewardship, continually seeking to use water in a way that is environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically beneficial.
Our target is to use water responsibly and that includes efforts to protect, maintain and monitor local water resources across our forestry, production and hydropower operations as well as throughout our supply chain. But we are also working hard to help restore the water resources and aquatic ecosystems that we come into contact with during our operations or in the communities where we operate.
Good progress during the decades
When it comes to water or any other natural resources, we apply circular thinking. It is in the core of UPM’s Biofore strategy. Our main water withdrawal comes from the high-demand industrial processes of pulp and paper production. Water use and efficiency varies from mill to mill due to various end uses, grades, raw materials, processes and local conditions. Despite this, all of our mills have been closing down their water circuits year-on-year, and as a result we have reduced water withdrawal and effluent organic load by about half per ton of production over the last 20 years.
Aiming higher every day
We constantly strive to move forward and improve our performance, an approach guided by our ambitious 2030 responsibility targets.
In order to reach these challenging targets, we need to look beyond business as usual, testing ourselves to develop and apply new technologies. A number of trailblazing UPM sites are already demonstrating what’s possible, providing valuable learnings and exciting opportunities for us to consider as we aim to roll out improvements across our productions in the years to come.
This includes UPM Nordland in Germany and UPM Changshu in China. Already at the top of their class in terms of water withdrawal and effluent organic load, they are piloting new solutions and technologies that enable water to be recycled back into processes after it’s released from wastewater treatment.
In Finland we are taking bold steps towards our 2030 targets to use only recycled nutrients in our wastewater plants, taking process streams from other industries to replace conventional nitrogen and phosphorus sources. By removing these nutrients from elsewhere - both our own and those of others - we are able to reduce local eutrophication.
We want to highlight the importance of the water resources and good water management all over the world. It’s a value we want to share with our employees, collaboration partners and the societies with whom we operate. We are also firmly committed to ensuring that all of our operated facilities provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene. This we do according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development WASH Pledge.
In Finland, UPM has today published its commitment to responsible water use. The water stewardship commitment challenges companies to identify their water related risks in their value chains, to ensure sustainable water use of their employees and all parties they operate with, and to develop sustainable water management together with the stakeholders. The commitment is founded by Aalto University, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, WWF Finland and Ministry of the Environment. These organisations promote responsible water use in their operations and encourage companies in their water management efforts.
Seija Vatka, Senior Manager, Production Support, Water, UPM Environment and Responsibility
Corinne Le Ny-Heinonen, Manager, Environmental Production Support, UPM Environment and Responsibility