Our business is based on forests: we grow and harvest forests to create renewable, sustainable materials and products. Innovations that offer alternatives to fossil materials is the core of the UPM Biofore strategy.
The climate benefits of sustainable forestry
UPM pledges to work to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. One of the key elements in achieving this goal is to practice sustainable forest management.
Forests full of life
Forests are dear to many
Forests are a home to wildlife, they protect water systems. They are a source of wellbeing and recreation. Forests also provide renewable material for various products, from everyday necessities to ground-breaking innovations, and alternatives to fossil materials. And that’s why they are more important than ever.
For future generations
Our business is based on forests. This is a strong reason to ensure that forests grow for many generations to come. Forests must remain forests.
We have zero tolerance for deforestration and have strict processes in place to ensure that forests always grow more than they are used.
In Finland, where we source a large part of our wood supply, we have seen the concrete positive impact of modern, sustainable forest management methods. In the past 50 years, forest growth in Finland has doubled despite the increased production of wood-based products and multiplied forest conservation network.
Finnish forests represent only 0.6% of global forests. Imagine if sustainable forestry practices were to become the standard everywhere in commercial forests!
Ensuring that forests are maintained as forested areas is a business priority for us, and the foundation of our operations. In the North, commercial forests have a growth cycle of between 60 to 100 years, so the forests we plant today will be harvested by our children and our children’s children.
When a forest area is harvested, the forest is prepared for new growth. Seedlings are planted to start the growth of a new forest in the harvested area. During regeneration, four new trees are planted for every harvested tree.
The first thinning is made when the forest stand is around between 20 to 45 years old. Thinning promotes accelerated growth as the remaining trees have access to more light and to nutrients in the soil. Thinning is done to improve forest growth. Trees increase their ability to absorb carbon; they also grow thicker trunks, which maximizes the value for the forest owner.
The second thinning takes place after 20 to 30 years from the first one. Approximately every other tree is taken away.
When the forest is between 60 to 100 years old, it’s time for it to be renewed. Through regeneration felling, all trees – except retention trees, deadwood and other protected species – are harvested. The forest is then prepared for new growth and the cycle begins again.
Forest growth cycle
Plantations: new carbon sinks and sources of fibre
Tree plantations offer a new, sustainable and efficient solution to meeting the growing need for renewable materials.
Our plantations are located in Uruguay and established on old grazing lands. We never convert natural forests into plantations. Our plantations are managed in a sustainable manner that also takes into account the development and welfare of local communities.
Tree plantations can positively contribute to water balance and quality by binding water, levelling peak and base flows, reducing surface runoffs and soil erosion to limit nutrient leaches to water courses.
While single species plantations don’t increase biodiversity as such, they maintain natural vegetation in the area. We also preserve and promote biodiversity by protecting biodiversity hotspots and valuable habitats. In addition, UPM maintains over twenty conservation areas for specific species in Uruguay.
All UPM plantations are certified. Plantation operations are evaluated – including their environmental and social impact – annually by external auditors as part of the certification process.
Respecting the forest
UPM owns almost 0.6 million hectares of forests and over 0.3 million hectares of owned or leased plantations. Our approach to sustainability is holistic. Our team is composed of foresters, biologists and ecologists that care passionately about forests, who develop and monitor sustainable forestry practices that support our forests’ critical role and importance in the ecosystem.
We work with our expert stakeholders on improving our plan of action and maintain a constant dialogue with local communities to understand their needs.
The key principles behind our forestry and wood-sourcing activities:
- 100% responsible and controlled sources
- Wood supply chain 100% certified with 3rd party verification
- All the wood we use certified by 2030
- 100% regeneration with 50 million new trees planted yearly, equivalent to 100 trees per minute
- No deforestration ever. Rainforests are off-limits.
- Protect biodiversity with a target of net positive impact
- Follow sustainable forestry practices
- Preserve all forest ecosystem services
- Nothing goes to waste, every part of the wood is used
Efficient use of wood: nothing goes to waste
All creatures, big and small
We all depend on biodiversity: it forms the basis for life on earth. As a leader in the forest industry, it’s our business to manage forests in a way that safeguards biodiversity.
Over twenty years ago, we became the first company in the forest industry to launch a global biodiversity program. We are the only company committed to improve the level of biodiversity in our own forests. We have set biodiversity indicators that we use to monitor and report our progress, and we develop better methods for biodiversity measurement.
In our daily operations, forest biodiversity is protected through:
- sustainable forestry practices that follow both legislation and best practices
- forest certifications that ensure the protection of water system buffer zones and the conservation of threatened ecosystems and species, among others
- actions that maintain and increase features critical to forest biodiversity, such as structural variation, deadwood and mixed tree species composition in boreal forests.
Our best practices are continuously improved through biodiversity projects undertaken with our expert stakeholders. Transplanting threatened wood-inhabiting funghi into forests to increase biodiversity is an example of our many groundbreaking initiatives.
We answer these questions very often
Our impact to climate is mainly related to our production emissions, the climate effect of our products and the climate effect of our forests.
In the beginning of 2020, we published our commitment to UN Business Ambition for 1.5°C to mitigate climate change. As part of the commitment, we will cut our CO2 emissions by 65 % by year 2030, we will verify the climate effect of our products and are committed to climate-positive forestry.
In solving the climate crisis, it is most important to reduce the emissions coming from fossil sources. Emission reductions also play a major role in achieving the company's climate commitment. While we at the same time take care of our forests ability to bind carbon and replace fossil materials with renewables, are forests also playing an important role in mitigating the climate change.
The commitment is part of UPM’s responsibility targets for 2030. UPM is major global company which can make an impact with its own actions and we also want to be a forerunner in setting an example of sustainable and at the same time profitable business to others.
We are committed to our forests being a carbon sink in a long term. Forest is a carbon sink when it binds more carbon than releases it. In practice this means that the growth of our forests is more that the amount of harvested or naturally dying trees. When forests are a carbon sink, their carbon storage grows.
Forestry practices that maintain or increase the carbon sink of forests, can be called climate positive. Climate positive forestry means also actions to increase the forest growth and to create new carbon sinks through tree plantations or by reforesting new areas.
As far as we know, UPM is the first global forest industry company to publish this kind of commitment.
Commitment applies to our own forests in Finland. We anyhow operate on the same sustainable forestry principles in private forests and provide our best climate positive forestry practices for private forest owners, too.
Commitment applies to our own forests in Finland. UPM owns forests in Finland, Uruguay and USA. In Uruguay, the forests we own are plantations. In plantations, it is not relevant to look at the carbon sink because of their short rotation period. We are currently making calculations which will provide information on the climate impact or the tree plantations in Uruguay. Calculations will cover both wood and soil. Similar calculations will also be executed for our forests in USA.
UPM has commissioned carbon calculations of its own forests in Finland and Uruguay. The calculations are based on internationally approved calculation models and they are executed by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) during year 2020 (some parts of the calculations still in progress). Carbon calculations will be published annually.
Climate science develops fast. We are actively supporting the work to create more reliable and accurate methods to calculate the carbon impact of forestry together with climate science experts.
When looking at climate impact, it is not reasonable to look at the impact at a level of an individual logging site, but at a wider area. In our case, we look at our forest property.
Crucial to the climate impact is the overall impact of the activity: the ratio of carbon bound to and released from forests. We make sure that on a long term our forests always grow more than the use and natural removal is. By doing so, our forests remain as carbon sink. This means, that an individual logging site may temporarily be a source of carbon.
There are two ways to increase the carbon sequestration:
1) To manage forest so that they grow as efficiently as possible: In practice, this means for example timely seedling stand management and thinnings, which release more growth resources for the best trees to grow. Using breeded seed and seedling origins can increase the forest growth by tens of percentages. According to the sustainable forestry principles forests are always regenerated after harvesting and harvesting amounts are maintained on a sustainable level on a long term. If forests are managed as continuous-cover forests, we always secure the growth of new trees.
2) To manage forests to that they are resilient to damages. Also in this case, timely, good forest management is the best way to maintain forests health and vital. Forests are grown as mixed-species forests, which are more diverse and thus more resilient towards different kinds of damages and disturbances that could lead to carbon emissions from the forest.
No. We do not accept deforestation and do not cause forest loss in our operations. We know the origin of the wood we use and are using third-party verified chain-of-custody systems to trace the origin of it. We always make sure, that our whole supply chain operates responsibly, and we do not accept deforestation in any parts of the chain. We always regenerate the forests after harvesting.
It is true that in many cases decreasing logging levels would increase the carbon sequestration. That would however mean that we would get less wood for the products that we all need in our everyday life and we wouldn’t get as much wood material to replace fossil materials. Often, wood-based products are more climate friendly than fossil-based.
In sustainable forestry it is always ensured that a new tree will start to grow to replace the harvested one. While this tree grows, it sequesters the carbon that was removed from the forest with the harvested tree. Standing seedling management and thinnings also improve forests ability to grow and thus their carbon sequestration. When trees get older their growth, and at the same time the ability to sequester carbon, slows down and the forest becomes more vulnerable to different kinds of damages and disturbances. Good and timely forest management practices ensure that forests remain vital and healthy and won’t turn to a source of carbon emissions.
It is possible to increase harvesting following the principles of sustainable forestry. Calculations about sustainable harvesting levels published in February 2020 and made by Natural Resources Institute Finland show that it is possible to increase the harvesting levels in Finland by several million cubic meters per year. While increasing the harvesting level, the ecological values of forests must be safeguarded.
Instead, illegal loggings, loggings causing deforestation or other ways irresponsible loggings are globally a huge problem and they must not be accepted. Globally, new sustainably established plantations would have a lot of potential to increase the use of forests.
We constantly develop our ways to work and the new climate commitment makes us to pay more attention to the climate impact of our operations. We are developing our operations based on scientific research and utilize new ways to further develop our operations towards climate positivity. As an example, in May 2020 we published our new target to double the number of broad-leaved trees in our forests. This will have positive impact on both climate and biodiversity in our forests.
Biodiversity is safeguarded in our daily operations which always include nature management actions. We protect the valuable key biotopes and habitats and have protected also wider forest areas. By maintaining and improving the biodiversity of our forests we also can adapt to changes and risks that climate change is causing to our forests.
The calculations are executed by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) which also has got experience in conducting greenhouse gas inventories on international level.
Calculations are based on best available data. In Finland, the calculations include the carbon balance of both trees and soil and these numbers have been calculated also for the protected forests we own. In Finland we have included in the calculations in addition to carbon also methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) balances. The calculations for Uruguay include only carbon. UPM owns forests also in USA, but their carbon calculations are still in progress.
The average carbon sink of our forests in Finland for the last five-year period is 1.3 mega tons CO2 eq (harvesting rates are considered in the calculation). In plantations in Uruguay, it is not relevant to look at the carbon sink because of their short rotation period, but rather the carbon storages.
Calculations are done with internationally approved accounting methods. The same methods are also used in international greenhouse gas inventories. The reliability of the output data is on a high level, and the results of the calculations can be considered reliable to describe the level of forests carbon sink and storage. Calculations are constantly developed to further improve the reliability and accuracy of the results.
Diverse and well-functioning forest ecosystems are productive. Forests provide many benefits – also called ecosystem services. Forests provide wood raw material, habitats for many species, food and recreation. They also sequester carbon from the atmosphere, circulate and purify water and support soil formation, pollination, and nutrient cycling. So, from a business perspective it’s clear why we are interested in biodiversity: our business is based on sustainable use of forests on a long-term. That’s why we want to keep forests healthy and growing for generations to come. It’s a business fundamental.
In our operations forest’s biodiversity is safeguarded through best forest management practices, legal requirements and forest certification. We safeguard biodiversity by several means: protecting habitats that are critical to biodiversity, ensuring diverse tree species composition and structural variation in the boreal forests, leaving buffer zones around water systems, increasing deadwood and protecting threatened species. In addition to our everyday actions, we are actively developing new ways to enhance forest biodiversity by carrying out biodiversity projects. As a recent example of ground-breaking initiatives, we have started testing transplanting threatened wood-inhabiting fungi into company forests.
Our plantations in Uruguay are situated on grasslands that were formerly used for cattle grazing. We do not convert natural forest areas into plantations, and none of our actions result in any deforestation. All natural forests in Uruguay are protected. All valuable biodiversity hotspots such as wetlands are protected in the land we manage in Uruguay. All native species living in these areas are protected by law. We engage in successful cooperation with local environmental organizations in Uruguay. This work aims to preserve nature and the diversity of native ecosystems and species. The main purpose of the co-operation is to contribute to the biodiversity and enhance the sustainable use of natural resources in the long term. We work together with organizations such as Vida Silvestre and Aves Uruguay.
Our target is to improve the level of biodiversity in company-owned forests in Finland. The target is not monitored on a level of single forest site. The idea is to monitor the total impact on all company forests. We are currently expanding the target also to cover also our Uruguayan land. Together with external experts we have defined indicators which are used to monitor our progress towards the target.
The status of forest nature is monitored by using selected biodiversity indicators: tree species, forest age, forest structure, protected areas, valuable habitats, habitat restoration, species and habitat projects and indicator development. We report our progress publicly.
Forests at the heart of sustainability
Forest-based industries have a significant role in promoting sustainable development. Well-managed forests play an essential role in natural carbon and water cycles, biodiversity and wellbeing of local communities.
We are both a major forest owner and a purchaser of wood. Our land use and forestry planning is based on the comprehensive evaluation and preservation of ecosystem services. With sustainable forest management we are able to safeguard and increase multiple benefits that forests provide.