UPMSpecialty Papers
  • Responsibility
  • Building a sustainable future through responsible forestry and land use
Story | 10/14/2020 12:52:11

Building a sustainable future through responsible forestry and land use

Preserving nature is essential for sustainability. UPM is taking specific actions to mitigate climate change and protect our planet through climate-positive forestry and land use and biodiversity conservation.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 15, Life on Land, is one of UPM’s six focus goals. The targets under goal 15 are inextricably linked to UPM’s business. UPM is committed to targets 15.2 and 15.5, which aim to promote sustainable forest management, halt deforestation, and initiate urgent and significant action to prevent the loss of biodiversity.

“UPM’s business relies on forests, and our most important raw material is renewable wood. We are committed to climate-positive forestry, which means we grow more trees than we harvest. We are the first forestry company in the world to officially adopt the target of increasing biodiversity in our company-owned forests. We have additionally adopted the target of sourcing all our wood from certified forests by 2030,” says Inka Musta, Senior Manager of Global Forest Affairs at UPM.

A sustainable bioeconomy harnesses renewable resources without compromising the ability of future generations to also meet their needs. Forests play a vital role here for several reasons. They provide natural habitats for living organisms, form part of the water cycle, and are valuable for human wellbeing and recreation. Forests are also crucial in mitigating climate change as they bind carbon from the atmosphere and provide renewable, recyclable alternatives to the fossil-based materials used in many products.

UPM sources most of its wood from Finland and Uruguay, where also most of its company-owned forests are located. All UPM-owned forests are certified either under the FSC or PEFC certification schemes, most of them under both. These certification schemes are market-based tools monitored by an independent third party and they are used for steering forest management in a more sustainable direction.

“UPM has zero tolerance for deforestation, which is a serious global issue. We ensure that no deforestation results from our harvesting and insist that the same rigorous principles are observed throughout our whole supply chain. We always reforest/regenerate the forests we use and support the growth of new trees,” Musta says.

Currently, more than 80 per cent of UPM’s wood is sourced from certified forests. UPM promotes forest certification globally through active collaboration with its stakeholders.

Taking practical steps to promote climate-positive forestry and biodiversity

One efficient way of protecting the planet is through improved forest and land management. UPM’s latest target is to implement climate-positive forestry in its company-owned forests. This target is part of UPM’s commitment to the UN Global Compact’s initiative, Business Ambition for 1.5°C.

“Climate-positive forestry means the rate of afforestation exceeds that of harvesting and the natural drain of forests, which in turn safeguards their long-term carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation impact. We monitor the carbon storage levels of our forests over a five-year period. For now, this only applies to UPM’s forests in Finland, but we are in the process of adopting similar good practices in other regions too,” says Musta.

Healthy forests are also more resilient to the changes caused by climate change. UPM has adopted the ambitious target of increasing biodiversity (Net Positive Impact) while at the same time continuing to efficiently produce high-quality wood raw materials in its company-owned forests. Biodiversity conservation is essential for the future of the bioeconomy and new bio-based innovations.

“We are talking about a fundamental paradigm shift that enables raw materials to be sourced sustainably through land use solutions, without compromising the balance of nature. Climate change mitigation is a challenge we must tackle globally, whereas biodiversity conversation is more of a national issue related to how local ecosystems adapt to the changing climate,” explains Timo Lehesvirta, Senior Manager of Sustainable Forestry Development at UPM.

UPM promotes biodiversity in many different ways. The volume of deadwood is being increased in UPM’s commercial forests, as it provides an important habitat for many organisms. Tree diversity is being increased by doubling the amount of broadleaved tree species. All biodiversity-critical habitats are fully protected — UPM has mapped 37,000 such habitats in its forests. In addition, the company is collaborating with stakeholders on a variety of projects designed to protect endangered species and restore valuable areas.

“Biodiversity is difficult to measure. We monitor our progress with the help of habitat indicators and structural metrics based on ecological research. We will annually report our progress and have the results verified by an external auditor. We will also continuously update our monitoring indicators,” notes Lehesvirta.

These actions have a direct economic impact, as UPM has committed its EUR 750 million revolving credit facility margin to its long-term biodiversity and climate targets.

Land use solutions for climate-positive biofuels

Sustainable land use at UPM is not only confined to forest management. In Uruguay, UPM has collaborated with local farmers, researchers and partners to optimize the cultivation of the Brassica carinata oilseed crop. Thanks to a climate-smart land use solution, the company can harvest renewable raw material for producing climate-positive biofuels, during which more carbon is bound than is released into the atmosphere.

“Brassica carinata is well suited to local crop rotation in Uruguay. The plant is grown on existing fields over the winter, so it does not interfere with food production in any way. This allows farmers to earn additional income. It also prevents soil erosion, increases carbon sequestration, and improves soil quality,” says Markku Purmonen, Director of Biofuels Value Chain at UPM.

The development work done so far in Uruguay has been a great learning process that has benefited UPM in its search for sustainable alternatives to fossil-based materials. “The species of cultivated plant is not the most critical factor in the production of climate-positive fuels but rather the land use solution and the soil’s carbon storage. UPM aims to stand out as a company that uses land sustainably and manages the entire value chain from seed to the final product,” concludes Purmonen.

UPM is publishing a series of articles related to the UN’s sustainable development goals. The articles from this series introduce the goals that we have selected as our main focus areas and describe our hands-on efforts to promote them. Read previous articles here:

Janne Suokas