lake and grass

The big exam - stepping up to meet the climate challenge

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COP27 has come to a close, leaving us disappointed in the lack of assurances on emissions reductions, among other things. The fund to help the most vulnerable countries was an encouraging gain but otherwise COP has left many questions. On the positive note, the engagement of the corporate sector was at an all-time high and this COP made it clearer than ever before that business must step up and out of the comfort zone and lead the way.

Among topics, carbon pricing inspired debate. Like all policy makers, Stora Enso would like to see a level global playing field. However, agreeing on and attaining one unified global carbon price would seem to be less likely than ever given the current geopolitical situation. That said, it would be easy for us to lean back and wait for others to respond. But that is not an option – not for the planet, not for society, not for us as a business. Something larger is at stake.

There is increasing activism and skepticism of the big long-term pledges, testing the fundamental legitimacy of global companies and market-based economy. This is our big exam. Stora Enso, among others, need to show the way, innovate products and business models, and create a regenerative economy. Otherwise, we will fail, and the next generations will turn their backs at the system. This is why, as a company and global citizen, we have put the imperative of the planetary boundaries as our ultimate driver.

Less plus more

To guide us, there is a need for transparency of negative impacts and accountability for reduction and mitigation. But we won’t solve the climate crisis just by looking what we need to do less of. We need to understand what we should scale up – where to invest to pave the way – not only for specific reductions but for system change.

It is not an easy equation. Today, we have no clear line of sight, methodologies, or data to help us build a climate resilient economy in twenty years. The products and supply chains as we know them today will take new shapes and forms. We need to invest time and effort in understanding not just the negative impacts, but also the positive impacts a product or solution can have on the system and innovate from there. Some refer to this as the handprint, and Stora Enso is currently spearheading development from this perspective.

Accounting for tons

As we evaluate positive paths forward, it is critical to point out: One ton of reduced carbon does NOT equal one ton of carbon, because one ton could be reduced in a way which supports a high carbon lock in the system to live longer. For example, when one ton of carbon is reduced because coal is substituted with gas, then gas combustion is a dead-end and a high carbon system has just been prolonged. Another ton of carbon could be reduced by substituting graphite anodes in batteries with wood-based anodes. Then one ton is saved AND a transition to electrification of transportation has simultaneously been enabled. It is those tons of CO2 which bring the kind of system change we need to focus much more on.

In a future regenerative economy, the value chains and business models we know today will have significantly altered. That will happen through disruptive innovation, which tends to occur when there are uneven playing fields. That innovation should be driven by the need for a nature and climate positive world in which 11 billion people can thrive. The bonus question in this big exam: which solutions should we strive for?


John Kornerup Bang

John Kornerup Bang

John is Senior Vice President at Stora Enso leading the sustainability transformation. John has more than 20 years of experience working on using sustainability to drive growth and innovation and hence enable solutions that can scale. Prior to joining Stora Enso, John worked 10 years as Director for sustainability strategy and climate change at Maersk servicing inter alia two years as an advisor to Ban Ki Moon’s high-level panel for sustainable transportation.

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