Building a sustainable future in China

Published 13 June 2016
This is Beihai Mill. This new mill in Guangxi province, with its annual production capacity of 450 000 tonnes of liquid packaging board and other high-grade consumer board products, helps to meet growing consumer demand for safe and high quality renewable packaging in the Asia Pacific region. Sustainability has been an integral part of the mill's construction and forestry operations right from the start, and has continued after the mill start-up in June 2016. Noel Morrin, EVP Sustainability at Stora Enso, gives his insights on what sustainability means in our Guangxi operations.

Where does the raw material for the board come from? How do you ensure its sustainability?

Noel Morrin: Chemical pulp for the mill is sourced from North and South America, mainly from Veracel pulp mill, our joint operation in Brazil. All this pulp is certified according to Forest Stewardship Council's® (FSC*) Chain of Custody/Controlled Wood scheme. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, eucalyptus has been sourced for mechanical pulp production from our own tree plantations in Guangxi.

Can you tell us more about these tree plantations?

NM: Stora Enso has been leasing and managing eucalyptus tree plantations in Guangxi since 2002. Today these plantations cover nearly 86 000 hectares, and all of them are certified with both FSC and the Chinese Forest Certification Council (CFCC). This ensures that sustainable forestry management practices are applied from the planning stage right through to regeneration, with environmental and social values highly prioritised. Land areas totaling 1 300 hectares are protected due to their high environmental values.
As announced on 19 January 2017, Stora Enso is reconsidering its plans to build a chemical pulp mill in Beihai. As a consequence of the change in scope, Stora Enso would decrease the area of its leased forest lands in the Guangxi region. The scope and schedule for this reduction will be decided later.

What about the mill's environmental performance – will the mill release significant emissions to the air, soil or water?

NM: The mill uses state-of-the-art best available technology (BAT), and has duly received permits and associated limits relating to its environmental performance. Some of these limits are even stricter than those applied in the Nordic countries. We conduct online measurements for both air emissions and effluent releases. The online data is communicated directly to the local regulator, and we also report on these topics in our annual sustainability report. The mill has been certified to the environmental management system ISO 14001.

The mill uses coal as an energy source. Why is that – and how does this fit in with Stora Enso's plans to combat global warming?

NM: Currently coal is the only feasible energy source for any industrial project of this scale in Beihai. There are no sustainable supply chains for non-fossil fuels in Southern China as yet, though we have begun to investigate the feasibility of establishing such chains as part of our long-term planning. By doing this we are already seeking ways to make a gradual shift away from coal to biomass and other non-fossil fuels. The mill's boiler is technically able to use a mix of fuels, and it already now uses modest amounts of wastewater sludge and saw dust from our production processes as co-fuel.

How have you overcome the challenge of sourcing coal sustainably in China?

NM: Our colleagues in Sourcing carried out a screening process to find a high-quality local coal supplier able to make a commitment to work towards our sustainability standards. Seven suppliers were interviewed and visited. The non-profit organisation BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) reviewed our supplier selection procedures, and concluded that the process was rigorous. The selected supplier has agreed to work towards fulfillment of the requirements of Stora Enso's Supplier Code of Conduct, which is a must for any suppliers hoping to do business with us.

Two Stora Enso sustainability audits and three third-party audits of the selected supplier were conducted in 2016. Areas requiring improvement were identified and are further examined with the supplier, and progress will be monitored through future meetings and audits. Audits of mineral suppliers are rare in China, as mining companies typically do not allow customers to visit their mines. Stora Enso was able to audit the whole coal supply chain, excluding shipping, and a social impact assessment was also conducted in villages neighbouring the mine as well as along the logistics chain.

Stora Enso's operations employ many young people and workers new to the industry. How do you ensure their safety?

NM: Safety is a top priority for us and has been an essential part of our daily work in Beihai right from the start, in our forestry operations and during the mill construction. We have been training our mill personnel since autumn 2013. We have also seen a very significant improvement in safety on our plantations since 2014 as traditional manual harvesting has been replaced by mechanised processes. The way that we constantly give feedback on safe and unsafe behaviour to each other ensures that we walk the talk, while also demonstrating how much we care about our colleagues' safety. The mill's operations are also certified under the OHSAS 18001 safety management system.

At the end of 2016 our mill and forestry operations directly employed more than 1 000 persons, and during the peak of the mill construction work we employed up to 5 500 workers on site.

*Stora Enso Communications’ FSC® trademark license number is FSC-N001919.

Article updated on 9 February 2017.