Paper at peace with the environment

Published 18 February 2020 by Michael Larkin
Sound environmental practices coupled with global cooperation mean that paper, consumption and sustainability can coexist in the efforts to reduce global warming.

Paper is born of the very forests that sustain life itself. Of all the commodities we consume, few deliver as much utility, versatility and functionality, and are as recyclable, as paper.

“More than just a low-carbon alternative, paper, along with its pulp and packaging relatives, serves as a repository of CO2 and thus contributes to combatting global warming,” asserts Noel Morrin, Head of Sustainability at Stora Enso. “And because forests, which are the heart of the paper value chain, are renewable when sustainably managed, it is with pride that Stora Enso claims the mantle of the Renewable Materials Company.”

Improving that value chain to further reduce the fossil carbon footprint as the company delivers paper, pulp, packaging and wood products to its customers is the top priority at Stora Enso.
And the good news is that there is success to report.

Limiting CO2

Reducing fossil carbon emissions has been at the top of Stora Enso’s efforts to take environmental action for more than a decade.

“Our fossil carbon emissions are amongst the lowest in our industry, and in any heavy manufacturing industry, for the amount of product that we produce,” Morrin emphasises.

“Since 2006, CO2 emissions from the production of paper, pulp and packaging products have steadily decreased from 494 kilograms per tonne of product produced to 324 kilograms per tonne in 2018, nearly a one-third reduction.”

This endeavour has been steadily complemented by a combination of process innovation, substitution of raw materials, switching from fossil-based energy to biomass energy, and better value chain management with each passing year.

For example, the company reported last year that its share of self-generated energy for operations rose to 63 per cent, the majority of which, 81 per cent, came from biomass materials containing no fossil component. Moreover, Stora Enso is continually investing in clean energy alternatives.

In July of last year, a EUR 25 million project was announced to add a 75 megawatt steam turbine to its paper mill in Maxau, Germany. The biomass energy it produces is expected to reduce the mill’s CO2 output by over 50,000 tonnes annually starting in 2020.

However, achieving further reductions requires the cooperation of all participants all along Stora Enso’s value chains. That is where ecolabels, Science-Based Targets and voluntary adherence to ISO and forest certification standards play an essential role.

Certified, compliant, and labelled

“An ecolabel is a commitment,” says Klaus Barduna, SVP Sustainability at Stora Enso’s Paper Division. “It is an affirmation of environmental excellence that is innate to our products.”

To earn any of the three major ecolabels the company applies – EU Ecolabel, Nordic Ecolabel and Blue Angel Ecolabel – there are strict criteria that must be met. All three require compliance along the entire product lifecycle. In practise, this means using certified fibres from sustainably managed forests or recycled fibre, low energy use, air and water emissions, restrictions on hazardous substances, proper handling of waste, and the usability of the products.

“We are particularly proud of the fact that more than 90 per cent of our paper brands are covered by one or more of these ecolabels, offering our customers a reliable guide to easily identify products with superior environmental performance,” says Barduna.

“We are one of only a few companies that can claim this level of ecolabel performance.”

International standards, such as ISO 14001 on environmental management and ISO 50001 on energy management, as well as several others, deliver clear benefits to the environment and are widely applied by Stora Enso and its contractors and suppliers.

Global engagement

Even with these considerable efforts for sustainability, the fact remains that no single company can reduce global warming by itself.

“We have made clear our commitment to the United Nations’ Paris Climate Conference (COP21) goal of limiting the average global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees from pre-­industrial levels,” Morrin explains.

In December 2017, Stora Enso became the first forest products company to receive approval of its climate targets by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Further, in September of this year in New York, Stora Enso, as a member of the We Mean Business coalition, went a step further by supporting the coalition’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This is well within Stora Enso’s reach, since in 2015, it stated publicly that subject to technical and commercial considerations, it will essentially be free of fossil carbon emissions in its energy mix by the mid-2020s.

“We are engaged in climate activities with a number of leading companies in the world as well,” adds Morrin. He points out that the international business community can often be the first movers. Stora Enso is taking action via its membership in the World Green Building Council and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which includes the Forest Solutions Group where Morrin is co-chair.

Innately climate friendly

Although Stora Enso steadily works to reduce its fossil carbon footprint to as close to zero as technically and economically feasible, it is important to remember that products sourced from sustainably managed forests absorb and store a tremendous amount of CO2.

“Many forest-based products can be recycled, and some even last for hundreds of years, like books and wooden buildings,” Morrin underscores. “We calculated that the amount of CO2 stored in the lumber that we produce in a single year is the equivalent of removing 2.3 million vehicles off the roads.”

“And that, as much as anything, keeps what we do at Stora Enso at peace with our environment.”

5x Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

…by reducing carbon footprint.

Stora Enso’s CO2 emissions have dropped over a 12-year period to just 324 kilograms per tonne of product produced, among the lowest in any industry.

…by finding substitutes for plastics through biocomposite.

Boxes, toys, kitchen utensils, car interior parts and much more can be fabricated from fibre-based, biocomposite materials that are forever plastic-free.

...by following ambitious targets to combat global warming.

Stora Enso is closely allied with UN-based climate targets and with several business alliances.

…by making green choices easy with Ecolabels.

90 per cent of our own paper brands comply with one or more widely recognised ecolabels.

…by producing scientifically proven carbon neutral paper.

Multicopy Zero paper is FSC® and PEFC™ certified, chlorine free (TCF) and is Nordic Ecolabel and EU Ecolabel compliant.

ForestProducts sourced from sustainably managed forests absorb and store a tremendous amount of carbon emissions.

“An ecolabel is an affirmation of environmental excellence that is innate to our products.”
– Klaus Barduna