For Covid-19 recovery the world needs renewable materials more than ever

Published 28 May 2020
While no one knows yet what life after the coronavirus will look like, it is certain that global efforts for a greener future are needed more than ever before.

During coronavirus lockdowns, one of the impacts in many countries are lower emissions and reduced pollution levels in big cities. However, the fall in emissions levels is expected to be temporary, since this has been the case also with previous economic downturns. According to the World Resources Institute, after the global financial crisis of 2008, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production grew 5.9% in 2010, more than offsetting the 1.4% decrease in 2009.

In a recent BBC News article, environmental scientists call for a greener focus when markets start recovering. Renewable materials can be part of the solution for a greener and safer future in many areas. Below we list some of the ways we see renewable materials can contribute to a more sustainable market growth:

1. Economic growth can be built with sustainable materials

Renewable materials help combat global warming. Once construction starts after the corona crisis, there are many opportunities to choose a low carbon material – wood. As an alternative to steel and concrete, wooden buildings and components store carbon during their lifetime. They can also help reduce carbon emissions in production and transport. By using wood instead of fossil-based materials it’s possible to cut CO2 emissions in construction by up to 75%.

2. Renewable packaging offers eco-friendly customer experiences

In these times, people are quickly adopting new habits and new ways of living and working, and many of these habits may stick even after the pandemic. The pandemic has changed our social interactions and our buying behavior. E-commerce is growing in specific areas, such as food, as many people have been dependent on home deliveries.

Consumers are getting used to new types of experiences, and this is likely to continue. More deliveries mean more packaging, and consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of materials – they want eco-friendly and circular solutions. Offering renewable, plastic-free and recyclable packaging materials and solutions is an opportunity to strengthen brand power in the eyes of eco-conscious consumers.

3. Personal hygiene and food safety will remain in focus

The coronavirus outbreak has increased our awareness about personal hygiene, food safety and safety of packaging and materials. We have quickly gotten used to for example continuously washing our hands, using hand sanitizer and wet wipes, and cleaning surfaces. Grocery retailers are extra careful about product safety, and products which have typically not been packaged are now packed. The need for safe, reliable and eco-friendly packaging will remain. Renewable materials are naturally suited to protect products in a safe, hygienic and sustainable way.

4. Opportunity for a more sustainable textile industry

Many fashion retailers across the world have closed their stores as part of social distancing measures, and many shoppers have paused spending on everything but the essentials. The textile and fashion industry is experiencing a drop in demand, and it remains to be seen how and when recovery will come. While consumer spending has dropped, there has been some rise in conscious consumption, buying more sustainable options.

The apparel industry has an opening to meet this demand and switch to more sustainable textile production. Already before the pandemic, producers were looking for raw material alternatives to petroleum-based fibers and cotton. An attractive alternative is viscose made from trees. Viscose combines key qualities – drape, luster and rich brilliant colours that are essential for textile applications.

Renewable materials will not run out

Renewable materials help to protect goods without compromising the environment. They come from a resource that will not run out when sustainably managed. Renewable materials typically have a lower carbon footprint than fossil-based materials, helping to combat climate change. They contribute to creating less waste since they have high recyclability rates and many of them biodegrade.

Renewable materials are key for many industries during the coronavirus pandemic and Stora Enso offers materials to a wide range of industries from food, pharmaceuticals, retail, textiles and fashion to construction and industrial uses.