Interview with Johan Lindman, Senior Vice President, Global Forestry and Sustainability
“We need to be transparent, self-aware and stand up for our ideals”, says Johan Lindman, Senior Vice President for Global Forestry and Sustainability. He shares his views on how Stora Enso’s new forest sustainability strategy will lead the way towards a more sustainable future.
What are your thoughts and reflections about Stora Enso’s new forest sustainability strategy?
“I feel that there is a very strong commitment to this in the entire organisation. Nobody works here if they don’t sincerely love the forest. I am driven by the fact that sustainability has to be a balance between wills. It’s not very difficult for a company or any organization to pursue one issue – but we must set different legitimate needs against each other and strike a good balance.
We need to be transparent, self-aware and stand up for our ideals. The forest is a fantastic production system – a natural, solar-powered production unit that creates raw materials that can replace fossil products, and lead to a sustainable world – now that’s impressive and inspiring!”
How did the work with the new forest sustainability strategy come about?
“Sustainability has always been on the agenda for us. This is just the next logical step. Based on Stora Enso’s goals and vision, we selected the areas where we can make the largest impact in forests and develop the best competitive advantages for the company – and for the environment.
Instead of running all the research in-house, we collaborate with key players in the field, from small start-ups to academia. We have a long-term research project with SLU, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, focusing on for example how to make trees grow better and how we can develop biodiversity. We also cooperate with SweTree on novel methods on tree breeding.”
What does the forest sustainability strategy focus on?
“We have focused on four main areas, where we feel we can make the largest impact. The first and perhaps most important one is carbon. We know that forests are central in counteracting climate change. Growing forests sequester a lot of carbon. They also produce a lot of renewable material that can be used to replace fossil-based products with renewable ones. We are also constantly working to reduce emissions in harvesting and transport – as well as all other parts of our business.
The second area is biodiversity. We want to become the industry leaders in biodiversity. Stora Enso Forest division is already developing methods and increasing our efficiency in adapted forest management. An example of this is how we set aside areas of the forest to stimulate biodiversity. Biodiversity should always be on our mind when we manage our forests.
We’re not fully there yet. We want to keep measuring the effects of our work. There’s no easy or standardized way to measure biodiversity, so we are relying on best practices, and collaborating with trusted partners in science and academia. This work takes time, but we want to invest in it. We’re learning a lot as we move forward.
Finding and identifying new values in the forest, beside the actual trees, is the third focus area. Forests are so important for us humans – for recreation, hunting, tourism, and so on. We will keep supporting initiatives and groups working with this around the globe.
There are also large commercial values in forests, in addition to the wood. Everything from wind power plants to cattle farming, beekeeping, resin harvesting… the list goes on. Every forest is unique, and we’re very mindful of local traditions and cultures.
Collaboration with local communities is crucial for our success as a global company operating worldwide. We need a living countryside for access to skilled workers, infrastructure and so on. The forest industry creates a lot of jobs and can have a positive impact for local communities. We can offer training and support, always adapting our initiatives to local needs and interests.”
How will the forest sustainability strategy affect your work?
“We’re rolling this work out in every part of the organisation. In units, we will focus on areas that are relevant to our daily work. I think all of us who work here truly love the forest and take sustainability very seriously. The mindset permeates the entire organisation.
An unusual aspect of working with forests is that our product lifecycle is extremely long. A tree’s normal lifecycle is around 90 years and changed behaviors in forest management aren’t visible immediately. Changes that we implement now may not be visible or measurable for another 30 years.
We see this as a long-term commitment. We as a company have set high, ambitious goals and made our intentions clear. We’re working for a renewable future with sustainable forestry. The focus areas help us pool resources, and make us more efficient. We aim at increasing both forest growth and biodiversity at the same time and not seeing those two aspects as a trade-off. Our work is about finding the smartest way of working sustainably for the long haul.
Our customers have been very positive about this direction. The value for them is that we can create a competitive advantage towards our competitors. We can work better, smarter and more efficiently. That benefits all of us.
Our aim is to replace fossil materials with renewables, and we can provide the raw materials for that. We all have a responsibility to treat nature in a responsible and sustainable manner. For us, that means forestry in balance. We have a wide reach and a global perspective. This shows in our ambition level, and in our plans and actions for following up. We take this assignment very seriously, and our customers can see the results.”