Let’s start with the facts: of the wood purchased by Metsä Board, 75 per cent comes from Finnish and Swedish commercial forests. Forestry land covers around 86 per cent of Finland, the country where Metsä Board purchases most of the wood it uses. As a result of good forest management, Finnish forests provide more wood than ever before, and sustainable management will ensure wood supply for future generations, as well.
According to an inventory of Finnish forests completed in spring 2015, the volume of growing stock is 2.4 billion cubic metres. Over the past 50 years, its annual growth has doubled to 105.5 million cubic metres. Metsä Board uses around 4.9 million cubic metres of Finnish wood annually, meaning that the supply will not run out in the most densely forested country in Europe.
"It's great to see in practice where and how Finnish forests and wood raw materials originate," says José Ayala, managing director of printing materials manufacturer Stafix.
What explains the success story of Finnish forest management?
“Forests are our most significant natural resource, and we have a long tradition of taking good care of our forests. Finnish forest legislation has prohibited deforestation since the late 1800s. When we make use of forests, we must also ensure their renewal,” says
Janne Soimasuo, environmental manager at Metsä Group.
According to Soimasuo, the growth of Finnish forests has exceeded their use since the early 1970s. At that time, forest management measures were introduced to ensure good growth for commercial forests.
“Forest management in Finland uses species naturally found in the country. The situation in many other countries is quite different. There, it’s much more common to grow foreign species, such as eucalyptus, in places where they would not otherwise be found,” Soimasuo points out.
According to Soimasuo, using domestic tree species also enables their natural accompanying species, such as insects and fungi, to live in commercial forests and ensures their vitality.
Introduced in Finland at the turn of the millennium, forest certification supports the diversity of species by requiring, for example, that a certain number of retention trees are left in felling areas to increase the amount of decaying wood in forests. In addition, Finland has the largest number of forest areas strictly protected by the state in Europe.
Taking a break from normal office work, a team of employees from Stafix tried their hand at planting trees.
Strong, high-quality northern softwood fibre
Globally, only around 10 per cent of forests are certified. In Finland, certification covers 90 per cent of commercial forests. In 2014, around 79 per cent of the wood that Metsä Board used in production was certified. Metsä Board has actively participated in developing forest certification systems, with the PEFC being the most widely used system in Finland.
“All of our products are certified throughout the production chain. We are also leading the way in traceability, as we are able to prove the origin of all of the wood that we use. Our raw materials always come from legitimate sources and sustainably managed forests,” says
Minna Kantsila, product manager at Metsä Board.
As well as being a renewable, sustainably produced raw material, northern softwood fibre is highly suitable for producing top-quality paperboard. Its strength properties are particularly superior to recycled fibre. This is largely related to the short growing season in the north in the summer: trees grow slowly, producing consistently high density.
Fresh forest fibre is also necessary for recycling paper and paperboard and using recycled fibre.
“If fresh fibre was not added to the stream, the production of wood-based paperboard packaging would run out of raw material in six months,” says Kantsila.
Most of the forests in Finland are owned by families or small private owners. The average size of a forest holding is just over 30 hectares. Metsä Group purchases most of the wood it uses from the members of its parent company, Metsäliitto Cooperative, whose members own nearly half of the private forests in Finland. Globally, this arrangement is exceptional in the sense that the parent company of the Group is owned by around 122,000 members. Metsä Group provides these members with expert services that support their forest management and seeks to increase the value of their forest assets.
“The cooperative ownership base ensures a steady supply of wood for us and a high demand and value for wood for the members. This increases the level of commitment and enables us to plan our operations for the long term. We can also take care of the renewal and management of forests on behalf of the owners, meaning that our operations extend far beyond the trade in wood raw material,” says Jussi Ripatti, environmental director at Metsä Group.
Mervi Seppänen helps Metsä Group’s owner-members with issues related to forest management and wood supply in the Viitasaari region in Central Finland.
“Our members truly feel that we are working towards common goals. Of course, they also benefit through interest income on their investment in the cooperative and through competitive prices on wood,” says Seppänen.
Metsä Group is building a bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, around 60 kilometres from where Seppänen is based. The new mill has met with a positive response from forest owners. The mill is the largest investment in the history of the Finnish forest industry. It will increase the annual use of pulpwood by around 4 million cubic metres, or around 10 per cent, at the national level.
According to Seppänen, forest owners increasingly need comprehensive and easily accessible services, from clearing and seedling stand management to investment advice. If needed, a forest expert helps forest owners identify management and logging needs and provides an estimate of the related income and expenses.
“Finns continue to have a close, emotive relationship with forests. They want to take good care of their forest holdings, even if they don’t themselves deal with forests on a regular basis. This is one of the reasons why trustful relationships between us and forest owners are important,” says Seppänen.
For Stafix planting trees was a new way of spending time together that is also beneficial for the environment. The Stafix team: Veijo Jokinen, Lorenzo Bracco, Olli Räsänen, Aleksi Rastela, José Ayala, Adrian Darwin, Michael Trepczyk, Hanna Voutilainen, Arttu Seppi.