Blog | 03/01/2022 09:34:09 | 6 min Read time

A deciding decade - Perspectives and concrete actions for forests in the 2020s

Sami Oksa

Director, UPM Stakeholder Relations

Climate change and biodiversity loss are the biggest challenges of our time.

Our unique planet is warming at an unprecedented rate due to carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels. In addition, deforestation reduces carbon sinks and storage in forests, further increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Globally, 10 million hectares of forest are estimated to disappear every year, most of which is tropical rainforest in Africa, Asia and South America.

In developing countries, deforestation is mainly caused by clearing forests for farming and ranching. In the developed countries, deforestation has continued especially due to infrastructure development, which is fundamentally driven by population growth. Additionally, we continue to contribute to the deforestation by purchasing products from areas where deforestation continues. These are choices we need to make in our daily lives. Do we choose a sustainable, certified product made from renewable raw materials or do we buy a product based on just its price, for example? At the end, a key question for all of us is whether we can reduce our own consumption.

In addition to climate change, deforestation causes loss of biodiversity: when the forest ecosystem is lost, so are the species that grow naturally in the area. The use of chemicals has also an impact on insect populations, as well as on biodiversity and pollinators, for example.

The challenge of climate change is global. Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is spread beyond countries and continents, so solutions need to be global. Means to enhance biodiversity, on the other hand, are always local. For example, actions in Uruguay where UPM has plantations are different than in the boreal forests in Finland. And on the other hand, the loss of biodiversity in any area cannot be compensated by richer biodiversity somewhere else. Biodiversity must always be considered and safeguarded locally.

UPM Forest Action Programme continues UPM's sustainability work

In early March UPM announced a new forest sustainability programme, UPM Forest Action, that reaches until 2030. The global programme covers UPM's own forests in Finland and the United States, as well as plantations in Uruguay, and it guides the company's entire wood sourcing and forestry operations globally.

Our biodiversity programme, launched in Finland in 1998, was the first in the industry. The programme was expanded to cover all UPM-owned forests and tree plantations in Uruguay in the mid-2000s. In addition to improving biodiversity, we have focused on growing the carbon sinks and storages of our forests.

UPM’s purpose is to create a future beyond fossils. Forests and their responsible use play an increasingly important role in enabling this future. Forests provide renewable alternatives to fossil-based products and raw materials. Forests are the largest carbon sink on the planet after the oceans, and they provide an invaluable habitat for biodiversity as well as prosperity and livelihoods along the value chain.

Five key aspects of responsible forest management

The new UPM Forest Action programme covers all the key factors of sustainable forestry: climate, biodiversity, soil and water as well as the social contribution. In the past, UPM's forest sustainability targets have included maintaining forests as carbon sinks, net positive biodiversity in our own forests in Finland and using 100% certified wood. In our Forest Action Programme, we are taking an even more comprehensive approach to the responsible use of forests.

Climate: keeping forests as carbon sinks. We reduce emissions from our operations, preserve forests as carbon sinks and help forests adapt to climate change.

Biodiversity: increasing forest biodiversity. We increase biodiversity through forest conservation, nature management of commercial forests and tree plantations, as well as biodiversity projects.

Soil: securing healthy soils. We safeguard soil productivity, prevent harmful substances from affecting the soil and prevent soil erosion.

Water: minimising the impact on water. We minimise impacts on surface and groundwater and protect aquatic habitats.

Social contribution: ensuring a sustainable supply chain and creating value and opportunities. We ensure our sustainable operations in the supply chain, work with local communities and contribute to the societies around us.

Through these five aspects, we will ensure and strategically develop sustainability throughout our forestry and wood sourcing activities. Although the challenges and needs of the company's four wood sourcing regions - North Europe, Central Europe, Uruguay and the United States - are different, they are committed to the five sustainability fundamentals and the targets on the road towards 2030.

Projects towards a sustainable 2030 decade

The UPM Forest Action programme is partly based on actions that we take and develop with our stakeholders. As an example, we will launch a project with the Finnish Osprey Foundation this year to protect and develop nesting territories for owls and hawks, such as the endangered Buzzard and Honey Buzzard, at our forest estate in Harviala, Finland. With this project, we will further develop ways to reconcile forestry with the habitat requirements of large birds of prey.

In Uruguay, we are developing our biodiversity concept. The model designed for plantations differs from the one for boreal forests due to different operating environment. In Uruguay the actions focus on safeguarding and enhancing the biodiversity values of natural forests, while in Finland the focus is on improving the biodiversity of commercial forests.

In Central Europe, we are actively involved in the Business & Biodiversity network to develop the interaction between business and biodiversity.

In the United States, we seek to grow the share of mixed forest cover to increase biodiversity and adapt to climate change.

This is just the beginning. I am excited about the plans that UPM's forest teams around the world have made for 2022 and beyond! We will communicate more about them as the programme progresses. Join the restoring twenties!


Read more:

UPM volunteers support school kids in learning about work life and society
Story | 8 min

UPM volunteers support school kids in learning about work life and society

Read more
A lobbyist works as an interpreter between decision-makers and business world
Blog | 3 min

A lobbyist works as an interpreter between decision-makers and business world

Read more
Finns are strongly committed to the future of their forests
Story | 5 min

Finns are strongly committed to the future of their forests

Read more