The climate negotiations in Paris led to the world's leaders agreeing a global climate deal. This agreement states that action must be taken to preserve and improve the capacity to capture and store greenhouse gases. The importance of the forests is specifically underlined in this context. Society will therefore increasingly be turning its attention to the forests as one of the solutions to the problem of climate change. Holmen has long operated sustainable forestry, whereby carbon dioxide is captured in the forest and its products. All the while that future opportunities for renewable wood fibre are being identified, intensive work is also under way to develop today's products. This is expected to lead to rising demand for forest raw material. The growth in Holmen's forests already outstrips the annual harvest of wood and it is expected that forest growth and harvesting could increase by 25 per cent over a 40-year horizon. Holmen thus has a firm place in the sustainable society of the future.
Holmen's operation contribute to positive climate effects in various ways – above all through carbon dioxide being captured and stored in the growing forests and so in the forest products.
Around 85 per cent of the growth in Holmen's forests is harvested annually, to be used for products and for fossil-free energy production. Over the foreseeable future, annual growth in Holmen's forests is expected to exceed the harvests, and the Group's growth target indicates that carbon dioxide storage will increase in the future. At the same time, society will continue to be supplied with packaging, printing paper, sawn timber, fossil-free energy and other products made from the forest as a raw material. The growing forest and the products that it generates form a crucial cornerstone of the transition to a bio-economy in which fossil raw materials are replaced with renewables.
The modern forest industry has a central role to play in a future society that makes increasing use of bio-based raw materials and products. The circular economy is a concept that shares some DNA with a bio-economy. Being part of a circular economy means promoting business opportunities that involve a circular ecocycle. With a renewable raw material, recovery of chemicals and energy in the mills, plus products that allow material recovery or, once expended, use in fossil-free energy production, Holmen is already extremely well placed in terms of the circular economy.
Very nearly 100 per cent of the by-products and waste that arise from Holmen's operations is collected and used for various purposes. End-of-life paper and paperboard products top up the recovered paper ecocycle with much-needed fresh fibre. Used fibre can be recycled up to seven times before it ends up as biofuel. Fresh fibre and recovered fibre thus complement each other, since the paper industry in continental and central Europe is based largely on recovered fibre. Without fresh fibre, there is no future recovered fibre.
The target set out in the global agreement on climate change can be achieved by increasing the use of existing renewable products, alongside the development of new materials and products aimed at replacing their fossil-based equivalents.
The Group is working on identifying and developing new business opportunities, based on Holmen's renewable wood raw material and the by-products that arise in production. The main emphasis of this work is on product development and enhancing process efficiency, although forest growth and improving the efficiency of forestry are also important focal areas. Research is also being conducted into the components that make up wood: cellulose, hemicellulose and the binding agent lignin, which can be used, for example, to produce light, strong and sustainable products for structural solutions in the construction industry. An important starting point for the work is that the new business opportunities must be linked to Holmen's existing industrial sites.
Much of Holmen's research and development work is done jointly with other players, often within the same industry, and through collaborations with universities, colleges and research institutes. One example of such a collaboration is the establishment of a pilot plant for crystalline nanocellulose in Örnsköldsvik. The plant will be the first of its kind in Europe. The material has many interesting properties and can be used for construction materials, biocomposites and printed electronics. Operations at the plant are based on the technology of the Israeli startup company Melodea, with Holmen discharging its role both as a catalyst for getting the plant built and as a shareholder in Melodea.
While new products can form part of the solution to climate and resource issues, they also lay the foundations for economic growth and employment. Furthermore, the sustainably managed forests are important for people's wellbeing and as a place for recreation, hunting and fishing. The forests of the future will be a major and vital natural asset in several ways and for many generations to come.
Sustainable development for employees, business partners and owners depends on companies showing good profitability and a strong financial position. As an employer, Holmen must work to ensure good leadership and safe working conditions, while also motivating and developing its personnel. It is also essential that the business follows rules on business ethics and takes a holistic view, whereby the environment is protected according to the precautionary principle.
The Group's CEO has ultimate responsibility for driving progress towards sustainable development. The Group's Director of Environmental and Sustainable Affairs has a coordinating role in this area and reports to Group management. Continuous improvement and regular follow-up of the business lay the foundation for Holmen's development in economic, social and environmental terms. And this also underpins Holmen's contribution to a sustainable future.