Stora Enso – Forestry at the heart of business

12 July 2022

With a history dating back an astonishing 700 years, SCC patron Stora Enso is the world’s oldest limited company. Although operating within multiple industries, one thing only is at the heart of Stora Enso – trees. “Everything we do is based on trees. We are constantly innovating, researching, and making new discoveries, to replace anything that is not renewable with renewable material,” says Mila Ducheva, Business Development Manager UK & Ireland at Stora Enso Building Solutions.

Back in 1288, mining and forestry company Stora Kopparbergs Bergslags AB was founded in Falun, Sweden. Over the centuries, the company has had many forms and diverse operations. In 1998, it merged with Finnish forestry production company Enso-Gutzeit Oy and became Stora Enso.

Today, it is a leading global provider of renewable solutions in packaging biomaterials, wooden construction, and paper, employing 22,000 people world-wide. Among the many areas of operations, we find the Building Solutions-division within Wood Products – the largest sawn wood supplier in Europe and one of the world’s largest mass timber suppliers.

“We develop the international mass timber market within building solutions to create more sustainable, energy-efficient, and healthy homes,” says Mila, Business Development Manager UK & Ireland for the Building Solutions division.

The need for fast-built homes is increasing

With the UK’s current housing shortage, and a massive demand in Sweden, the need for fast-built homes is increasing. “We are seeing that urban populations are growing, and more rural populations are decreasing. As of now, there are not nearly enough homes in the making to satisfy the increasing population. Our strategy is to build communities working closely with our design, supply and install partners and all the project stakeholders. Not only are we building homes, but we also build large-scale buildings such as schools, universities, and offices,” Mila explains, and continues: “And with the current state of the environment, it is crucial these communities are built in sustainable ways, and with renewable materials.”

With the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, affordability has become an increasingly important topic. Mila emphasises that with increased energy efficiency, improved affordability follows. “Energy efficiency helps with creating more affordable buildings that also stay affordable during their lifespan. We’re creating high quality homes that can last. For example, in the tallest timber building project in Scotland the predicted energy bills were £296 per annum with 18 tonnes of carbon removed from each of the 42 apartments, 757 tonnes of carbon captured in total. If you consider that just one tonne of CO2 is equal to 72 train journey’s from Amsterdam to Paris – 757 tonnes of carbon is a lot! Overall, it’s a healthy, clean, and affordable place to be in.”

Creating more sustainable, energy-efficient, and healthy homes

Cross-laminated timber is a wood panel system that in recent years has been widely adopted around Europe, as it has shown to have many benefits. The product has been called the innovative engineered wood product of the future and has been described as advantageous because of its energy efficiency, its ability to be combined with other materials, and that it can be used as a prefabricated building component, accelerating construction timelines.
“Using cross laminated timber, you can build very quickly. With our materials and methods, buildings can be built much faster than with traditional procedures. For example, an 50,000 square feet building extension of 828 panels, providing work-spaces for lots of people, can be built in just eight weeks by five people,” Mila says. The material is also favourable for thermal design – making buildings more energy efficient. Mass timber has been used for passivehaus standard buildings for example. “Cross-laminated timber has inherent thermal resistance and is a highly accurate form of construction which is easily sealed with no gaps. This helps increase the air tightness, which results in greater thermal energy performance and lower costs on heating and cooling throughout the year.”

Preserving the forests to remain a truly renewable resource

Being Europe’s largest timber supplier within the construction industry, and one of the world’s largest private forest owners, it is of greatest essence that Stora Enso leaves a positive environmental footprint, something Mila explains is at the core of the company’s operations. “Everything we do is based on forestry, and that is something we want continuing in the future. To keep it a truly renewable resource, it’s really important for us to take care of our forests.” She says that in order for the trees to stay healthy, the whole ecosystem of the forests needs to be considered. “When talking about taking care of the forests, I’m not only talking about the trees, but also the soil, and the water, and all other components in the eco-system. We are therefore very meticulous with minimising the effect we have on the forests.”

Whenever Stora Enso needs to bring in equipment, it makes sure it doesn’t disrupt the natural processes of nature. “For example, we build arched bridges that don’t impact the natural water stream. We also make sure that the part of the bridge that is under water has a surface made from materials that are naturally present in the streams. That is to ensure the flora can contrive in the world under water, and make sure the fish can swim as usual.”
Apart from always planting at least one tree for every tree harvested, Stora Enso does conservation work to increase biodiversity. “As trees are critical for us, we work with the best experts in the world to make sure our forests stay healthy, creating the best environment for them to grow in. We have recently announced a three-year cooperation with WWF to improve biodiversity – a very reliable partner that knows all about biodiversity from a species point of view.”

Fossil-based today – made from trees tomorrow

Stora Enso’s goal is to have all its products and solutions 100% regenerative by 2050, something Mila is passionate about; “Everything that’s made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow. You can trust me that when we say truly regenerative, we really mean it. We use many science-based targets, and work with the best experts to identify the measures to make that a reality.”

Although the Building Solutions division mainly uses trees as building material, the company as a whole is making use of trees in many other formulas and constellations. “In biomaterials, we are creating a ‘plastic’ that is recyclable up to seven times and is made 60% out of trees. We also have batteries with proven technology where we have replaced the fossil-based graphite with lignin from trees,” Mila says, and continues: “Trees are also very good at producing light weight carbon fibre, so we’re experimenting with using that to make recyclable cars and airplanes, as well as wind turbines that can generate renewable energy. We are constantly researching to replace anything that’s not renewable with a renewable material.”

Net-zero future

It is no secret that the sustainability issue has become top of the agenda in recent years, and that different forces in society are putting more and more pressure onto businesses to do their bit. According to Mila, sustainability has been at the heart of Stora Enso for centuries which has given them lots of experience – something they want to share with others. “We have focused on innovations for centuries. Now we have solutions ready for the market to make sure everybody can meet the targets they need for sustainability. We have solutions for replacing everything from plastic food containers to energy sources. We spoke about batteries and wind turbines, and especially the one thing closest to my heart personally – the buildings we spend 90% of our time in.”

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