UPMRaflatac
Blog | 12/17/2020 13:02:33

Step up for biodiversity

Satu Leppänen

Manager, Sustainability, UPM Raflatac

If I say the word biodiversity, what does it bring to mind? All too often, people think it's nice to have flowers around or too many species have become extinct. In fact, biodiversity is about our future – and what kind of future we’re going to have.

Biodiversity loss gains momentum 

Biodiversity is closely linked with climate change, which is one of the biggest concerns we have for our future. 

The Earth has had climate changes before, with species coming and going, but what is different now is the speed of change. Ecosystems and species don't have the time to adapt, so biodiversity loss gains momentum. 
 
In the end, it is a question of whether we can produce enough food for the Earth's whole population, have enough water resources available, or even oxygen to breathe. Bees are a good example. They may be a nuisance on a picnic, but our crops depend on them. Without pollinators like bees, we won't have apples to eat. Pollinators support the production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, and their role and influence reach beyond human food production. 

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According to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), things are not going well. Biodiversity is declining globally at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures for the decline are growing. Still, there are some reasons for mild optimism. Even though targets have not been met, some progress has been made on many fronts. 
 
What I find particularly encouraging is that consumers are becoming aware of the importance of biodiversity, not just in battling climate change, but also in our daily lives. This will morph into growing pressure on companies and governments to take more decisive action.  

We are focusing on forests 

So, what can we do at UPM Raflatac to promote biodiversity? Since a significant part of our business is based on paper, which is made from trees, we focus on forests. 
 
Forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity: a wide range of plants, trees, animals, microorganisms, and their associated genetic diversity. This is being threatened by continuing deforestation and forest degradation. 
 
Our aim is to source paper and other forest-based raw materials only from sustainably managed, FSC or PEFC certified forests where the different functions of forests, such as carbon, biodiversity, and water resources, are taken into consideration. This also encourages our suppliers towards responsible forestry. 
 
We develop products that use as little raw materials and as much recycled fiber as possible. We look for solutions that allow us to replace fossil raw materials with renewable ones. 
 
But we must always look at the big picture. If we increase the use of renewable raw materials, this may lead to more trees being cut, and this again highlights the importance of sustainable forestry and mindful use of raw materials. We need to find solutions that allow us to take care of our forests so that future generations will also benefit from them. 

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To recap, good product design alleviates the pressure on forests for virgin fibers as well as contributes to circular bioeconomy. Sustainable forest practices will keep our forests thriving, so they'll continue to be of use to us as a source of raw materials as well as a source of well-being. 
 
We can also be a change agent, promoting biodiversity through our supply chain and by being in constant dialogue with key influencers and decision-makers. 

Much more than a source of materials

And we all – as consumers, partners, buyers, sellers, etc. – can make well-informed decisions that are beneficial to ecosystems around us and help us battle climate change in the long run. 
 
For me personally, forests are more than a source of renewable materials. As a forester, living in the Finnish countryside, forests and nature nearby are a source of livelihood and recreation, and they are a significant part of the family history – and I truly hope they are also part of the future. 
 
Whether near or far, we must use natural resources mindfully and act to safeguard and enhance biodiversity. Let’s remember that we are not making decisions just for us but for generations to come. 
 

 

Author

Satu Leppänen

Satu Leppänen

Manager, Sustainability, UPM Raflatac | "I wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored." – Sir David Attenborough