SCA owns around 71,000 hectares of land in the Baltics, of which approximately 59,000 hectares is forest land. The forest holding is vital for supplying SCA’s industries with raw materials and increasing SCA’s climate benefit. “We manage the forests to ensure that they grow well. This means that they bind large amounts of carbon dioxide and provide substantial amounts of raw materials for renewable products, which replace products with a larger carbon footprint,” says Jonas Mårtensson, Director SCA Forest.
In addition to SCA having a large forest holding in Sweden, the company also owns forest land in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The first plots of land were purchased in 2019 and more land is bought on a continuous basis.
Forests in the Baltics are extremely fertile. Growth rates are approximately two and a half times greater than in northern Sweden, but this potential has not always been capitalised on in the past. “It’s a mixed picture. Some of the forests that we’ve purchased were well managed before we bought them, others hadn’t been managed at all. By working with forest management techniques such as land preparation, planting and clearing, we increase total growth considerably. We also restore forests that are in bad shape,” says Mårtensson.
Continuous increase in carbon storage
Growing forests bind carbon dioxide, so the more the forests grow, the more carbon dioxide is stored. “And growth in SCA’s forests will always be faster than the rate at which we fell trees, so storage will constantly increase. Our forests – in the Baltics and in Sweden – therefore bind more carbon with each passing year,” says Mårtensson.
But a proportion of growth is cut down – and even that makes an important contribution to efforts to reduce global warming. The fact that the forestry industry has a positive climate effect is not only due to growing forests that bind carbon, but also because we manufacture sustainable products. Wood products, paper packaging and bioenergy replace fossil-based products such as concrete, plastic and oil. In this way, oil and coal can stay in the ground, thereby reducing fossil-based emissions of carbon dioxide.
Continuing to buy land
In recent years, SCA has made several large investments that have increased the availability of wood products, kraftliner and pulp. And when production increases, so does the demand for raw materials. “By buying more forest land, we guarantee the supply of wood for our industries. In doing so, we also ensure an increased supply of climate-smart products,” says Mårtensson. SCA wants to increase its forest holdings, but in Sweden its options to do this are limited. However, there are fewer limitations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, so SCA continues to buy forest there. “We have an investment programme with the goal of acquiring 100,000 hectares of forest land in the Baltics by 2024. After that, the goal is to set up a new strategic land purchase programme and at that point, we may also look at opportunities for buying land in Finland,” says Mårtensson.
Volumes to increase in the long run
About half of SCA’s raw material needs are met by wood from its own forests and woodchip from its own sawmills. Most of the remainder is bought by private forest owners in northern Sweden. In terms of raw material from the Baltics, this is mainly pulpwood that SCA uses in its own industries, while sawn timber and firewood is used locally.
“There are no major pulpwood processing industries in the Baltics, but we are now taking steps to ensure that pulpwood becomes products that help society reduce the use of products with a large carbon footprint. We currently also buy pulpwood from other providers in the Baltics, in addition to the pulpwood that comes from our own forest holdings. As our holdings of forest land increases, so will the proportion of raw materials from our own forests,” says Mårtensson.
Transform unused land
In addition to conventional forest management that SCA conducts in its Baltic forest holdings, SCA also converts unused agricultural land into forest land. This is another way to increase carbon storage and, in the long term, increase the availability of sustainable raw materials.
“South Asia and South and Central America, for example, suffer from deforestation, which is extremely negative for global warming. Here we do the opposite – we add new forest land. But we don’t repurpose agricultural land that is in use, we only put overgrown land to good use. And we do this with great awareness of social factors as well as biological diversity.”
SCA’s forestry activities in Sweden are certified according to FSC® (FSC® 004466), Forest Stewardship Council®, and PEFC (PEFC/05-23-131), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes. Our forest holdings in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are also certified. “Most of our forest holdings in the Baltics were not certified before, so this means that we are taking a big step forward in terms of biological diversity and social factors. At the same time, we significantly increase growth rates by actively managing the forests,” says Mårtensson.