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Please take a moment Read our Thinking on the topical issues within forest and bioindustry.  We welcome a discussion and your thoughts on any of these subjects in LinkedIn - where our posts are published regularly.  And if you do not follow us yet, we invite you to do so!

Turbulence in timber prices

The timber market dynamics have been turbulent the past few years due to supply and demand shocks. The ongoing war in Ukraine will reshape the wood supply from Russia and Belarus to Europe and the descending economic iron wall may prepare ground for new major disruptions.

The global environmental crisis, including climate change, waste pollution, and environmental degradation need dramatic and fast reaction and a major paradigm shift in consumption. Fibre-based substitution of plastic packaging is one of the solutions the bioproducts industry can offer.

The war in Ukraine inflicted an economic shock and upheavals on the forest industry value chain. The biggest impact on European factories and competitiveness takes place via rising energy prices. This concerns especially large mills running on Russian gas. New, energy-efficient lines strengthen their position in the cost competitiveness curve, increasing the gap to competing mills. CO2 emissions permits, chemicals and freight will become more expensive and weaken Europe's global competitiveness.

There are 3.5 million hectares of forests in Bayern and Nordhein-Westfalen regions, of which nearly one million is state-owned. The prices of wood-based raw materials have soared high, as the demand exceeds supply in all major markets while expansionary monetary policy is speeding up the inflation. States and companies must restructure to survive and build sustainable growth.

Forests are among the cornerstones in combating climate change and preserving biodiversity. The European Union has drawn new guidelines and set ambitious targets to ensure the sustainability of forestry activities. Despite being part of the same economical regime, the European countries differ in terms of economy, industry structure and wildlife habitats and therefore one size does not fit all.

Wildfires’ impact on wood availability has historically been small in Europe, as damage has been limited mostly to the Mediterranean countries. Recent events from Sweden and the Baltics, alongside Russia and Canada, do, however, highlight the importance of forest owners’ long-term commitment to sustainable forest management in securing steady global wood availability.

Forest and bio-based businesses are, without a doubt, among the most important industries for mitigating climate change, combating biodiversity loss and rising pollution, and in reducing wasteful use of natural resources. Our position is unique.  Our industry is working with a diverse renewable raw material, that offers limitless options for reducing emissions by substituting fossil alternatives.

The pandemic revealed how damaging it can be if global supply chains focus solely on efficiency. Changing an existing supply chain is not simple, as it has to be sustainable and secure, and it still needs to balance the demands for cost efficiency.

Packaging where are you going

We consumers face different packaging materials and solutions daily. Europeans consume on average nearly three times their body weight in packaging per annum. Packaging steers our consumption decisions, consciously or subconsciously, and makes our lives more convenient. Packaging is a central element of nearly all businesses: bundling services into sales packages, protecting consumer goods, transporting items to other markets. We asked three of our experts at Vision Hunters what they perceive as the most exciting developments in the field of packaging at the moment. 

For forest industry companies, packaging of different wood, paper, board, tissue and pulp products have been flying outside the sustainability radar. Fossil-based materials, especially plastics, are widely used in the forest products supply chain, thus a lot of room for improvement exists sustainability-wise.

Common reasons for not reaching the full potential of tall oil are outdated technology, not enough demand for CTO, and remote locations making it unfeasible to extract and ship elsewhere. Outdated technology can be solved through investments into modern extraction technologies, which are far better compared to the ones developed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Global forests are a rich source of antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal bioactive compounds with underutilized commercial opportunities. Many of the potential candidate compounds or groups of compounds have already been identified and studied to some extent on R&D level, but there is still a vast amount of untapped business potential in finding new more potent compounds, and developing new innovations based on already accumulated knowledge. The forest industry can offer solutions by producing antiviral and antimicrobial bioactive compounds that can be used as part of the treatment against the viral infection.

Ligning - the gamechanger for biorefineries?

Lignin has been a good source for renewable bioenergy, but it is currently an underutilized source for biobased products and has the potential to replace many of the oil-based products. While lignosulfonates have found their use cases, there is a huge untapped potential for kraft-lignin and lignin originating from second generation (2G) biorefineries.

The development of a recycling infrastructure for packaging waste is a longer-term goal, which will be needed in order to more efficiently utilize raw materials and support circularity and by that a more sustainable future for our globe. What is surprising, is the currently lacking sorting of used food packaging in fast food restaurants, as typically all trash is placed into the same bin.

Digitalization is used to create revenue, improve business, and to replace and transform business processes. Digital solutions offer tools for more competitive ways to run business. Digitalization is increasingly utilized to reach a higher sustainability performance and to meet the requirements of increased visibility and transparency in the end-to-end supply chain. A digitalization strategy is needed to deploy the full potential of digitalization, also in terms of sustainability.

What is happening in the Global Pulp and Paper Industry going into 2021? How has the Russian P&P sector been affected by the pandemic turmoil?  This article by Vision Hunters titled “PULP & PAPER INDUSTRY IN THE MASK. IS IT EVEN BREATHING?” in English and in Russian was published in the Russian edition of Pulp and Paper, issued in November 2020.

The forest industry provides a sustainable textile material alternative and plays an active role in the future of fibers. Many new innovations are surging, being currently in early commercialisation phase. Cellulose-based fibers can bring new high-value added production to the pulp industry and materials such as lyocell will drive the conversion of paper pulp to dissolving pulp.

Investing with consideration to issues beyond financial returns, or active ownership, has become widespread during the past decade. ESG investing implies investments that simultaneously seek both positive returns and positive impact on society and the environment considering ethical, governance and sustainability issues. Change has been driven simultaneously by regulators, clients, companies as well as asset managers.

China’s strive for sustainability has recently caused major turbulence in the pulp and paper industry. The waste paper import ban has shifted global trade flows while a potential complete ban in 2020 would further impact fibre availability and prices.

Continuous improvement and operational excellence are often marketed as solutions to cope with tightened profitability, but identification and prioritization of actions is the key for efficient improvement.

Russia is having one of the world’s most important untapped wide boreal forest resources and we can see a change in their investment environment. How will the resources be utilized?

The growing e-commerce will not only increase the demand for packaging, but it is changing the packaging solutions for good. What will be the most important characteristics of packaging when the competition is not on the shelf in a retail store?

Vision Hunters celebrates its 10th anniversary. Read our reflections on our first decade as well as our thoughts on what lies ahead in the future.

This presentation was prepared for the CPICC 2018 by Mr. Rainer Häggblom.

Sharing our expert perspectives.