Large-scale utilisation of coal initiated the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago. The large-scale utilisation of oil that started about 100 years ago has resulted in the unprecedented growth period witnessed on planet Earth throughout, especially, the later part of the 20th century. Can we continue on this growth curve forever? Can our planet endure further growth?
The obvious answer is "no." Our society has already begun to look for alternative concepts enabling a sustainable balance between consumption and supply. No significant change, however, happens overnight. For example, we must learn how to utilise the full energy potential of the sun, so we can minimise our dependence on fossil energy sources in the future. This change will take decades to happen, but we have already taken the first steps on that path.
What does this mean for Finland and Metsä Group? For one, it is evident that the role of the bioeconomy will again increase. Finland is a major bioeconomy country already, as the role of the forest-based sector and the agriculture and food sector are significant per capita. Metsä Group, on the other hand, is a major company and active at the core of the Finnish bioeconomy. Therefore, I see plenty of opportunities both for Finland and for Metsä Group.
Capturing these opportunities, however, requires activity and leadership. We need to be involved in various networks, for instance related to research and development. We need to create together. This can relate to creating technical or product innovations together with universities or other companies, but also to creating new business innovations. We need to reshape old business models.
The Äänekoski bioproduct mill is perhaps the best example of how Metsä Group is reacting to the growing importance of the bioeconomy. Society is asking for new bioproducts, i.e. products that are more environmentally friendly than current products made from oil or natural gas. A pulp mill already produces such bioproducts, but we could still improve. Today's product portfolio comprises pulp, tall oil, turpentine and bioenergy in various forms. To understand how this situation could be improved, we need to dig out the best ideas and partnerships from the networks that I referred to earlier. When we find them, and hopefully among them companies that could be our future business partners, developing together in an atmosphere of mutual trust is essential for success.
Niklas von Weymarn
VP Research, Metsä Fibre
Niklas von Weymarn is Board Member of the
Biobased Industries Consortium and Vice
Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the
Forest-based Sector Technology Platform.