When talking about sustainability, companies are usually referring to trying to reduce their negative impacts on the environment - to do ‘less bad’. Regenerative activities, on the other hand, have the goal of improving the state of nature and producing positive effects for society and the economy doing ‘more good’. The difference is not big, but it is significant, says Cindy Venho, Project Manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“It’s a difference in ways of thinking. The starting point for regeneration is more positive and active.”

The mission of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an international charity based in the UK, is to accelerate the global economy’s transition to a circular economy. It is based on three principles: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature. The ultimate aim is to create positive impacts on the health of ecosystems. When applied together, these three principles can help us tackle global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, benefiting business, people, and the environment.

The Foundation is a global thought leader that works with companies, NGOs, policymakers, innovators, and academia, bringing these groups together in their large Network.

The Network’s operations focus on four main themes: Learn, Collaborate, Network, and Demonstrate. The Foundation also creates content in various forms , organises events, and promotes international collaboration across industries and sectors.

The Foundation was established in 2010 by Dame Ellen MacArthur, who rose to fame in competitive sailing. The Foundation now has 250 organisations in its Network, and it collaborates with another 2,000 organisations. Metsä Group joined the Foundation’s Network as a Member in 2022.

“The collaboration is mutual. We create content and resources to help organisations transition to a circular economy with the help of our Network. It’s important to us that Network organisations genuinely seek transition to a circular economy,” says Venho.

Maija Pohjakallio, Metsä Group’s VP, Climate and Circular Economy, says that the membership promotes dialogue with various stakeholder groups.

“The Network allows us to hear perspectives, learn best practices and share our own experiences of a wood-based circular economy. This spring, we launched a collaborative project within the Network to produce a white paper document defining a shared view of the role of wood-based materials in a regenerative circular economy. The document will discuss the significance of regenerative forestry. Because no material can be recycled or reused for ever, virgin materials will always need to be added to circular loops. It is in line with the principles of the circular economy, to source wood raw materials from forests that are grown according to the principles of regenerative forestry.”

According to Venho, the term “regenerative” is interesting to many organisations and emerging in various sectors of society, such as the construction and food industries as well as in fashion.

“It is clearly a rising trend, and we’re happy that this collaborative project can examine the subject from the perspective of forest-based value chains,” she said

Indeed, Venho finds Metsä Group’s principles of regenerative forestry interesting. The principles were launched this spring, and their purpose is to help forest owners pass on their forests to the next generation in better condition than when they got them. Their goals include strengthening the state of nature and more comprehensively managing the benefits that nature provides – from carbon sinks to pollinators and berry crops.

According to Venho, a notable element of Metsä Group’s principles is that the company intends to monitor the impacts of its regenerative forestry measures. This is how the company wishes to ensure that it is doing the right things and having a sufficient impact. For example, the quantitative measuring of biodiversity is considered to be a difficult task, so the work of Metsä Group and its partners in this field is pioneering.

Text: Ilkka Luukkonen

Cindy Venho from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation visited Metsä Group’s head office on 25 May 2023. She held a presentation available for all personnel in the auditorium and met Metsä Group employees working in different positions for small group discussions.