In this section you
will find an overview of and more detailed introductions and information about
the Finnish forest and timber industry sector
After an introductory overview Annular Further’s Forest Industry section is organised around four main themes, with the first of these, Organisations and Manufacturers, sub-divided again into two groups.
There are also links at the beginning of the main sections.
Lohja, where the Metsa Wood mill provides energy for the entire town from its bioenergy plant – Photo Metsa Wood.
industry sector in Finland is both extensive and influential, accounting for
just under a quarter (22%) of the country’s largest export sector and worth
(which, with added value) around €7.5 billion. Approximately 42,000 people are
employed directly by the sector, 160,000 indirectly, and is responsible for
nearly 20% of Finland’s total industrial production. Until recently the sector
was dominated by paper and pulp production but due to sharp declines in
production worldwide (80% decline in seven years), large-scale Finnish Forest
Industry has pivoted towards the bioeconomy, including greater investment in
timber construction, biomaterials, biocomposites and other bio-based materials
through the early years of the past decade.
As discussed in the country introductory overview, in 2015 the Government launched both the 10-year National Forest Strategy (to 2025) and the Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy. With priorities spanning competitiveness, the development of the bioeconomy knowledge base, and new sector growth and synergy with Finland’s ICT and new media sector, there has been an uptick in bio-based products in the last half decade, including those relevant to timber construction. Building on these strategic steps, in 2016 the Ministry of the Environment launched the 5-year Wood Building Programme, which is presently in its latter stages. The programme also feeds into the 2016 National Energy and Climate Strategy 2030.
Industry’s main sectors – from Finnish Forest Industries Federation
About half of Finland’s bioeconomy is based on
products and services of the forest sector, combining traditional Forest
Industry products with new wood-based bioproducts such as fibre packages, biofuels,
composites, and biopolymers. It has become accepted wisdom that for Finland, forests are
the foundation of this emerging bioeconomy.
According to the main Forestry Research Group, Luke, productive forests are increasing stock by over 40% since the late 1970s, and are managed according to sustainable forest principles, although these figures are disputed by both forest activists and some in the academic research community. Finland’s forests sequester the equivalent of over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent, Luke states, to about 60% of the country’s total emissions. Over the same period, wood equivalent to the current tree volume of 2.3 billion m3 has been harvested and used for forest products. The area of protected forests has been tripled over the past 40 years, being now nearly 2.7 million hectares (12% of the forest area).
Wood related mills in Finland – Finnish Forest Industries Federation
The majority – about 60% – of managed forests are
in the hands of private forest owners, generally estimated at 600,000, although
because of many joint ownerships, the total number of forest owners are
considered to be nearly three quarters of a million (740,000). The average size
of a forest plot is 30 hectares (or 36 football pitches).
for the increment of forest growth are roughly 110 million m3
annually, felling has increased to 80 million m3 annually since the
emergence of the bioeconomy strategy (up from 66 million m3),
resulting nationwide in increased logging, and use of wood for biomass and
related energy production. This has been one touchstone for political dispute
and argument in the country – see next Climate Change and the Bioeconomy
section. According to Luke’s figures, four fifths of regrowth is from natural
regeneration. According to the Central
Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners approximately 2% of total
forest area is cut annually, two thirds of which are thinnings, and the
remainder is from natural regeneration. Approximately 150,000 loggings are undertaken, with
about 10% from continuous cover silviculture.
Changing Climate is expected to increase forest
growth, with drier and warmer weather influencing Finnish forests. Extreme
weather phenomena, notably fire, local storm and bark beetle damage and other
pests are seen as likely to become more common, resulting in various impacts on
Stora Enso’s Honkalahti sawmill, in south east Finland, one of their three Finnish mills producing construction timbers. Photo Stora Enso
NeoLigno – a bio-based binder – Image Stora Enso
There are three principal Forest Industry companies with a worldwide presence: the Fenno-Swedish owned Stora Enso, UPM-Kymmune and Metsä-Board. All three companies have aggressively embraced and led the bioeconomy agenda, promoting themselves as 21st century sustainable operations. Together they buy raw materials from Finland’s approximately 600,000 private forest owners.
Stora Enso – Headquartered in Helsinki, Stora Enso is the largest European wood sector company. The result of a merger in 1998 between Swedish Stora (originally a mining company) and Enso, originally a sawmill company from Enso, Kotka, it is one of largest international forest products manufacturer. Primarily focused on paper and pulp production, in the aftermath of the 2000s internet-driven paper materials collapse, Stora Enso has restructured and re-branded itself as a Forest bioeconomy company, running with the strapline ‘The Renewables Company.’ The majority of its operations and 70% of business is in Europe, with just over a quarter of its workforce in Finland. Investments are international, including in China and South America.
With 26,000 employees across 30 countries, Stora Enso’s reset includes major investment in bioeconomy and engineered timber construction materials and capacity. CLT, LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) and Glulam are all produced, and a new factory was opened in Gruvön in central Sweden in mid-2019. A fourth CLT plant is under construction in Zdirec, Czech Republic currently due to open in the second half of 2022, adding production capacity. LVL is manufactured at its Varkaus Finland mill. Sawn wood, decking and other material, along with modular building plans, are also produced. Biocomposites (bio-based materials) including lignin and cellulose are part of the company’s switch to ‘green chemistry’ and its drive towards bioeconomy materials and products. Although still in its first chapter an early wave of products are being rolled out, such as DuraSense Biocomposite, NeoLigno binder and Lineo lignin, along with accompanying promotional activities.
Wood City, Helsinki, showcases Stora Enso products – Photo Anttinen Oiva Architects
UPM’s soft focus promotion
Showcase buildings include Wood City on Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari waterfront, exhibiting Stora Enso’s LVL, Lapinmäki Daycare Centre, also in the capital, and the Lighthouse in eastern Joensuu – at 14-storeys currently Finland’s tallest building. There are also many examples internationally, for instance in Paris, France, Porte Brancion; a sports and apartment complex above one of the capital’s ring roads by Hardel-Lebihan Architectes. The company has been cited in various environmental and human rights controversies, and financial trading impropriety, including a cartel-related operation with Metsa Wood in 2001, and child labour in Pakistan in 2014.
Like its primary competitors in the mid-2000s, UPM began moving into biocomposites, creating a biotech group, UPM Biofore, and developing a number of biocomposite materials for the construction and design sector. These include UPM ProFi decking, produced out of recycled paper fibre from UPM factories, and UPM Grada, a layered heat-treated composite material, primarily for furniture, but also as acoustic wall and roof panels.
Lohja sawmill, the principal source for Metsä
Wood’s Kerto LVL – Photo Metsä Wood
As part of ProFi’s launch, UPM and the design company Artek contracted Shigeru Ban to design the Artek Pavilion showcasing the ProFi decking composite to be displayed at the 2007 Milan Design Festival in Italy. In 2016, students from the Tongji University College of Design and Innovation in Shanghai created a Chinese tea house using UPM’s Grada composites and Wisa plywood.
Metsä Wood – Metsä Wood is the wood products division of the
Metsä Group, the third of Finland’s big three Forest Industry companies, with
around 10,000 workforce operating in thirty countries. The Metsä Group is
itself owned by parent company Metsäliitto Co-Operative, comprised of 104,000
Finnish forest owners. First established as the country’s state
forestry co-operative company in 1934, after bankruptcy in 1947, Metsäliitto was
relaunched as a co-operative in 1947.
Circular bioenergy in Lohja
Open Source Wood promotional video still – Image Metsä
Metsä Wood’s main timber focus are Kerto LVL, and birch and spruce plywood. Kerto LVL is produced as wall, roofing and floor elements and is intensively promoted to architects. The main Kerto production facility is in Lohja, south west Finland, which Metsä Wood also promotes as entirely run on bioenergy. Various showcase buildings, including its 2015 HQ and the Finnish Pavilion for the 2020 Olympics in Japan, both designed by architect Pekka Helin, are Kerto LVL promotional vehicles. Metsä Wood also promote Kerto LVL for it lightness compared to CLT, as well as its benefits compared to fossil fuel-based materials, claiming up to 80% construction time reduction. Metsä are building two new timber facilities. The first will be, according to their website, “the world’s most modern sawmill’ in Rauma currently scheduled to open in autumn 2022. The second, another state-of-the-art project, this time Bioproduct Mill in Kemi, which at €1.6 billion is the largest investment in Finland, and has already raised concerns about the increase in felling (4.5 million m3 tonnes) which it’s designed to operate at. Through the years the state-run forestry company has been involved in various controversies, including running, with Stora Enso, a cartel in 2001, and logging in old growth and on Saami first people’s land.
Open Source Wood is a Metsä Wood PR campaign aimed at architects and
the architectural community, taking open source into the wood design arena,
which launched in summer 2017. The campaign includes student competitions,
architectural studio and student projects, hackathons and makethons, and an
open source platform where ideas and projects – all using Kerto LVL – can be
shown and discussed. Professional project support is also promised.
Complementing Open Source Wood, the Plan B PR campaign includes, supporting expanding upwards with large scale rooftop extensions. Finally, Timber Academy is a sign-up e-info and training resource, to assist
newcomers with first steps in timber design.
Intelligent Forest – Aligned with the Open Source campaign, regarding digital developments, is the wider Metsä Group’s Intelligent Forestprogramme. Finnish Big Data turned towards the forests on the ground, is resulting in subtler data on forests, including potentially each individual tree, its health, strength, weaknesses, and growth, that can then contribute to tracking of the tree’s wood as it traverses the supply chain.
Haitek’s wavy glueless wood – Photo’s Haitek
Along with these three large international players, there are many other
Forest Industry companies in the wood construction sector. Here are a few:
Lunawood; which specialises in heat-treated ThermoWood, Versowood; who produce glulam, Wood Comp Oy; manufacturing pre-fabricated components, CLT Finland; producing, somehow unsurprisingly, CLT, and Kossikan and Veljekset Vaara; cladding materials. Most of these, and many other companies produce and supply sawn wood.
An extensive compendium can be found on PUU-Info’s Wood Products page. A list of Finnish saw milling production is kept here on the international Saw-Mills Database site.
Alongside Stora Enso’s LVL and ThermoWood, timber material development also happens in small-scale companies. One example is Aalto Haitek, who recently developed a wavy glue-less timber WLT system, that has received media attention across the Nordic world.
Finnish Forestry Association is involved in forest education at the wider general public level – Photo Saku Ruusila/Finnish Forestry
Forest Timber Council – The Forest Timber Council runs Puuinfo – one of the main media platforms for the forest industry with subsidiary Wood Products and Wood Architecture sites, and a downloadable Puu or Wood Magazine.
Finnish Forest Industries Federation/FFIF (Metsaeollisuus) – lobbying organisation representing 77 companies, including the big three, promoting their members and Finland’s Forest Industry. Regular reports, data sets, stats, and communication projects, with focus on wider European, and specifically EU, context. Their wood construction data and stats page is here.
Federation of the Finnish Woodworking Industries (Puutuoteteollisuus ry) – representing Finnish woodworking and wood product industry companies, in existence since 1940 though in its current form from 2015 on. Its main activities are focused on lobbying at both the national and European levels, and conducts work on standardisation, R&D coordination, the environment, and communication, with the objective of supporting and promoting Finnish wood.
The International ThermoWood Association – founded in 2000 on the back of the development of ThermoWood in Finland, the association is comprised of sixteen members from different countries (although primarily Finland). The association owns the ThermoWood trademarked name and promotes its members’ brand of modified wood. It provides a network for members and support in promoting ThermoWood at an international level.
Forest Product Engineers (Puunjalostus Insinoorit)
existence since 1914, the Forest Product Engineers provides an extensive
network for professionals working across Finland’s Forest Industry. Focused on
the technical and engineering dimension in the pulp and paper production parts
of the sector, the organisation supports members through its networks, regional
centres and meetings, professional development and training, media and related
information, as well as contributing reports and research, and engaging with
the Government regarding the interests of its members.
The Finnish Forest Association – provides information, courses and other educational programmes broadening knowledge and awareness about Finnish Forests. Their Forest.fi web-magazine includes a broad cross-section of articles and other information on forest culture, with an educational slant.
Finnish Sawmilling Association – promotional organisation for sawn timber and sawmills across Finland, representing the larger timber manufacturing players.
FSC Finland – A chapter of the international FSC network, FSC Finland (link to Finnish language site) opened in 2012, states that around 8% of Finnish forests are FSC certified. The organisations works with forestry sector companies to increase certification, including the development of a strategic partnership between UPM and FSC International in 2017.
Suomen metsäkeskus (the Finnish Forest Centre) – tasked with supporting forestry and related livelihoods. State funded, the Finnish Forest Centre offers services through its Metsään.fi-eServices portal supporting and connecting forest owners to forest professionals and the industry.
The relationship between government offices to the
country’s forests is unusually prominent in Finland, due to the importance of
the sector to the economy.
The country’s forest policy went through a major reappraisal with the 1997 Forestry Act, which was revised again between 2011 and 2013, as the emergence of the bioeconomy became a central pillar in the then Government administration’s economy policy. The Bioeconomy Strategy in 2014, led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, was updated in 2020.
The Department of the Built Environment sits within the Ministry for the Environment and is responsible for the construction sector, including regulation oversight, land use policy, and community development.
Metsähallitus – the state-run organisation is responsible for administering the state’s forest and other land and water areas – in total 12 million hectares – including the country’s national nature parks and other protected areas.
Bioeconomy.fi is a media and communication portal into the Finnish bioeconomy and its platform of initiatives including a Wood and Forest page.
VTT is the Government owned research and business incubation and commercialisation hub – see Research 1 section
Aerial photo of Metsa Wood’s new Kemi mill – Photo Metsa Wood
The forest and wood sector
are at the heart of the Finnish bioeconomy, because as has been noted, ‘in
Finland the forest is the bioeconomy.’ Replacing the digital industry as the
locus for Finland’s future fortunes, the strategy has returned economic attention
to both the forest sector, and the vast forested (if sparsely populated) rural
regions, after many years of focus on urban-based economic growth. The
bioeconomy was regarded initially as creating a new greener economic landscape,
with forests providing new bio-based and sustainable products and materials
developed primarily though chemical and biotechnological processes. At its
outset, the bioeconomy was estimated to value €60 billion, which could with
government and industry support, research and innovation, grow to €100 billion
The strategy also promoted large increases in forest harvesting, encouraged without triggering the penalties brought on by over-felling. According to Luke, the Forest Research Institute, and the government body tasked with such calculations, forest harvesting has since risen from 65 million to 75-77 million m3 annually, in part to support a shift to forest-sourced biomass replacing coal as the power source for energy supply. Legislation passed by parliament also included larger forested areas being opened for felling for bioenergy and biomass production and presented as part of the country’s parallel sustainability strategy, not least since felled forests were to be replaced by afforestation.
Graph of the Forest Research Institute’s (Luke) forest logging stats – Image Luke
These shifts were mirrored
in steps taken by the major industry companies. Stora Enso for instance,
rebranded themselves as ‘the renewable materials company’, selling off
significant portions of its paper and pulp mills, alongside bioeconomy
investments across their business. Across many academic networks, research was
and has since shifted to pursuing this bright sustainable future. Timber in
construction has featured strongly. Yet, just as the new felling quotas were
passed in law, post-Paris Cop 21 EU Climate regulation regarding member states’
carbon footprint reduction raised inconvenient questions of how forests could
act as effective carbon sinks – at the heart of Finland’s carbon reduction
strategy – if more and more forest was being felled.
Since 2015 these logging
statistics, and specifically the carbon sink figures, given they are an element
in the Government’s climate negotiations with the EU, have received increasing
scrutiny. Questions over their legitimacy, with academics questioning whether
the accuracy and independence of Luke’s carbon sink accounting, have dogged the
This tension has continued. Carbon related contradictions and questions have multiplied and the bioeconomy has lost its sustainable shine. Indeed for critics, Finland’s bioeconomy is another chapter of ‘More of Everything’, a critique originating from Sweden of industrial forestry in its newly minted 21st century sustainable industries guise. In the critique, industrial forestry is indeed increasing, but this is counter-balanced by reforestation, and so is sustainable action. For critics it is a PR sleight of hand. The impression is given of embracing and addressing environmental concerns, but the weight of political decisions dependably favour industry requirements rather than environmental needs, such as biodiversity and the future health of Finland’s catchment of the northerly boreal and old-growth forests. The very small remnant areas of old-growth forests along the edges of the country continue to be at risk, say campaigners, and clear cut felling lso continues in the far north and east of the country, far from Helsinki and the southerly centre of Finnish political and cultural life.
The election of a
centre-left Social Democratic-led Government in 2019, was followed the next
year by an updated and renewed bioeconomy strategy review. The same year, 2020,
the new Government committed to reach net zero carbon neutrality by 2035
through a measure of packages including energy tax reforms, nature
conservation, rail infrastructure investment, and updated sustainability rules
for biomass and bioenergy generation. The legislation also committed the
country to do so without carbon credits, phasing out coal and peat by the date,
both major sources of the country’s main energy emissions.
Contentions around logging (still at the higher level of 77 million m3 tonnes), biomass, and methodologies of arriving at carbon sink levels continue. A new planned mill at Kemi – increasing felling by 4.5 million m3 annually – and further timber sites anticipated in the near future, suggests that the divisions across Finnish society is nowhere near ending. Carbon neutrality will require approaching a three-fold reduction in emissions. Finland, despite projecting its Boreal forested green image and net zero carbon ambition, is, per capita, one of Europe’s highest carbon emitters. Emissions are coming down, falling to 48.3 million tonnes in 2020, down from 53.1million tonnes in 2019, and from 58.8 million tonnes in 2016, but given the effect of Covid in 2020 the figure may be less representative than the previous year.
In April 2021 it was revealed that the Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin (along with her Swedish counterpart, Stefan Löfven), had lobbied the EU in a letter to remove the acknowledged ecological ‘close-to-nature’ forestry approach from the EU’s classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activity. The slow fuse stand-off between the Forest Industries and both Finland’s green activist wing and much of the environmental scientific community remains unresolved, the two parties far apart. In the meantime, the industry continues its investment in technologically sophisticated new plants, and a swelling tide of new bioeconomy products and services continues apace.