Annular Further – Finland – Forest Industry

Stora Enso pulp and paper mill in Veitsiluoto, Kemi, Finland – Photo Estormiz/Wikipedia Public Domain

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.

Organisation and manufacturers
Principal Forest Industry companies
Other timber manufacturing and related companies

Forest industry organisations and promotion groups


Lohja, where the Metsa Wood mill provides energy for the entire town from its bioenergy plant – Photo Metsa Wood.

The forest 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.

The Forest 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).

Figures given 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 the sector.

Organisations and manufacturers

UPM Biofore – Lappeenranta-Biorefinery – Photo UPM Kymmune

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

Principal companies

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 Wood

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 Forest programme. 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

Other companies

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.

Jartek – Finnish companies are also involved in the development of wood processing technology and equipment, for instance, Jartek’s ThermoWood modification kilns, who claim to be the leading thermal modification technology supplier in the world.

Forest industry organisations and promotion groups

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) – in 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 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 Metsää portal supporting and connecting forest owners to forest professionals and the industry.

The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) represents 324,000 local members of agricultural producers and forest management associations.

The Metsämiesten Säätiö Foundation is a private foundation supporting Finland’s Forest Industry sector through grants, awards, and other support.

Government Departments and Agencies

Endless forest – Photo Visit Finland


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.

Government Departments and Agencies

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the forestry sector, and through the National Wood Building Programme is actively promoting timber construction.

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. 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

Climate Change and the politics of the Finnish Boreal Bioeconomy

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 by 2025.

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 sector.

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.