Foreword: Malin Nordin
You could say my connection with Södra began when I was born, because Växjö, home to the company’s HQ, is also my birthplace and where I grew up. I was always aware of Södra’s presence, but not really what the company stood for.
That all changed last year, after I had spent several decades working for IKEA. The appointment of fellow IKEA alumnus Lotta Lyrå as CEO sparked my interest in Södra, because she was known to be a strong business and thought leader in Sweden. Then once I started looking at what might have attracted her to the role, I discovered Södra for myself: a unique cooperative of 52,000 family forest estates who see themselves as custodians of the forest, using the material of the future – wood. As one of IKEA’s global business leaders for wood materials, and after working on IKEA’s circularity strategy for five years, the prospect of working for a company with wood at its heart was highly appealing.
My brief now is to develop every aspect of Södra’s strategy, strengthening yet further sustainability and digitalisation, for example, to ensure that we are as relevant in 50 years’ time as we are today, if not more so. Part of that brief will be to use communication as a strategic tool to position the brand and create our own story, because we have a unique story to tell. Every Södra forest estate is different, each one means different things to its owner - a place to live, to earn a living, to pick mushrooms, to seek solace in nature. But there is a sense of collective responsibility that is greater than the sum of its parts. It binds the members and enables us to take a lead when it comes to responsible forest management and our commitment to a more sustainable future.
Building a brand is also essential to expand our portfolio as the importance of forest products becomes more prominent in the circular economy.
Our existing markets will only gain importance in the post-pandemic world: witness the appreciation of tissue and hygiene papers in keeping us safe during the pandemic, for example, a trend which looks set to continue. However, we are only at the start of the journey to make the most of every harvested tree, from biofuels and other green energy to chemicals. Our task is to create value for our members, which means optimising the value of their forests, operating in the most cost-efficient way and ensuring our products remain relevant in a constantly-changing market. In doing so, we also add value for customers and consumers as we create our own future – it’s a win-win.
To ensure it’s a win for the planet too, we cannot embark on this vision alone. Engagement across the value chain from suppliers to customers and consumers is vital so that all understand the role we can each play in creating a more circular economy. This requires commitment, education to incentivize consumers to make the right choices, communication, and partnership. We hope you will join us.
Malin Nordin, Chief Strategy Officer