Lena Ek comments on Södra’s sustainability targets
On 6 September, Södra announced 15 sustainability targets, of which three apply across the Group and have been assigned the same status as Södra’s financial targets. Chairman of the Board Lena Ek views this as a large and important step.
Sustainability constitutes an important part of Södra’s strategy and brand. We have worked together for many years to develop better work methods and planning. Naturally, forest owners want their forest estates to grow financially and for this to occur in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible. Södra initiatives such as green and blue driving licenses are appreciated by members, employees and contractors. Used correctly, know-how in the area of sustainability also contributes to improving financial growth. For example; soil compaction and damage caused by vehicles are destructive and therefore the soil protection guarantee comprises a key part of an approach to forest management that improves the situation for everybody.
In recent years, employees, members, partners and various stakeholders have contributed to a major strategic project that will take us one step further. A total of 15 sustainability targets have been carefully developed for the Group. They are based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which have sustainable economy, social development and environmental consideration as common pillars. While our targets take their point of departure from these, they naturally focus on the forest, fibre and the economies of the forest estates. The Board has now resolved to adopt the strategy and assign extra importance to three targets, elevating them to Group-wide sustainability targets. They have the same status as our financial targets and the structure for determining actions and follow-up will be similar to that applied to our financial key indicators.
Firstly, Södra’s production is to be fossil-free by 2020, and Södra’s transport activities are to be fossil-free by 2030. We have come a long way since making the decision to develop district heating, produce green electricity from surplus heat and use secondary flows in our pulp production. Pulp in itself is the basis for many products that lead to improved health and a better environment for large numbers of people and our mills are already essentially fossil-free in operation. The environmental benefits of timber houses are extensive. Our development work in the energy field has yielded great respect, alleviated the problem of waste and more clearly distinguished our brand, but it is also an important aspect that represents a significant part of the added value we offer. Södra accounts for about 5 percent of Sweden’s production, which is something to be proud of. We have the ability to continue along the same path. More energy, more vehicle fuel, smarter transportation and other innovative solutions.
The second target is for forest growth on estates owned by Södra’s members to increase by 20 percent between 2015 and 2050. Although this is also a challenging target, the combination of know-how, technological advancements and better saplings and methods will ensure that this target can be reached. All of this is – of course – based on us efficiently and sustainably managing our forests. But it is particularly important that part of our innovation and research activities focuses on improving the forests of our members. We can already see how the number of non-approved final harvesting sites has fallen dramatically over the past five years. This is just one example of how biological diversity, social values and cultural values can go hand in hand with modern forest management. The amazing Nordic fibre can constitute the building blocks of so many fossil-free materials and this fibre growth is necessary. However, to achieve such an ambitious growth target, it must be possible for family forestry businesses to keep control of their land, thus retaining the balance between production and environmental protection.
The third target is zero tolerance for workplace injuries and to achieve a 15 percent reduction in the injury frequency rate by 2020. In terms of industry and forestry as a whole, we already maintain a relatively low level, have a strong organization and focus intently on preventing workplace injuries at home and at work. Nevertheless, this issue is so important that the Board has decided to strengthen our Group-wide commitments and actions.
Sustainability not only represents an important part of Södra’s strategy and brand. Proactive sustainability work is also a basic prerequisite in efforts to ensure a sustainable society moving forward. Södra’s initiative to establish governing sustainability targets for its operations represents a further step on the journey towards achieving this wider objective. Our work has only just begun.
Lena Ek, Chairman of Södra