Win-win or verifiers’ paradise?

Sami Lundgren
Sami Lundgren
Vice President, Environment and responsibility
13 November 2013

A month ago my colleague Gabriele Wende wrote a blog about UPM’s long term environmental targets and defined environmental indicators. In her writing she described how UPM’s Environment Team follows the development which is reported in UPM’s Annual Report audited by PwC.

As group level information is combined from UPM’s 50-plus production units, it cannot provide in-depth information about a single production site or product level performance. At the end of the day, the people who live next to our mills and the customers who use our products need to have more detailed information. At the same time there is a dilemma. We often face questions about whether our data is reliable or how a certain mill is performing compared with others in the industry, while at the same time polls measuring reliability are indicating that information given by corporations shouldn’t be trusted. What can we do?

Same criteria and principles to produce verified data

I personally think that all the players on a field should be evaluated by the same criteria and good performance should be rewarded. One way to bring everyone to the same starting line is to use similar reporting principles and verified data.

The widest system I have found so far and one which works at production unit level is the European voluntary EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The EMAS requires companies to publish a third party verified environmental statement with all relevant information. The first UPM mill gained EMAS registration in the early 1990s and today all of our European pulp and paper mills are accredited. After the EMAS scheme was opened up to non-European sites in 2012, UPM’s Fray Bentos pulp mill in Uruguay became the first non-European mill ever to be certified by EMAS. This year UPM Changshu was the first Chinese paper mill included in EMAS. Although EMAS is rather bureaucratic and operating our system across seven countries and three continents isn’t always easy, I think it is worth the effort to provide verified and reliable information to our neighbours and customers.

Product level information is necessary

In addition to company level data, customers and consumers are interested in information about the consumable end product. Thus, we need also something other than production site-based EMAS reports and a corporate Annual Report. Third party verified eco-labels are a good solution for products and are used by UPM, but there aren’t eco-labels for all products. Pulp is a good example of a raw material product without an eco-label including all relevant parameters of its own. Of course pulp has to be approved when used e.g. in eco-labelled papers, but this approval can’t be shown as a label and is thus not a recommendation to be communicated. That’s one of the reasons why additional product-related information is also needed.

UPM Fray Bentos in Uruguay

Let’s take as an example the UPM Fray Bentos mill which produces UPM Euca pulp of Eucalyptus fibre in Uruguay. For UPM Euca, as for all of our pulps, we have created a Pulp Profile which includes parameters such as waste landfilled and nutrients to water, and additionally comprehensive carbon footprint information on a product level. This data is third party verified and the profile is publicly available.

Win-win or verifiers’ paradise?

Third party verification has enabled UPM’s success in disclosing climate change related information in Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) Nordic 260 Climate Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) and wider sustainability related information in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, in participating in WWF’s Environmental Paper Company Index several times and publishing some WWF Paper Scorecards etc.

I’m afraid we have created a modern goldmine for verifiers, but reliability is crucial and we aim to show the way on that front. Do you think we are exaggerating or should others follow?

Link to Gabriele Wende’s blog: Environmental targets show direction

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