¦ UPM has redefined itself as the Biofore Company.
¦ The term reflects biomass-based products from timber to biofuels.
¦ UPM is the largest redwood producer in Finland.
¦ It has dropped the name WISA from its sawn timber products and rebranded them UPM.
¦ It has regular services into Tilbury and Hull.
¦ UPM’s 1 million ha of forest in Finland are PEFC certified.

Various eras of development – the iron age, the steam age, the industrial revolution – have shaped society and the world, and now UPM is preparing for what it regards as the next big era: biofore – the age of sustainability and bio-based industry.

When UPM launched the concept last year, redefining itself as The Biofore Company, it also unveiled its strategy to lead “the integration of bio and forest industries into a new, innovation-driven future”.

The unique term reflects the Finnish company’s forestry-based business, or what it calls “the new forestry industry”, incorporating biomass-based products from timber through to biofuels; and its “position at the forefront” of a sustainable forestry industry and developing sustainable solutions.

“Biofore is essential to UPM’s image; it encompasses everything we do,” said Joanne Nurminen, marketing manager of UPM Timber, UK.

For UPM Timber, another important development is the rebranding of its sawn timber products from WISA to UPM. The WISA brand will be retained for the plywood.

New packaging

Now all UPM timber products coming into the UK have been renamed with the new UPM brand. The new packaging, which incorporates the company’s distinctive griffin logo, also reflects this change.

While UPM does produce whitewood, it is the largest redwood producer in Finland, with annual capacity of 1.4 million m³, and it is redwood that’s the focus for the UK. “For redwood joinery, the UK is UPM’s largest export market, so it’s hugely important,” said Ms Nurminen.

UPM does produce sawn timber in standard grades and dimensions but it concentrates heavily on higher quality sawn products in the UPM+ range. It covers the full gamut of grades, from decking and live knotted furniture grades to the top-of-the range UPM+P, or Prime, which is kiln-dried, green-split and centre-free to produce timber which has two virtually clear adjacent faces. The product, which UPM has produced for 20 years, carries a price premium but the virtually knot-free faces mean less waste – and ultimately cost – for joinery manufacturers. UPM+P is available in a range of sizes tailored specifically to joinery end uses.

UPM is Finland’s only green-split supplier and this is another area where it sees itself as leading change, helping sectors like joinery which is often not good at calculating waste.

Among its engineered products are UPM Lamwood – laminated panels made from 40-45mm-wide lamells.

Two other products which are now making inroads in the UK are UPM Evodeck – water repellent-coated decking; and UPM Facade exterior cladding. Made from whitewood and available in five factory-applied colours, UPM Facade was used recently on the Aurora low carbon house built by South Lanarkshire College and Dawn Homes as a training tool for the construction industry.

Green-split products

Despite the low demand and tight margins over the past two or three years, UPM has continued to invest in its green-split products. Originally the green-split range was produced at the Heinola mill but during the last few years it has been transferred to Korkeakoski and Kaukas mills where it is integrated into the lines. Last year UPM invested in a state-of-the-art green-split line at Kaukas and upgrading the kilns to improve kilning quality. In addition, Kaukas, Kajaani, Korkeakoski and Seikku mills all use X-ray technology in log quality sorting, and there is ongoing improvement of camera grading at Alholma mill which supports visual grading.

“We’re constantly looking at development,” said Ms Nurminen. “If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s change and you need to be ahead of the game.”

UPM’s 1 million ha of forest in Finland are PEFC certified and this is part of the basis of the company’s biofore identity. “Biodiversity is a key driver,” said Ms Nurminen.

Interactive website

The entertaining and informative Forest Life interactive website ( explains the company’s forest stewardship, while on the ground, UPM is involved in biodiversity projects in many of the countries in which it operates. In the UK it is helping to restore populations of the threatened black grouse by creating appropriate habitats in Llandegla Forest in Wales.

In Uruguay the company protects the native yatay palm in the forests it manages, and in the US it has signed a “conservation easement” on 76,000ha of its Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified forest in Minnesota. This ensures that the biodiversity, wetlands and waterways, and public access are all preserved.

UPM’s biofore business also extends to sustainable and renewable energy and, with biomass plants at each of its Finnish production sites, it is more than energy self-sufficient – it is Finland’s second largest electricity producer, selling what it doesn’t use to the country’s national grid. In 2009 it invested €244m to build the Kaukaan Voima power plant at its Kaukas mill. The facility, Finland’s largest biomass plant, generates 385MW of thermal power and 12MW of electricity.

“And although we produce all this energy, we’re still trying to minimise what we use,” said Ms Nurminen.

Carbon footprint

In addition, UPM is constantly working to reduce its carbon footprint and work is under way to produce carbon footprint data for all products.

Now UPM wants to take its renewable energy interests a step further by producing the biofuels biodiesel, bioethanol and bio-oil. “We want to become a major producer of biofuels in Europe,” said Ms Nurminen.

In 2009, in co-operation with the Technical Research Centre of Finland, UPM and Metso developed a biomass-based bio-oil and UPM has permission to build a biorefinery in Kaukas. It is also looking at the viability of building a biodiesel plant in either Rauma in Finland, or Strasbourg. The refinery would use logging residues, bark and stumps to produce fuel through a gasification process.

While the growing use of biomass for energy does concern many in the timber industry, UPM believes biofuel production goes hand-in-hand with its other activities.

“It actually complements timber production,” said Ms Nurminen. “We make biofuels from the byproducts of the timber trade – chips, stumps, bark – so it gives more justification to producing timber products because you wouldn’t want to use high quality logs to produce energy.”

It is also an essential part of UPM’s biofore strategy which signals the age of sustainability and timber.

“The timber industry is very old but because of the need for sustainability, it’s coming into its own,” said Ms Nurminen. “It puts timber in a fantastic position.”