When being stingy became a competitive advantage

Jul 8, 2013

​Republished blog originally by Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa from UPM:

Natural resources are drying up all around the world as the population grows and standards of living improve. By 2030, there will be an additional three billion more consumers with a solid financial standing in the world.

The increased level of consumption gives rise to global concerns: climate change, decreased biodiversity, lack of clean water and rising prices of raw materials. The pressure to protect both renewable and fossil natural resources is increasing.

We all face these challenges together: individuals, companies, authorities and non-governmental organisations.

We should use natural resources sparingly to ensure that future generations will be able to live in a more sustainable world.

Using raw materials sparingly, or resource efficiency, has been discussed by leading enterprises of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and it is one of the flagship projects of EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. The EU requires that its member states recycle, implement a vision to stop waste and introduce smart technologies.

The industrial policy of the future has reached a crossroads: will we achieve the resource efficiency and technological innovations by adopting stricter regulations, or should we promote them by introducing incentives? A workgroup that has drafted the Finnish vision for 2030 focusing on the sparing use of resources believes that regulation is the key. At the same time there is strong evidence from other parts of the world that taking the completely opposite approach works just as well: South Korea supports the development of green technology by means of major national investments.

Being stingy is not just about living sparingly: in the corporate world, it is also a competitive advantage. Large integrated industrial facilities improve their use of energy and raw materials by combining the know-how of various top experts – which is an important competitive advantage. Materials are the main cost item for industrial companies, which means that they tend to pay attention to how they use their raw materials.

By-products of lable is the raw material for ProFi deck.

For example, the forestry industry sees today’s by-products and waste as tomorrow’s raw materials. Materials that end their life in landfill usually amount to less than one percent of all the raw materials originally arriving at a mill. This approach has also led to innovations involving the replacement of non-renewable materials with renewable ones. Resource-efficient innovations have also been developed in the fields of logistics, technology and production.


UPM ProFi deck’s wood-plastic composites are based on recycled material.

In the future, you will be able to choose which you want to use: products manufactured from fossil, renewable or recycled materials. Recycled materials are preferred by many, but products cannot be created based on recycling alone. For example, you can only recycle a newspaper seven times before you will need to use new fibres.

So how can Finland support the progressive industrial policy? The best approach from an industrial viewpoint is to encourage people to use both renewable and recyclable materials. We can create incentives for small companies, reduce the level of bureaucracy, reward businesses for green, responsible and transparent operations and allow them to engage in business more sensibly. Pioneers understand how important resource efficiency is, because common sense dictates that using resources based on the company’s own means is the best way to cut costs.

Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa, VP, Environmental Affairs, UPM

Chairperson of the European Resource Efficiency Platform

World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Liaison Delegate

The article has been published in the Finnish magazine Suomen Kuvalehti on 20 June 2013.

Originally published by UPM on UPM blog: http://www.upm.com/EN/MEDIA/upm-blog/Pages/When-being-stingy-became-a-competitive-advantage.aspx