Fazer Group Marketing and Communications SVP Ulrika Romantschuk and Metsä Fibre Key Accounts and Technical Customer Service VP Tom Nickull readily find common ground. Even though their businesses operate in entirely different sectors, sustainable development has long exerted a powerful influence on both organizations.
Romantschuk points out that perseverance is the key to sustainability. There are no quick profits to be taken.
"Working in the long term is the responsible way," she says, noting that in the case of Fazer everything tends to come down to quality and what this means to a family business.
"Quality is a matter of seeking to do our best in everything and operating responsibly under all present and future circumstances."
Although responsibility has been fundamental to Fazer ever since the business was originally established, this was always more a matter of instinct than deliberate formula. Nowadays the principles of responsibility have been set out in a special policy program.
"Corporate responsibility issues have become matters of strategy that can be directed and measured, and they are part of our everyday work."
Metsä Fibre has invested heavily in sustainable development, with the result that facilities such as the company's Joutseno Mill now use no fossil fuels at all during normal operation:
"In 2011 Metsä Group set targets for sustainable development, some of which extend all the way to the year 2020. The company's goals are always prepared for three years at a time, dovetailing into annual action plans," Tom Nickull explains.
Both Romantschuk and Nickull agree that nobody can run a business from an ivory tower anymore. In an age of social media any company that engages in unfair practices can expect to get caught before long, and the retribution of consumers is often swift and merciless.
Eyes and ears open
As one of Finland's best-loved brands, Fazer operates at the consumer interface, whereas Metsä Fibre sells to corporations. Nickull nevertheless stresses the importance of paying careful attention to stakeholders.
"We must maintain effective channels of communication with interest groups, and ideally these should be proactive and not reactive when issues arise," he insists. In practice this means retaining a feel for the customer and for society in general, and remaining highly sensitive to trends in public opinion.
Romantschuk adds that there is no salvation in having a generally good reputation when some unsavory business practice comes to light:
"A company must engage in continual dialogue with stakeholders, and it must pay close attention to their views when planning for the future. Retaining consumer confidence in the business and in its products or services is essential for any kind of continuity and growth in operations."
Tackling climate change
The main direct environmental impacts of Fazer's manufacturing facilities and restaurants are due to consumption of energy and water, and to by-products and waste arising from raw materials, products and production. All of these areas are closely monitored, with the company also taking active steps to reduce indirect impacts of its operations arising in the supply chain, and at the level of customers and consumers.
Many of Fazer's manufacturing plants and restaurants have chosen to manage their environmental impacts by deploying an environmental system certified to the ISO 14001 standard, and by adhering to Lean operating principles in the form of standardized procedures that serve as a platform for continual improvement.
The main themes of environmental responsibility at Fazer include mitigating climate change, reducing nutrient discharges to waterways, minimizing landfill waste and conserving biodiversity. The importance of the company's work to mitigate climate change, for example, is evident from the fact that food production generates over 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are seeking a 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption per tonne of output in our bakery and confectionery business by the year 2020," Romantschuk explains. Fazer is also keen to increase the proportion of renewable energy used in its operations to 70 per cent by the end of 2017.
A pioneer in renewables
Obviously renewable energy is one of the greatest advantages of Metsä Fibre nowadays. The Finnish forest industry has excelled in optimizing the use of process by-products, with a standout performance by Metsä Fibre even in this elite group.
"In 2013, for example, we further boosted the already high self-sufficiency of our facilities in energy generating," Nickull reports.
Application of optimal practices has ensured that all Metsä Fibre mills now generate more renewable energy than they consume, with surplus electric power and heat distributed to other industrial facilities or local residents. Metsä Group now extracts full benefits from its wood, and also recycles all by-products as usable materials or fuel for generating energy.
Metsä Fibre optimizes raw material use to minimize environmental impacts. The idea is to integrate the principles of sustainable development into every aspect of daily operations.
"Certified operations and products improve transparency, which is an important basic principle of our work," Nickull says. The system standards universally applied at Metsä Fibre mills include ISO 9001 quality management, ISO 14001 environmental management, ISO 18001 safety management, ISO 22000 food safety management and ISO 50001 energy management.
Nickull stresses the close link between the efficient, sustainable use of raw materials and energy and the company's long-term plans for improving resources and performance:
"Even though we need a lot of water in our mill processes, for example, and our facilities operate in locations with plentiful local lake or river water available, we are keen to make sure that water is not wasted under any circumstances."
Fazer has also identified resource efficiency as a key issue. Cutting production waste is an important company objective, as Fazer is committed to reducing the negative environmental impacts of its operations.
The company has begun talking about "zero waste" meaning that all waste generated in manufacturing, catering and administration will be recycled with optimal efficiency, applying the waste hierarchy principles of prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and final processing.
"A review of our bakery and confectionery operations indicates, for example, that most of our waste is recycled or used for generating energy," Romantschuk says.
Fazer has also realized that energy and water consumption and use of materials have a real impact on biodiversity, and the company has made various efforts to influence these aspects in operations ranging from raw material sourcing to manufacturing and sales. Romantschuk cites application of the WWF fish species classification at Fazer as an example of these efforts: "We have removed fish species from our selection that are endangered, heavily overfished, or subject to destructive fishing methods." Fazer has also issued a Baltic Sea Action Group Commitment to promoting marine ecological balance.
On the same wavelength
A congruence of corporate principles and operations is evident in the dialogue between Romantschuk and Nickull, with each in turn identifying parallel policies on various aspects of sustainable development. The main difference is really only a matter of public perception: with the popular view holding that Fazer products have a pleasing aroma compared to a malodorous pulp mill.
"Modern pulp mills only discharge unpleasant odors when there is some malfunction nowadays, but this nevertheless remains a persistent public image problem," Nickull explains.
Romantschuk feels that the pulp and paper industry has done a great deal of work for the environment, but these good deeds have not always been publicly acknowledged:
"The Finnish business community clearly takes sustainable development very seriously, but its operators do not always get the credit that they deserve."
It is too often forgotten in the case of Metsä Fibre that wood is a renewable raw material that is sourced and supplied to mills by Metsä Forest. This company is owned in turn by the Metsäliitto Cooperative, which unites 123,000 private forest owners in Finland and is a pioneer of forest certification. The precise origin of Metsä Forest wood is always known, with certification ensuring optimal practices in forest management and use.
As much as 87 per cent of the wood used by Metsä Fibre in 2013 was certified. By contrast less than 10 per cent of the world's forest has been certified so far, mostly in Europe and North America.
Under the cocoa tree
The business operations of Fazer also have a limited connection with trees, insofar as the company depends on the cocoa harvest. The corporate aim is to certify that all of the company's cocoa is responsibly produced by the year 2017.
"We are only certifying 40 per cent of it so far," Romantschuk admits.
"Our responsibility criteria are satisfied when the business is viable for farmers, people in cocoa plantation communities are doing well, and the methods of cultivation are environmentally sustainable." The current problem in this field is that no certification process can guarantee traceability throughout the supply chain.
In line with sustainable development
The business strategy of Metsä Group is based on sustainable development, incorporating the three pillars of financial, environmental and social responsibility. We provide products and services that enable customers to reduce their environmental impacts and make more responsible choices. Our main raw material is renewable and sustainably grown wood. All of our products can be recycled, and are good substitutes for many other carbon-intensive products.
THE MAIN POINTS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - EFFECTIVE STRATEGIC PLANNING
PLAN EFFECTIVELY. THE BEST RESULTS COME THROUGH A LONG-TERM APPROACH THAT CALLS FOR CAREFUL PLANNING, SO BE SURE TO ALLOCATE ENOUGH RESOURCES TO PREPARING A STRATEGY.
2 TAKE CHARGE OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS. THE DANGERS OF PIECEMEAL OPTIMISATION ARE OBVIOUS WHEN THE PERSPECTIVE IS UNDULY NARROW, SO MAKE SURE THAT THE RIGHT HAND KNOWS WHAT THE LEFT HAND IS DOING.
3 WORK SYSTEMATICALLY. YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY, SO LEARN HOW TO PRIORITISE AND ORGANIZE OPERATIONS.
4 ACT LOCALLY. ADJUSTING TO LOCAL OPERATING CONDITIONS IS IMPORTANT WHEN DEPLOYING A STRATEGY. THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA THAT WORKS ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE.
5 SET A HIGH STANDARD. A BUSINESS CULTURE COMMITTED TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IS ESSENTIAL TO ENSURE THAT SUCCEEDING BECOMES A HABIT.
6 COMMUNICATE ALL ROUND. MAINTAIN REGULAR CONTACT WITH ALL STAKEHOLDERS. LISTEN MORE AND SAY LESS, BUT DON'T J HESITATE TO EXPRESS IMPORTANT POINTS.
7 BE PATIENT. THE WORLD IS FULL OF QUICK AND EASY FIXES, BUT DURABLE OUTCOMES TAKE TIME TO ACHIEVE. THIS IS NOT A SUBJECT FOR THE QUARTERLY MENTALITY.