Stora Enso fosters sustainability through digital transformation has been saved
Cover image by: Jim Slatton
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Stora Enso, a major European renewable materials company, set out on a journey more than five years ago with the goal of becoming a leader in sustainability. With Finland setting climate-neutrality targets for 2035 within the land use, forestry, and agriculture sectors, the Helsinki-headquartered company prioritized the use of emerging technologies.1
Stora Enso leadership set aside an innovation fund to which employees could apply with ideas for growth, operational efficiency, and strategic initiatives. These innovation initiatives would then leverage new technologies and scale as needed. According to Mathias Nilsson, senior vice president and owner of the Sustainable IT initiative, the fund was a game-changer: “This changed our entire culture to be more curious, and to solve problems we saw in our daily work.”2
With the fund and the leadership mandate in place, Stora Enso started to review how its IT team could contribute to sustainability. “We approached this on two fronts. Number one is to be on top of our own IT operations and the overall IT estate and the impact it has. Defining and measuring relevant KPIs guides us to act in areas that matter the most. At the same time, we continue to explore how we best leverage new technologies to make our operations and business even more sustainable,” explains Nilsson.
Through data analytics, the IT team helped Stora Enso create digital advisors that used historical information to anticipate production issues. For Stora Enso’s mills that turn wood pulp into paper and renewable packaging materials, these advisors suggest predictive maintenance to avoid costly breaks that could halt production. “With fewer breakdowns, we have more efficient, and thus more sustainable, usage of raw materials because we reduce waste,” says Nilsson.
Stora Enso is one of the world’s largest owners of private forest land, which means taking inventory of trees and other resources can be a laborious process. Nilsson’s team drove major efficiencies by launching drones that use computer vision to count trees and monitor the well-being of flora and fauna. “Drones help us catch infestations in the trees, such as bark beetles, before they spread and harm the forest,” says Nilsson. As trees move from the forest to the woodyard, computer vision is again used to imprint a digital identity and accelerate the sorting of logs. Going forward, Stora Enso’s ambition is to develop a digital twin of an entire forest to track and protect biodiversity.
To advance Stora Enso’s digital capabilities and scale up even more innovative solutions for sustainability, the existing workforce is now being reskilled and trained. “We’ve been deploying robotic process automation (RPA) to reduce repetitive work, so our people have the time to find new areas of interest and capabilities,” says Nilsson. Although employees viewed automation with hesitation at first, after a few successful examples, people began to see RPA as an opportunity to engage in higher-value activities and problem-solving.
As Stora Enso continues its sustainability journey alongside emerging technology, the IT team plans to set and meet extremely high targets. In addition to leadership-level sponsorship, sustainability targets are even part of IT employees’ personal goals. Says Nilsson, “It’s in our DNA. We live and breathe sustainability.”