Sustainably Managed Forests

Forests provide work and support rural communities as well as creating opportunities for leisure and recreation. Sustainably managed forests balance environmental, social and economic concerns to meet today’s needs, while guaranteeing forests for future generations. They also provide raw material for the cartonboard industry.

  • Forests have many functions: ecological, economic and social. Forests provide jobs, income and raw materials for industry and renewable energy.
  • Forests cover some 159 million hectares of Europe or almost 40% of Europe’s land area.
  • European forests used by the paper and board industry are sustainable.  Not only are they a renewable resource, but every year new growth exceeds the wood harvested by an area equivalent to 1500 football pitches every day.
  • European forests are growing: They grew 58,390km2 between 2005 and 2020.
  • Forest areas today are over 30% larger than in the 1950s.
  • The main suppliers of wood fibre for cartonboard are forests in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and Austria.

The EU Forest Strategy includes a roadmap to planting 3 billion trees by 2030, on top of an estimated 3 billion that are expected to grow on their own by the end of the decade. The EU Forest Strategy for 2030 is part of the Fit for 55 package presented by the European Commission in 2021.  Under the umbrella of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi), the entire pulp and paper industry, including the companies owning and managing forests, supports the EU Forest Strategy.  Our industry believes that consistent afforestation and reforestation efforts should be made in close cooperation among national authorities and companies across Europe.

Sustainable forestry is “the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their bio-diversity, productivity and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems” (European Agreement, Helsinki, 1993).

Sustainable Forest Management is practised by European forest owners and operators who apply “sustainable development” principles when managing their forests.  These cover environmental, economic and social aspects.  European forests used by the paper and board industry are sustainable meaning that every year, more trees area planted than are harvested.

The European forest industry has accepted the principles of sustainable development and practices sustainable forest management.  This involves

  • Binding laws and agreements
  • National laws and regulations
  • EU legislation
  • International agreements such as the Convention on Biodiversity
  • Voluntary actions
  • Company policies that exceed legal requirements
  • Forest certification
  • Forest owners’ own management objectives

The practice of “active forest management” involves harvesting older trees in order to create healthy space to grow young trees.  Young trees absorb more harmful CO2 than older trees do.  When trees are harvested in this way, nothing is wasted.  A tree can be a source of more than 5,000 products:

In 2019, over 500m seedlings were delivered for planting in Finland, Norway and Sweden, equating to:



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Cartonboard and paper are made from cellulose fibres.  In Europe around 50% of paper and board is based on cellulose fibre derived directly from trees (virgin fibre board).  Whilst the rest is derived from recovered paper and board (recycled board), even that material is dependent on being mixed with fibre derived from wood.  European paper and cartonboard mills are mainly supplied with local raw materials.  The wood mainly comes from forests in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and Austria.  European forests used by the paper and board industry are sustainable, since annual growth of new wood exceeds the amount harvested by a large margin.

The paper and board industry uses forest thinnings and only part of the mature tree: the small diameter tops of large trees and sawmill waste.  No tropical rain forests are destroyed to make paper and board.

Harvester processing logs in the forest

Chain of custody is the term used for tracking the origin of the raw material (primary wood fibre) at each stage of the production process all the way to the finished goods.

To prove that the wood used in finished products comes from a sustainably managed forest, manufacturers who produce goods from this raw material need a chain of custody certificate.

Chain of custody certification is awarded by an independent body.  Only when the whole supply chain has been certified can the final products be sold with a label and a corresponding claim on accompanying documentation.

For forest products such as cartons, certifying the chain of custody means verifying that the wood used at each stage of the production process came from a forest certified as being sustainably managed.  It is only valid if each step in the supply chain is checked.

For goods manufacturers and retailers the value of certification is in being able to label their cartonboard packaging as coming from a sustainably managed forest.

With a steady increase in forest certification, it is unlikely that any other industrial sector can match the forest products industries in demonstrating the same level of commitment to sustainability.

Image courtesy of UPM-Kymmene Oyj

Forest owners and operators wishing to demonstrate that their forestry management practice conforms with the appropriate standard can apply to independent, third party, auditing bodies for an assessment of their performance.

Key points about forest management certification:

  • Verifies that a forest has been managed according to a defined set of performance standards
  • Forest certification can cover forest management, plantation management and in the future, biomass energy
  • Forest owners’ management objectives are country-specific and requirements are not identical worldwide.  Therefore some schemes are more appealing than others to forest owners.
  • Provides a logo which communicates sustainable forest management

Data collected by the European Paper Industry Association shows:

  • 89.8% of forests owned or managed by the European pulp and paper industry are forest management certified
  • >90% of the pulpwood we use is sourced from the EU
  • 89.8% of pulp purchased by the European pulp and paper industry is certified
  • 73.8% of wood, woodchips or residues from sawmills we purchase come from forests that are certified

A number of assessment or “forest certification” schemes are in current use, with two leading schemes.

Whilst there is overlap in the types of forest certified by these two schemes, the FSC scheme is more generally applied to large forest areas typical of state and forest industry ownership, whilst the PEFC is generally used for the certification of smaller private and family-owned forests.

PEFC™ (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) Scheme

The PEFC Council is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 1999 that promotes the sustainable management of forests through independent third-party certification.  PEFC provides assurance to buyers of wood and paper products that they are promoting the sustainable management of forests.  With more than 300 million hectares of certified forests (two-thirds of the world’s certified area), PEFC is the largest certification scheme.

Responsible Packaging – a new, forest centric way to look at sustainable packaging – from PEFC

FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) Scheme

The FSC is an independent, non-profit organisation established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. It provides standardisation, brand assurance and accreditation services to companies and organisations interested in responsible forest management.

To prove wood is sourced from sustainably managed forests, the paper industry strongly relies on forest certification, in particular FSC and PEFC: 73% of wood and even 90% of market pulp comes from forest management certified sources. (Source: Cepi)

More Facts About Forests and Cartonboard

  • About 31% of the earth is forested (

  • The area of forest in the EU increased by almost 10% in 1990–2020 (Eurostat).

  • Coniferous forests provide the main raw material for timber-based industries, including cartonboard.

  • Europe has approximately 16 million private forest owners (, and less than 4% of European forests are owned by European paper companies.

  • In 2018, approx. 520,000 people worked in forestry and logging in the EU, with Poland employing the most, around 73,300 people (Eurostat).

  • The largest forests are in Finland and Sweden, where they account for 75% ( and almost 57 % ( of the area respectively.

  • European forests are large enough to provide all the fibre needed for the cartonboard industry on a sustainable basis. 83% of the industry ‘s raw materials are sourced in Europe from responsibly managed forests.

  • In northern Europe the main species of tree used for paper and board production are spruce, pine and birch.

  • In Spain and Portugal, eucalyptus is grown commercially.

  • No tropical rain forests are destroyed in Europe in order to produce paper and board – the wood is not technically suitable.

  • The world consumption of wood is around 3,500 million cubic metres annually. Over 50% of this volume is used for fuel, and 30% for sawn timber products. 12% of harvested wood is used for paper and board, less than a tenth of which is used for cartonboard.

  • In 2020, the EU had an estimated 159 million hectares of forests.

Growing Trees Sustainably Helps To Mitigate Climate Change

Trees grow by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.  As trees grow they remove carbon from the atmosphere and help to reverse the “greenhouse effect”.  This is known as “fixing” carbon.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide by a process known as photosynthesis.  In sunlight, trees convert carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars and oxygen.  The sugar is naturally polymerised into cellulose fibres.

One square metre of wood sequesters one tonne of carbon and releases 0.7 tonnes of oxygen, so forests play an important role in preventing global warming and cleaning the air.  See Carbon Footprint of a Carton.

Cartonboard Life Cycle …