Nonwovens Industry: Is Spunlace considered a healthy business for Suominen? What are some of the key challenges facing spunlace makers?
Spunlace, like all nonwovens technologies, has challenges balancing the market over capacity and the continued investments by new players. Veteran manufacturers need to deploy their long history in the market to leverage their learnings and expertise to stay ahead in this evolving marketplace.
NWI: Does wipes growth continue to be central to growth of spunlaced nonwovens? Do you continue to see new opportunities for wipes?
We have just launched our new strategy focused on growth and profitability. When we developed our newly launched strategy we spent time understanding our where to play and decided to leverage our strong reputation as a market leader in wipes. With our new strategy, we affirmed our commitment to this important market. We continue to see growth for new wipe applications in all our core markets
NWI: Do wipes makers continue to value innovation? Explain.
We are seeing a deeper push by retailers and consumers to understand componentry in their products. The new initiative in EU around Single Use Plastics (SuP) has gained traction in all parts of the value chain helping to drive innovation. Therefore innovation continues around various sustainable fibers and other differentiators.
NWI: Can you give some examples of value added innovation, or bells and whistles, Suominen is offering wipes makers?
Suominen has airlaid spunlaced and wetlaid spunlaced assets in Europe and in the U.S. where we can make unique nonwoven products combining pulp and other plant-based, natural fibers. BIOLACE Air is a special pulp-viscose product having ultra soft feel, excellent absorption capacity and quick absorption and moisture retention, making it a perfect substrate for baby and beauty wipes. Last year we launched Bio GENESIS, a truly sustainable nonwoven made on our newest asset in Bethune. What makes Bio GENESIS special is that while being eco-friendly, it has great fluid management, it is strong with great dimensional stability and it has superior tactile performance (great to touch, great cleaning). It is the first sustainable single layer wetlaid substrate that meets the toughest strength and superior cleanability requirements of household or professional wipes. Bio GENESIS is three times stronger than paper towels, it is 100% plastic free and biodegradable.
NWI: What percentage of Suominen’s sales are outside of the wipes market?
Our main focus is on wipes.
NWI: What advantages does spunlace offer in these markets? Can you give me some examples of successes in new markets?
Spunlace technology offers the widest array of options for raw material options thus delivering wide range of targeted performances depending on the requirements.
NWI: How important is sustainability in the spunlace market? What efforts has Suominen made to improve its sustainability efforts?
Sustainability is one of the cornerstones of our new strategy and as part of our business strategy work, we also renewed our sustainability agenda. Our sustainability agenda consists of four themes which are the most important to our business and stakeholders. These themes are people and safety, sustainable nonwovens, low-impact manufacturing, and corporate citizenship. Sustainability is of ever growing importance to our customers and stakeholders. We help our customers to achieve their own environmental targets by offering them products made from e.g. renewable, recycled, compostable and plastic-free raw materials.
The EU Plastic Strategy and the limitations it sets for single-use plastic products will challenge businesses to develop alternatives with lower environmental impacts. One of the key focus areas of our research and development work is sustainability. We are continuously developing new, more environmentally friendly products for our sustainable product portfolio. Our goal is to offer carbon footprint calculations for all of our products in 2020. A longer-term goal is to add other responsibility indicators to the sustainability index of our products. For us sustainability does not just mean more environmentally friendly products and minimizing the environmental impacts of our own operations, we also stress responsible business practices throughout the value chain.
Suominen’s vision is to be the frontrunner for nonwovens innovation and sustainability. As a concrete step towards the frontrunner position in sustainability, it is continuously developing new sustainable products. In addition, it is calculating the carbon footprint of its nonwovens. This information helps customers make sustainability-related decisions that are based on facts.
Many of the biggest global challenges and concerns of our time are related to environmental issues, such as the very topical marine plastic pollution problem, and climate change. As consumer awareness and concern about these issues continues to grow, it is impacting their buying behavior—and increasing the demand for more sustainable solutions. This creates market opportunities for companies that are able to address these challenges and meet the demand for sustainable products and solutions—such as sustainable nonwovens.
Sustainability is embedded in Suominen’s new strategy, with Sustainability leadership as one of the five strategic focus areas. As part of the work to renew its business strategy, Suominen also revised its sustainability agenda to fully support the achievement of the sustainability and growth targets stated in its vision and strategy. The agenda defines the development of more sustainable nonwovens as an area on which Suominen will put added focus.
Open dialogue concerning environmental impacts
Suominen says it is important for it to have an open dialogue with its customers concerning the environmental impacts of different nonwovens, including their greenhouse gas emissions.
“Our customers want to meet the growing demand for more sustainable products. This desire also steers their choice of nonwovens and other materials they use in their own production and that is why they are seeking reliable and objective information about the environmental impacts of our products. One way that we are serving customers in this is by producing product-specific carbon footprint calculations,” explains Sustainability Specialist Minna Päällysaho.
Making customers’ decisions easier with Suominen’s carbon footprint calculations
A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions generated throughout a product’s value chain. Greenhouse gases are generated in the different production phases of the value chain, in transportation, and in the latter part of the value chain when a product is used and finally disposed.
“We have created a concept that clearly visualizes how much greenhouse gases are emitted in the production phase of different nonwovens—from cradle to our factory gate. Our customers can utilize this information when they are choosing the most suitable nonwoven for their purposes and, for example, addressing the changing demand they encounter,” says Päällysaho.
The carbon footprints are only the first step. Suominen also has plans to make the other environmental impacts of its products readily accessible to its customers.
What causes climate change and how to mitigate it?
Climate change is caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere due to human activities, such as fossil fuel consumption in electricity and heat production and transportation.
In general, the increased use of renewable, bio based or recycled raw materials and energy sources is seen as one solution to reduce dependency on fossil materials and to mitigate climate change. An example of another solution is to improve the energy efficiency of industrial processes and all sorts of buildings.
To make choices that support the mitigation of climate change, both consumers and companies need fact-based information on the climate impact of different raw materials and products. A carbon footprint calculation shows the total greenhouse gas emissions that are generated throughout a product’s value chain. This information supports companies when they are deciding on which raw materials and components they will use in their own production in order to meet the growing demand for sustainable products.