For Suominen, environmental responsibility means efficient utilization of resources with the smallest possible impact on environment. We continuously strive to reduce environmental impacts caused by our operations.
The most significant environmental impacts resulting from nonwovens production include consumption of water and energy, generated greenhouse gases and landfill waste and we regularly follow these consumption and emission levels. We published our revised sustainability agenda in the beginning of 2020 and the work related to setting new targets and KPIs is ongoing. We will report our progress towards our new targets starting in 2020.
Suominen is committed to continuously improving its production efficiency and the efficient utilization of natural resources. Environmental responsibility requires daily commitment and to further develop Suominen’s environmental work, an Environmental Best Practice team was created in 2019. The purpose is to share best practices and knowledge regarding environmental matters between our sites and to find opportunities and solutions to reduce the environmental impacts from our operations.
We operate according to the relevant standardized management systems. All of our sites are certified according to ISO 9001 quality management standard and 7 out of 8 sites’ environmental management systems are certified according to the ISO 14001 standard. In addition, 2 out of 8 production sites’ energy management systems are certified according to the ISO 50001.
Raw materials play a vital role in our business since they account for roughly 60-70% of our expenses. Suominen has over 40 raw material suppliers globally. Suominen uses fiber materials, such as polypropylene, polyester and cellulose-based fibers in nonwoven production. In 2019, the share of raw materials from renewable sources accounted for 58% (53%), most of it being cellulose fibers such as viscose and pulp. We support responsible forest management practices, and we offer nonwovens produced from FSC (FSC-N002523), PEFC and SFI certified raw materials.
Suominen is constantly looking for the solutions to decrease the environmental impacts of nonwoven products throughout the value chain. The efficient utilization of raw materials is therefore one of our top priorities. We are continuously working to find ways to improve our material efficiency and we strive for minimization of waste in our production and finding alternative outlets for non-recyclable production waste.
Water is an essential resource for Suominen as it is used in our nonwoven production processes to bind fibers together into nonwoven fabrics. Approximately 90% of the water taken into our processes is returned back to the water bodies or sanitary sewer systems, which means that only 10% of our water intake is consumed in our processes, mainly through evaporation. Our water use and discharges are regulated by the national or regional authorities and we constantly monitor the quality of discharged water. All water is treated either in our own or municipal water treatment plants before discharge. The wetlaid production technology that is used at two Suominen production sites requires significantly more water than other production technologies. Wetlaid production accounts for 77% of Suominen’s total water intake.
Suominen has evaluated the scarcity of water at our sites by using Water Resource Institute’s Water Risk Atlas. One of our production sites is located in a “high risk area” where water can be considered a scarce resource. The water intake of this site accounts for approximately 1.5% of Suominen’s total water intake.
In 2019, Suominen’s water consumption per ton of product increased by 10% compared to the year 2018. We managed to improve our water efficiency at most of our production plants. However, our wetlaid production lines consumed more water than previously which impacted our total water intensity rate negatively in 2019.
Our energy consumption consists of the usage of fuels for heat and steam generation and the use of purchased electricity and steam.
In 2019, our energy intensity ratio was at the same level as in 2018. In order to improve our energy efficiency improvement targets, we are putting greater focus on the measuring and optimization of our energy consumption as well as detecting inefficiencies and improvement possibilities at our production sites.
Suominen reports its direct greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1) and its indirect greenhouse gas emissions from purchased energy production (Scope2). Direct greenhouse gases originate from the consumption of fossil fuels mainly used for the generation of process heat. Indirect emissions are caused by the production of purchased electricity and steam. In 2019, our greenhouse gas intensity rate decreased by 2% compared to the year 2018. Improvements in energy efficiency have a direct impact on our greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, all our efforts to improve our energy efficiency also contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions. We are continuously looking for the ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from our operations.
In 2019 the amount of landfilled production waste increased by 26% even though 3 out of our 8 production sites are already generating zero waste to landfill. The main reason for increased waste amount is that we have lost important outlets for our production waste. In waste management Suominen’s first priority is to prevent waste generation in the first place by improving its material efficiency. Secondarily, we are evaluating new possibilities and cooperation partners to utilize our production waste and we expect to see progress in 2020.