Pioneering the Future of Renewable Materials: Stora Enso’s Remarkable Journey

Arttu Närhi

Arttu Närhi

Stora Enso has evolved to become a vanguard in the renewable materials sector. Check out this post to learn about the company’s focus areas for growth and how working with startups is critical in developing the best possible novel renewable materials.

The history of the traditional pulp, paper, and forestry company dates back hundreds of years as two entities: Stora in Sweden and Enso in Finland, which merged in 1998. In the 21st century, the new company’s focus shifted heavily towards renewable materials and the bioeconomy. 

This transformation underscores Stora Enso's unwavering commitment to innovation and sustainability, driven by a purpose to "do good for people and the planet" by replacing non-renewable materials with renewable ones.

Three focus areas of the transformation journey

Today, Stora Enso focuses on three growth areas driven by high demand and potential for replacing fossil fuel-based materials. Building solutions is an essential focus area for wood products with ~10% annual growth. For novel materials, the focus is on biomaterial innovations, with Stora Enso having a +35% margin in novel markets. 

Most importantly, the Packaging Materials and Solutions focus area is related to the New Barrier Materials and Coating Solutions business opportunity. It has significant growth potential with a +20% margin and is estimated to contribute to most future company growth. Stora Enso’s forest assets, sawmills, and pulp mills support these focus areas. 

This transition is part of a broader strategy to contribute to a greener economy, where the potential of wood as a renewable resource is harnessed to replace fossil-based materials. This strategic shift involved adapting to market trends and leading the charge towards a more sustainable and bio-based economy​.

“The shift towards renewable materials is an imperative step towards a more sustainable future,” says Mikael Hannus, SVP, Group Innovation and R&D at Stora Enso. “Investing time and resources heavily in this sector is not just a competitive advantage, but part of setting a benchmark in ecological responsibility.”

Why should startups work with Stora Enso?

Stora Enso’s business units are seasoned open innovation veterans who continuously work hard to unlock new advantages for their value chains. The company aims to grow by more than 5% annually by investing in innovation. This move is intended to help their customers become 100% circular and position the company for long-term growth. 

Moreover, Stora Enso extends its innovation ethos beyond its operations by partnering with customers, suppliers, academic institutions, and startups to drive sustainability across the value chain. Innovations like Formed Fiber and CartoCan® underscore the company's ambition to replace single-use plastics and other non-renewable materials with sustainable alternatives​​.

“Our partnerships with startups and other ecosystem players are an important part of Stora Enso’s innovation strategy,” says Hannus. “Together, we’re not only developing renewable materials and other sustainable solutions but providing the chance for all our customers and stakeholders to reshape their ecological footprints with a wide range of choices.”

Building on a long road of success

Collaborating with Stora Enso presents a unique opportunity for startups in the renewable materials sphere. Through Combient Foundry, Stora Enso engages with the startup ecosystem to discover and co-create novel solutions. This collaborative framework amplifies the potential to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable materials, creating a win-win scenario for all stakeholders involved.

Through successful partnerships with Imagine Intelligent Materials, Kreo, and Wiiste, for example, we see a long line of successful collaborations between Stora Enso and startups.

Collaboration with startups is a two-way street. It’s an invitation to be part of an exciting voyage, to contribute to the world of renewable materials, and to work alongside a company that’s setting the industry standard.

“We are on the verge of a renewable materials revolution,” Hannus summarizes. “Working with startups is a great way to develop fresh perspectives together. Also, it accelerates the journeys of both parties towards unlocking new sustainable solutions for the market.”

Check out Stora Enso's business opportunity for novel sustainable materials here.