Interview with CEO at Sappi

Berry Wiersum, CEO at Sappi

Speaker Day 1: Global Trade in Wood Products

The Institute interviews Berry Wiersum, CEO at Sappi Europe, as he prepares to address the Institute’s forthcoming National Conference: The UK’s Role in Global Forestry.

Tell us about your presentation?

I come from the pulp and paper industry and our main raw material is wood, which we source from forests all over Europe. During conversations I had with Geraint Richards MVO MICFor [ICF’s 2019 Conference Chair], he suggested that it might interest conference attendees to hear about what the future of the forestry industry might hold for foresters. So, my talk will be about what is happening on the political front in Europe when it comes to forestry and particularly how it is increasingly growing in importance as both the most cost efficient carbon sink known to man, as well as increasingly a source for alternative materials to fossil-based products. I will touch on how species are likely to change as climate changes; bio-refineries, certification, blockchain technology, barrier technology in paper packaging, bio-composites and energy from wood. I will also briefly discuss future technology and how that is based on plant technology. The forestry profession are going to have a terrific future and interest in it is growing rapidly.

What is the biggest challenge(s) facing global forestry?

In terms of challenges, the UK has a relatively low percentage of its surface area dedicated to forestry and, given the opportunity in the future a major challenge will be how to increase that surface area at a quality level which allows for industrial development. In terms of carbon sinks, managed forestry is probably the most efficient and so there is a double win in developing them. This needs a supportive regulatory framework and aligned interests, which may perhaps be the biggest challenge.

What role should the UK play in global forestry?

I don’t really have a view on what role UK forestry should play in global forestry, aside from the benefits of greater exchange of data. From an industry perspective we do not necessarily look at the role of individual countries, but more at the available species in regions, how they are changing and how surface area, density, quality and harvesting efficiency can be improved.

How did you get into forestry?

I am not a forester, but have been in the pulp and paper industry for 19 years and have a 40-year industrial experience.


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