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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Transforming the pulp and paper industry

In the wake of the planned transition to zero carbon operation across all European industries by 2050, the pulp and paper industry is facing an uncertain future. Changes in demand for various fibre products, evolving regulatory framework for wood biomass, and great uncertainty over potential future new markets in polymers and consumer products create a very large and complex decision space. This Fellowship will attempt to identify a path towards a sustainable pulp and paper industry, focusing on the potential of novel applications of wood fibre, and use of wood-based feedstocks in the chemicals and materials markets. This will be achieved through the generation of evidence-based scenarios, extending the system to neighbouring industries, and the use of new tools of systems analysis and optimisation.

Applications in practice

  • Business strategies and models
  • Measures, targets and disclosure

Contribution to CISL’s core research themes

Zero carbon


Circular economy 


Protection of nature




About the project

Due to changes in product demand, the pulp and paper industry is going through a period of transition, encouraging it to seek new markets and develop new regulatory frameworks that target the environmental impacts of industry. A potential new market for the pulp and paper industry is the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of chemicals, partially replacing the petrochemical-based supply chain. As it can produce a variety of bio-feedstocks, the industry is well-positioned to benefit from the emerging circular bioeconomy while also continuing to serve its traditional markets. There remains, however, significant uncertainty in the future legislative frameworks with regards to the impact of industries on biodiversity, and the pulp and paper industry may also face competition for woody biomass with eco-construction and bioenergy sectors.

Impact and relevance

This Fellowship explores how the pulp and paper industry can find a feasible path towards sustainable transformation, in particular through environmental assessment of novel applications of wood-based feedstocks in the manufacture of bio-renewable chemicals.

The challenge of modern industrial transformation and the identification of sustainable and competitive net-zero technologies is that it is happening within largely uncertain technological and policy environments, with implications which define future investments in new technologies. Any attempt to identify whether a technology has a chance of survival, environmental and economic assessments of current technologies should therefore be supported by scenarios of policy and other technological developments. During this Fellowship, analysis of this complex and dynamic interacting system will be undertaken, allowing the development of new decision support tools.


The work consists of five work packages and focuses on the following problems:

  • Identification of sustainable amounts of wood biomass available in Europe.
  • Scoping of technologies for manufacturing molecules from biomass with high market potential.
  • Life cycle assessment of the identified processes.
  • Development of a decision support methodology for analysis of dynamic interacting systems of policies and competing supply chains.
  • Generation and evaluation of scenarios of potential development of wood biomass as a feedstock to sustainable chemicals supply chain.

Collaborators and funding

This work is supported by a philanthropic gift from Sappi.

This project involves partnerships with both biochemical industries and academic institutions.


Dr Polina Yaseneva

The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow in Transforming the Pulp and Paper Industry, supported by Sappi

'The Prince of Wales Global Fellowship Programme gives me a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of sustainable society, where relationship between humankind and nature are defined by humankind's rational activities.'

Dr Polina Yaseneva

“We jumped at the opportunity to support a Prince of Wales Fellow, recognising that the next stage of evolution of the pulp and paper industry will be radically different from previous stages, multifaceted and deeply collaborative with industrial and policy partners – in short complex, and amenable to fundamental research support.”

Berry Wiersum, Sappi