Opportunities and Challenges in the Emerging Bioenergy Business: The Case of the Finnish Sawmill Industry


  • Minli Wan Member of the Forest Products Society
  • Katja Lähtinen
  • Anne Toppinen Member of the Forest Products Society
  • Matti Toivio


The resources of currently dominant fossil fuels are limited, and their use causes greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, the public interest within the European Union has changed toward using renewable energy. Finland’s forest industry is one of the world leaders in producing and utilizing wood-based bioenergy. Hence, it is of interest to evaluate new value-creation opportunities and the consequent challenges that face the Finnish sawmill industry. In order to identify the strategic resources that enable developing competitive advantages in the emerging bioenergy field, we applied the natural resource-based view of strategy to the sawmill industry. In the empirical part, qualitative semi-structured interviews with managers of 23 sawmills based on the Delphi methodology were conducted in two phases. We identified partnerships with local community heat plants as a strategic resource for providing new business opportunities, apart from raw material availability and existing technologies. Although the Finnish sawmills have a long tradition in energy production, most energy-related investments have been made only during the past decade, and the sawmills would be keenly interested in increasing the efficiency of using their by-products through new investments. In conclusion, the Finnish sawmill industry being the local producer of wood-based bioenergy can support meeting the ambitious national target for renewable energy production for 2020. However, the volatile bioenergy policy changes act as a major factor of uncertainty in predicting the future development of the business environment and further increase the risk level for future investments. Keywords: opportunities, challenges, bioenergy, Finnish sawmill industry. Received 27 December 2011, Revised 22 March 2012, Accepted 19 April 2011.