Five Minutes With… Walter Schalka, CEO of Suzano

Walter Schalka
Suzano is the largest pulp and paper company in Latin America. With operations in nearly 60 countries and a history dating back 94 years, Suzano is the world’s second largest producer of eucalyptus pulp, one of the ten largest producers of market pulp and the regional market leader in paper for domestic and commercial use. Walter Schalka will be appearing on the CEO Discussion Panel at the World Bioeconomy Forum (WCBEF) virtual event to be broadcast live from Ruka, Finland on 10th September 2020. He spoke to the WCBEF about Suzano’s role in the circular bioeconomy as well as operating in a post COVID-19 world.

How important is the circular bioeconomy to your business and the industries you serve, and do you have a specific, inclusive, bioeconomy strategy for the future for the company you lead? 

Suzano’s traditional business already has many attributes that support the circular bioeconomy. Our forestry practices rely entirely on a plantation model, essentially tree farming, where the trees are replanted every 6-7 years. Our traditional line of products includes market pulp, paper, fluff and tissue products. Beyond that, we have developed a “biostrategy” which aims to diversify our business through the greater use of our forest resources to make new materials that will displace fossil-carbon-based products. These include lignin and cellulose derivatives, which will be incorporated in formulations dominated today by synthetic materials.

Over the coming years, we will transform into a more diverse business where biomaterials will be contributing to the well-being of society. At Suzano we want to be protagonists in this journey, following one of our key drivers: “it’s only good for us if it’s good for the world”. 

Do you see the circular bioeconomy as having an important role in the post Covid-19 world?  

COVID-19 has had a radical effect on our lives in a very short time. We have changed the way we live and we work in order to save lives. As we emerge from COVID-19, there will be a legacy created which will be a demonstration of energy and capacity to change.

The circular bioeconomy is developing, but still below the necessary pace. To accelerate, as it needs to do, it will require society to adapt and to change our habits and, perhaps, to accept a less comfortable life for the greater good. I think that in the post COVID-19 world people will be more receptive to these challenges. Suzano wants to be part of this process, accelerating the development and production of products which will support the circular bioeconomy.

The World Bioeconomy Forum has a diverse range of high-level speakers and panelists, what are you hoping to achieve by taking part in the event, and what are your hopes for the future of the circular bioeconomy?      

Diversity is key to the value and success of the World Bioeconomy Forum. No one has a monopoly on good ideas – no single company, institute, government or NGO has that. I am looking forward to learning from others and to finding and forming partnerships with entities through which we can move further and faster by working together.

My hope is that the circular bioeconomy will begin to dominate the global discourse in the way that COVID-19 has done over these past few months. The climate crisis is as critical to the human race as a pandemic – the pace of the crisis is very different, the impacts are more long term, but the danger is real and palpable. The circular bioeconomy is one of the most important ways in which we can slow and eventually reverse the climate crisis.    

The CEO Panel Discussion at the event will also include: Pasi Laine, CEO, Valmet, Annica Bresky, CEO, Stora Enso, and Mercedes Alonso, Executive Vice President, Renewable Polymers and Chemicals, Neste. The Panel will be moderated by Teresa Presas, Senior Advisor, World BioEconomy Forum, and former Director General, CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries).

Five Minutes With… is a series of interviews being run by the WCBEF to highlight some of the high-level speakers and panellists taking part in the event this year. To view the whole full day programme and register for the event please visit

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