Jérôme Cabaret, Chief Commercial Officer of Panneaux de Corrèze, tells us about his company, which is active in the wood sector and deeply rooted in a region known for its timber. The company’s vision has led it to look for alternative, non-petrol-based solutions. This philosophy resonates with the Green by Evertree Project, which was launched by Evertree in an effort to unite the entire ecosystem and deliver solutions that are better for human health and the environment.

 

Next, the first product of its kind in the world, showcases French ingenuity and was made possible by the partnership between Evertree and Panneaux de Corrèze. Grounded by deep roots in Corrèze, this MDF panel production company is active in the European market, delivering technical solutions sourced from local raw materials (within a 70 kilometer radius). We interviewed Jérôme Cabaret, Chief Executive Officer of Panneaux de Corrèze, who took over the plant in 2015 with two partners, Pascal Casanova and Philippe Mocaer, in an effort to save jobs and make the production of 100% made-in-France MDF panels that are better for human health and the environment a reality by 2025.

How long has your plant existed and what is your core business?

 

The location of our MDF wood panel plant in the town of Ussel, in Corrèze, is one of its greatest assets. We have been selling MDF panels for many years, and we produce and sell approximately 135,000 cubic meters of MDF panels annually.

 

The plant was founded in 1988 by François Pinault, with the aid of Jacques Chirac, who was Prime Minister (and a presidential candidate) at the time. The goal was to demonstrate job creation potential in Corrèze. We acquired the plant in 2015. Other local businesses and regional agencies helped by investing in the project with us. François Hollande, who was the second French president to hail from Corrèze, was involved as well. That’s why I like to call it the “plant of two presidents.” Thanks to this local support, we are now well established in the region. In addition, we take part in wood sector initiatives like Fonds Forestier in Limousin, with whom we are replanting trees.

 

We employ some 100 people in the plant and helped create 250 indirect jobs in the region. The plant has essentially created its own ecosystem. All raw materials (98% of our supply) are sourced from within a 70 km radius of the plant.

Tell us about the origin of Next, the first-ever bio-based MDF panel, created in Corrèze.

 

Our plant employees are fiercely proud of this panel – the first of its kind in the world – which was born out of a collaboration between two companies that share the same philosophy and concern for the environment. Two companies that use production byproducts. At our plant we use a sawmill byproduct, the part of the tree that cannot be used as a log. Evertree uses oilcakes, which are a byproduct of rapeseed and sunflower seeds created through the oil extraction process.

 

We both believe that we can only take so much from nature. The way we went about developing the Next panel fits with this idea of limiting our consumption and our CO2 emissions and taking care of the environment and human health. This is the guiding philosophy for the Green by Evertree Project.

 

I knew Xavier Le Fur, who is now Chief Technology Officer and Head of Business Development for Evertree, having worked with him before. When he came to see me with the Green Ultimate product that Evertree had just developed, we were very interested. We immediately understood what it could mean for Panneaux de Corrèze to be able to market the first bio-based composite wood panel. Plus, the use of byproducts meant that we did not have to use adhesives sourced from arable land. Another benefit was that we would be able to produce enough of the product right away.

 

Green Ultimate is the world’s first efficient and environmentally friendly adhesive solution that is free of formaldehyde and isocyanate. We ran tests at the end of 2019 and throughout 2020, and the findings were more than conclusive: we found that the product performed as well as the ones we had been using before!

 

That means Next is ready to meet the needs of our customers: in shop, hotel and restaurant furnishings, in children’s furniture, in doors, floors and baseboards, in public institutions (schools, museums, hospitals, etc.) and more.

What is your vision for this 100% plant-based solution? Will it capture new markets?

 

We are seeing a high demand for bio-based solutions from our customers. Thirty-somethings are especially vocal, but in reality it is true of every generation – everyone is realizing how important it is to choose solutions that are better for human health and better for the environment. That demand is a good thing; it forces businesses to find solutions.

 

We were lucky in that Evertree brought us an existing, fully developed solution. In addition, our company was the right size to seize this opportunity because we are flexible and able to quickly adapt to new products.

 
 
 

We might have to alter some of our machines, but we are already able to keep up with demand.

 

Now, we must get Next on the market. Consumers are already asking for bio-based solutions, but we must convince our customers and partners that our Next panels have the same mechanical properties as composite panels made with petrol-based resins. They have the same benefits but no added formaldehyde. Plus, they are 100% made in France!