Submitted: The Two Sides Team April 19, 2013
Companies can measure and minimize the environmental footprint of the wood-based products they are sourcing, according to a recent study by Quantis. The study confirmed that it is possible to quantify to a certain extent the impact differential between certified and non-certified forest products within Life Cycle Assessments (LCA).
“This development is extremely beneficial to everybody wishing to quantify the impact of their responsible timber sourcing practices and integrate it within product life cycle assessments,” commented Sarah Price, Head of Projects & Development of PEFC International, the partner to Quantis in this project.
Corporations and consumers alike share a desire to better understand and address the sustainability of the products they manufacturer and consume. However, product sustainability is a massively complex, multifaceted arena, requiring a corresponding diversity of approaches to manage and evaluate. One of these approaches is life cycle assessment, a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from cradle-to-grave. For timber and wood-based products, however, there has until now not been any data or methodology to integrate the comparative environmental impacts of certified products as compared to uncertified products into life cycle assessment.
Responsible companies source certified forest products because they know its the right thing to do, but until now theyve been unable to quantify the real impact of that decision on climate change, human health or ecosystem quality, Ms Price continued. PEFC saw this as a lost opportunity and partnered with Quantis to develop new LCA datasets and fill this gap.
Quantis identified deforestation as the basis for differentiating the environmental impacts of certified and non-certified forest products. By definition, certified wood comes from forests under sustainable forest management, where a holistic management approach is used to maintain the forest now and in the future. Non-certified wood, on the other hand, does not have the 3rd party, sustainability assurance that certification delivers, and therefore may be linked to deforestation. The resulting process and datasets from the project thus integrates a shared impact or responsibility of deforestation across all non-certified forest products.
The new LCA process identified that a cubic metre of non-certified wood is linked to deforestation of an area of almost 5 square metres. Through pilot application of the new datasets, the study identified that the use of certified wood, can reduce the climate change impacts by 15-fold, lead to an 8-fold reduction in human health impacts and a 3-fold reduction in ecosystem quality impacts.
Companies can now go beyond current practices of monitoring and reporting certified material procurement by volume. The results of this project actually enable them to integrate real data into their sustainability reports to demonstrate the decreasing environmental footprint that their responsible buying choices are supporting, Ms Price emphasized. We are aware that this project is only a first step in a long journey, but it provides proof of concept, and we are looking forward to working with companies wishing to pilot these new datasets.
For further information on what this project means to your business and sustainability reporting, contact PEFC International.