Life Cycle Assessment
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.
PEFC's project, 'Incorporating Forest Certification into Product Life Cycle Assessments,' sought to bridge a gap between two commonly utilized sustainability approaches – life cycle assessment (LCA) and forest certification. Forest certification is a system to offer traceability and assurances that forest-based products are derived from forests under sustainable management. Life cycle assessment on the other hand, is an approach to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle. By developing an approach to quantify the environmental impact differential between certified and non-certified forest products, certified fibre sourcing can be better integrated into the scope of a product LCA.
In 2012, Quantis, a leading LCA consultancy, partnered with PEFC to develop the necessary LCA methodology and datasets to enable interactions between these different approaches to product sustainability. Quantis identified deforestation as the basis for differentiating the environmental impact of using certified or non-certified wood. 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 the act of deforestation thought to be directly caused by wood extraction.
The resulting process and datasets from the project integrates a shared impact or responsibility for deforestation across all non-certified forest products. This global average approach determined that 1m3 of non-certified wood is responsible for 4.66 m2 of deforestation. Further analysis then quantified the environmental impacts (climate change, ecosystem quality and human health) that are created during the deforestation process, and integrated these factors across the relevant wood extraction datasets already published in ecoinvent v2.2. The resulting outcome is the creation of new datasets, which will now enable companies to differentiate certified and non-certified forest products in their LCA.
The value of this project is that companies can now integrate real data into their sustainability reports to demonstrate the decreasing environmental footprint that their responsible buying choices are supporting. Let us know if you would like to collaborate on piloting this new LCA methodology. Contact Quantis if you need any LCA expertise to orient you towards the new datasets, methodology or ideas on how you can incorporate these results into your organization.