PEFC PROJECT BRIEF: Incorporating Forest Certification into Product Life Cycle Assessments

QUICK FACTS:
• This project developed an approach to quantify the environmental impact differential between certified and non-certified forest products within the context of a life cycle assessment; • Findings illustrate that 1m3 of non-certified wood is responsible for 4.66 m2 of deforestation; • Pilot application of the new dataset highlights that using certified round wood, for example, enables a 15‑fold reduction in climate change impacts (i.e. carbon footprint), an 8.6‑fold reduction in human health impacts, and a 3-fold reduction in ecosystem quality impacts when compared to an equivalent amount of noncertified round wood; • The lasting impact of this project is that certified fibre sourcing can now be better integrated into the scope of a product LCA, enabling companies to measure their decreasing environmental footprint when sourcing certified forest products. To expand the utilization of wood in support of a low carbon economy, while safeguarding forest ecosystems, forest certification systems promote best practice in forest management and reduce forest degradation. Forest certification also increases market access, confidence and the value of forest-based products, thereby positively altering a business case which could otherwise result in deforestation. Until now there has been no data or methodology to integrate the comparative environmental impacts between certified and uncertified forest products into life cycle assessment. This project 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.

1.0 CONTEXT
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. In the context of forest-based products and their environmental impacts, forest certification offers a powerful tool for averting negative impacts on the environment and climate. Deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transport sector and second only to the energy sector. Yet forest products are by their very nature derived from renewable resources, have generally lower embodied carbon than competing products and form a critical component of a low carbon, green economy.

2.0 PROJECT CONTEXT
The globally recognized life cycle inventory database ecoinvent a includes wood production and harvesting processes only from sustainably managed forests. It is therefore not possible to differentiate the environmental impact between certified and non-certified wood. The wood processes available in the database lead to the underestimation of the impact of wood products if they are accessed for non-certified wood products. Therefore, differentiated datasets needed to be created to reflect the impact of forestry processes within noncertified forests.
a

Ecoinvent - a swiss Competence Centre - is the world’s leading supplier of consistent and transparent life cycle inventory (LCI) data of known quality and offers science-based, industrial, international life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle management (LCM) data and services www.ecoinvent.ch

In 2012 PEFC embarked on a project together with Quantis, to use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to assess the difference in environmental impacts of using certified and non-certified forest-based products. Quantis identified deforestation as the basis for differentiating the environmental impact of using certified or noncertified 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 thus integrates a shared impact or responsibility for deforestation b across all non-certified forest products. The project applied a global average approach to determine that 1m3 of non-certified wood is responsible for 4.66 m2 of deforestation. Further analysis then quantified the environmental impacts 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 noncertified forest products in their LCA.

• Evaluating the environmental impacts (climate change, ecosystem quality and human health) in relation to deforestation and due to wood extraction. • Creation of six new datasets in format and in Quantis SUITE 2.0 c. These datasets are tailored to the type (hardwood or softwood) and category of wood (round, industrial or residual) and reflect values associated with non-certified wood, ie. reflecting the appropriate allocation related to the impact of deforestation.

4.0 APPLYING THE NEW LCA DATASETS TO COMPARE FOREST PRODUCTS
Impacts of certified and non-certified round, softwood To illustrate the application of the new datasets, Figure 1 presents the impacts of non-certified round softwood (considering a 4.66 m2 contribution to deforestation) in comparison to certified. Using certified wood of this type enables a 15‑fold reduction in climate change impacts (i.e. carbon footprint), an 8.6‑fold reduction in human health impacts, and a 3‑fold reduction in ecosystem quality impact when compared to an equivalent amount of non-certified round wood.

3.0 METHODOLOGY
Critical steps of the project included: • Calculating the area of deforestation related to non-certified wood extraction. As certified wood guarantees no deforestation, deforestation is only related to non-certified wood. A number of literature data sources were used to estimate the fraction of deforestation thought to be caused by wood extraction (averaging 10% of deforestation) and the proportion of wood extraction estimated as illegal (7.85%). Based on these and other parameters, the area deforested to obtain 1m3 of non-certified wood is calculated to be 4.66 m2. • Applying the process to existing processes related to wood extraction. By applying the deforestation process to wood extraction processes the associated environmental impacts can be quantified. These processes included machine use, biomass burning and degradation, CO2 emissions from land use change and biodiversity. An effect on pluvial systems was identified; however there are currently insufficient datasets to assess this effect.
b

Impact percentage (%)

Figure 1: Comparison between certified (“Round wood, softwood, under bark, u=70% at forest road”) and noncertified round softwood considering a 4.66 m2 contribution to deforestation (“Round wood, softwood, non-certified, under bark, u=70%, at forest road”)

In the global average approach, only the proportion of deforestation thought to be directly caused by wood extraction was included.

c

Quantis SUITE 2.0 is a web-based, user friendly LCA software, developed by Quantis.

Impacts of certified and non-certified paper Figure 2 shows the impacts of paper made with certified and non-certified fibre (100% non-certified wood). Results suggest that using paper with certified fibre allows for impact reduction between 6% and 25%, depending on the indicator considered. The smaller difference among certified and non-certified paper in comparison with certified and non-certified wood is due to the broader range of contributors to paper production impact (beyond deforestation), such as chemical or energy use. Using certified fibre in paper production can reduce the impact in ecosystem quality by 26%. This indicator shows the largest differential between certified and noncertified in part because the forest activity has a higher contribution to this indicator. In comparison, over 80% of the climate change-related impacts of non-certified paper production relate to activities outside the forest (i.e. transport, energy use for manufacturing or bleaching) while only a small part derives from forest activities themselves.The situation is similar for the human health indicator. In these last two indicators, the benefits of using certified paper only influence a smaller part of a product’s life cycle.

Pilot application of the datasets highlight that using certified round wood for example, enables a 15‑fold reduction in climate change impacts (i.e. carbon footprint), a 3‑fold reduction in ecosystem quality impact and an 8.6‑fold reduction in impact on human health when compared to an equivalent amount of non-certified round wood.

6.0 NEXT STEPS
The lasting impact of this project is that certified fibre sourcing can now be better integrated into the scope of a product LCA, enabling companies to measure their decreasing environmental footprint when sourcing certified forest products. With the new databases available, companies are encouraged to start incorporating this methodology into their forest product LCAs. While the results from this project provide a starting point, we also envision that through pilot application and further cooperation with partners, development of this methodology will continue to evolve. Perhaps we need to embed different assumptions or access more data to reflect the differences in forest practices in countries around the world. Please get in touch with PEFC if you’d like to explore collaboration on piloting this new LCA methodology. Contact Quantis is you need any LCA expertise to orient you towards new datasets, methodology or ideas on how you can incorporate these results into your organization. Available esources The full report, together with the datasets, can be downloaded at: www.quantis-intl.com/publications.php

Impact percentage (%)

Figure 2: Comparison between certified and non-certified wood based paper (“Paper, wood containing, LWC, noncertified wood, at plant” and “Paper, wood containing, LWC, certified, at plant”)

5.0 CONCLUSIONS
Project findings illustrate that 1m3 of non-certified wood is responsible for 4.66  m2 of deforestation. Further analysis then quantified the environmental impacts that are created during the deforestation process, and integrated these factors across the relevant wood extraction datasets already published in ecoinvent, a leading LCA database. 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.

PEFC Council World Trade Center 10, route de l’Aéroport CH-1215 Geneva Switzerland t +41 22 799 45 40 f +41 22 799 45 50 e info@pefc.org www.pefc.org

Quantis Switzerland Parc scientifique EPFL Bât. D CH-1015 Lausanne Switzerland t +41 21 693 91 92 e info.suisse@quantis intl.com www.quantis-intl.com

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