How green are your products? That’s a question that is already increasingly being asked of suppliers and manufacturers by business and consumers as concern about environmental degradation generally and climate change above all grows.

In the future the answer is expected not just to be requested but demanded, not just by customers but by governments through regulation. And it’s expected especially to be demanded of that major carbon emitter, the building sector. The signs are already there in the form of increasingly strict building energy performance regulation. In France public building must now also use a set percentage of low carbon, bio-based materials, a ruling which some see being applied more widely in Europe and elsewhere.

Against this backdrop, Swedish forest products supplier SCA has introduced a bold and ambitious strategy, effectively to future proof the company and its customers against increasing environmental market and government requirements. Its farreaching project, which has the needs of the construction sector to shrink its carbon emissions especially in focus, has been to undertake a “solid environmental mapping of its entire value chain, from forest to customer”.

“We’ve carefully reviewed and analysed each process step in our value chain in order to be able to assess exactly to what extent the manufacture of our wood products in particular burdens the climate,” said SCA vice-president marketing and sales Markus Henningsson. “We now have a firm grasp of the footprint of our sawn timber products and this knowledge, in turn, informs the structured manner we need to work in towards our own sustainability goals, while also clearly confirming the unique value of the forest and wood products.”

The data gathered is now of critical importance to customers and end-users in the building sector, it maintains.

“The construction industry today accounts for approximately 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and in coming years needs to undergo extensive change in order to better meet tomorrow’s environmental requirements,” said Mr Henningsson. “Our supply chain mapping helps the sector choose materials with as little impact as possible for tomorrow’s buildings.”

A key part of SCA’s strategy has been to achieve independent validation of its findings, securing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all its major product groups.

“SCA Wood’s EPDs are validated to the EN 15804 and ISO 14067 international standards,” said Mr Henningsson. “What is reported is GWP Fossil – Global Warming Potential Fossil. This is the fossil emission from our value chain, all the way from the raw material, the trees in the forest, via the sawmills and up to SCA’s gates. It’s described in the form of so-called carbon dioxide equivalents. This standardised measure simply summarises how much carbon dioxide would have to be released into the atmosphere to have the same impact on the climate and makes it possible to compare different materials and products with each other.”

The company cites the following relative product footprint figures for construction products to back up its statement that “it goes without saying, wood is the way forward”.

• Wooden beam – 0.4Kg CO2 eq/2,4m

• Steel studs – 4.1Kg CO2 eq/2,4m

• Natural wood panels – 0.9Kg CO2 eq/m2

• Fibre cement board – 9.5Kg CO2 eq/m2

• Steel façade – 14Kg CO2 eq/m2

SCA says its mapping and EPD development has been a demanding process.

“What is required for EPDs was a learning curve and it took us quite some time to dig out the correct data,” said Mr Henningsson. “We undertook the process in-house, but the results and the calculation has been thirdparty validated and we’ve used external consultants to teach us how to undertake the

calculations. The level of detail required was a bit of a surprise initially. Then we faced a lack of capacity among consultants to provide the help we needed and for the validation process. It has consequently taken much longer than expected to make the calculations and get the EPDs approved.”

A further result of the project is that it has underlined where SCA can further minimise the environmental impacts of its activities, from harvesting through processing.

“It has highlighted areas where we can make the largest potential gains in internal and external transport, for instance, with our use of forklifts and trucks,” said Mr Henningsson. “To significantly reduce CO2 emissions we have to use alternative options to vehicles propelled by diesel. The challenges are varied between each site, depending, for example, on the infrastructure, the distances driven by forklift trucks per shift and where you can charge electric vehicles. We still have a long way to go, but we are testing new solutions.”

The company is actually now also taking the mapping process beyond its factory gates, assessing the carbon impacts of transport to the individual customer.

“We can’t yet do this globally, but we are offering the service to all customers in continental Europe where we have direct lorry delivery from the sawmills, with the carbon impact figure reported on the customer’s invoice,” said Mr Henningsson. “We are also working on a solution for UK customers where we will report the full global warming potential figure for transport – both the ship and lorry – and we should soon have the verified data.

“hSCA has taken the initiative on calculating the carbon impact of transport, but customer feedback is that they appreciate being able to now work with correct actual data rather than use a generic calculation.”

By providing specific data on GWP-fossil emissions on each order, for every customer, on every invoice, SCA maintains it is effectively continually reinforcing the benefits of wood as an environmentally friendly construction material.

“This information allows our customers in turn to make informed calculations within their own businesses and processes, and deliver this message onwards,” said Mr Henningsson. “A complete picture of the journey from tree to timber end use is essential in furthering the positive message of the material in the construction industry and SCA are pleased to contribute to this.”

Ultimately the company sees timber’s environmental credentials, underpinned by precise data, giving it a competitive advantage and growing its market in construction.

“As governments and developers increase their demand for product and material climate declarations and set impact thresholds we believe demand for wood and wood-based solutions will increase,” said Mr Henningsson. “When you compare the GWP figures between different products, wood is often at least 10 times lower in terms of impact compared to alternative materials.”


SCA’s goal is to boost its climate benefit from 10 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 annually. This, it says, will be achieved
through increased uptake of CO2 in its forest and development of a fossil-free value chain, with an initial target to
reduce fossil emissions by 50% by 2030. It will also increase availability of renewable products through volume growth
and innovate to develop new products “that offer greater climate benefits”. The objective is also to increase wind power
production on SCA land to 11TWh.