OVERVIEW

Eric Ellwood

Symposium Steering Committee

Wood is a widely used raw material. Societal value of wood in the United States and throughout the world is affected by a range of complex issues. The availability and cost of wood, used for so many applications—from housing, to furniture, to reading materials—has come under increasing attention as a result of environmentally driven social and government policies. To some extent, this has led to the use of substitute materials.

At issue is not so much the product of wood and its engineered forms, but rather the concept of preserving natural physical and biologic ecosystems through withdrawal of land from timber harvesting or application of other limiting conditions on timber extraction. These external system values include the structure of a range of ecosystems, with particular emphasis on tropical forests; biologic diversity; habitat for fauna and flora; air and water quality; soil stability; and climate impacts that can be local, regional, or global.

Forest land also should provide scenic, aesthetic, and recreational opportunities for people. The preservation of desirable biologic and physical attributes of forests and provision of scenic, aesthetic, and recreational opportunities must be compatible with timber harvesting—an issue that is being confronted in forest management policy and regulation development.

Another important aspect of the use of wood, as for any material, is energy demand and the nature and type of nonbeing emissions generated during manufacture, use, and disposal. The issue of substitutions for wood as a raw material has been studied with respect to energy, but it has not been addressed regarding the environment. In 1976, the National Academy of Sciences established a Committee on Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials (CORRIM) to study wood as a raw material. This committee's work put primary emphasis on energy



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OVERVIEW Eric Ellwood Symposium Steering Committee Wood is a widely used raw material. Societal value of wood in the United States and throughout the world is affected by a range of complex issues. The availability and cost of wood, used for so many applications—from housing, to furniture, to reading materials—has come under increasing attention as a result of environmentally driven social and government policies. To some extent, this has led to the use of substitute materials. At issue is not so much the product of wood and its engineered forms, but rather the concept of preserving natural physical and biologic ecosystems through withdrawal of land from timber harvesting or application of other limiting conditions on timber extraction. These external system values include the structure of a range of ecosystems, with particular emphasis on tropical forests; biologic diversity; habitat for fauna and flora; air and water quality; soil stability; and climate impacts that can be local, regional, or global. Forest land also should provide scenic, aesthetic, and recreational opportunities for people. The preservation of desirable biologic and physical attributes of forests and provision of scenic, aesthetic, and recreational opportunities must be compatible with timber harvesting—an issue that is being confronted in forest management policy and regulation development. Another important aspect of the use of wood, as for any material, is energy demand and the nature and type of nonbeing emissions generated during manufacture, use, and disposal. The issue of substitutions for wood as a raw material has been studied with respect to energy, but it has not been addressed regarding the environment. In 1976, the National Academy of Sciences established a Committee on Renewable Resources for Industrial Materials (CORRIM) to study wood as a raw material. This committee's work put primary emphasis on energy

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consumption in manufacturing and on the potential of wood as a feedstock for chemical energy production. Because emphasis of raw material use has shifted from energy to environmental concerns during the past 20 years, a new scientific assessment is needed to examine environmental assessment methodologies, focus on environmental impacts of wood and wood fiber products, and assess substitution impacts. To begin to examine the environmental impact of wood use, new methodologies must be applied. Most recently, new methods of analysis (including life-cycle analysis) have been developed to analyze inputs and outputs as they relate to environmental impacts of production of a given item or commodity. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is developing standards based on life-cycle analysis methodology for wood-based and other products. The significance of life-cycle analysis is underlined by the 1993 Executive Order by President Bill Clinton requiring life-cycle analysis for federal procurement of environmentally preferred products. Congress approved legislation in 1994 requiring the Department of Defense to undertake life-cycle analysis for major weapons acquisitions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service requested that the National Research Council's Board on Agriculture address these converging factors, which led to a symposium with the objective of reviewing the state of the art for assessment of the environmental impacts of wood as a raw material. The symposium focused on the science base of methodologies currently in use, reviewed the information needed to judge the adequacy of decision making processes, and explored potential uses of these methodologies. A two-day symposium with invited speakers was held in Irvine, California, March 14–15, 1996, to examine existing methodologies for identifying and assessing environmental impacts of industrial activities and wood as a raw material choice. The speakers came from private industrial concerns; universities; public interest groups; environmental organizations; and federal, state, and local government agencies. The first session of the three on the program presented speakers who discussed North American and European efforts in life-cycle analysis and the impacts of international standards development. Identification of deficiencies in methodology and the challenges of application pointed to the need for innovation in accounting methodology and allowed an assessment of the data requirements of alternative approaches. These discussions are presented in Chapters 1–5. The second session (Chapters 6–9) focused on societal considerations. Industrial marketplace decision making and consumer acceptance of certified products, as well as environmental concerns of production, were discussed. In the final session, a paper presented by William Hyde (Chapter 10) was followed by a round table discussion (Chapter 11) that focused on policy impacts of life-cycle analysis methodologies and wood as a raw material. In addition to the three symposium sessions, participants worked in small

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groups to identify weaknesses and data gaps in current methodologies, generate ideas regarding the enhancement of current life-cycle methodology, and identify appropriate methodology applications (Chapter 11). Appendix 1 to this volume offers an excerpt from the ISO life-cycle analysis document. Appendix 2 lists participants and the program from the symposium. Life-Cycle Analysis Application At the outset, the symposium brought together a diverse group from the differing backgrounds of forestry professions and other professionals and representatives from industry, government, nonprofit organizations, retailing, consulting, and life-cycle analysis practitioners. This gathering resulted in a spectrum of perspectives. Because life-cycle assessment is a developing field, not all participants came with a detailed understanding of this methodology, and practitioners were, in general, focused on the manufacturing aspects of production. The symposium opened dialogue for better understanding of the methodology and its use. Life-cycle analysis is a relatively new approach to environmental impact assessment methodology. Although it is clearly a powerful tool, it has limitations. In the simplest terms, it is designed to measure all inputs and outputs in wood production and use from the ''cradle to the grave,'' including mass and energy flows and transformations from origin to and including the final disposal of an item. The degree of precision and the strength of analysis depend heavily on the availability and accuracy of data, the degree of inclusiveness, and the boundaries of the system. Discussions and presentations during the symposium reveal that the methodology progressively loses accuracy with the complexity of the system, and it is weakest when dealing with nonnumerical data and subjective valuations. Therefore, although the methodology is a significant step forward, there is much to be done to apply other systems in conjunction with life-cycle analysis when dealing with biologic systems and the affiliated study of uncertainties. Within the forest resources arena, life-cycle analysis is being used primarily by the pulp and paper segment of the forest products industry. To date, it has been a valuable tool for industry—particularly for identifying processes in the manufacturing stream that offer opportunities to reduce impacts on the environment and to increase the efficiency of manufacturing in trade-offs. It also can aid marketing (efforts that use) certificates based on life-cycle analysis. However, the upstream boundaries do not generally include the forest, although the carbon cycle is being investigated. Life-cycle thinking, even if not in detailed analysis, has and is having a beneficial effect on procurement, manufacturing, recycling, and disposal. Two long-term objectives are to identify sufficient standards data and to apply sound science to make comparisons between different raw materials as to their environmental impact.

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Limitations Applied to Forest Resources Although life-cycle analyses and life-cycle inventories do provide a powerful way to help assess environmental implications of the use of wood, other approaches are needed. The primary limitations of applicability identified during the symposium involved the lack of adequate descriptive data on the forest resource-forest ecosystem segment of the life-cycle and the considerable variability of these forest ecosystems. There also are difficulties in dealing with values that are not amenable to conversion to a number. It is hard to ascribe a specific value to maintaining biologic diversity and habitat to the extent of species endangerment. The diversity of forest ecosystems and differing local and regional conditions make it unlikely that one universally applicable, holistic model will be feasible. The impact assessment phase of life-cycle analysis (which defines the magnitude and probability of the effects of human actions on resources and the environment) involves dealing with unknowns and uncertainties and, therefore, with risk analyses. To a large extent, economic and social impacts must be treated by other means—preferably those that account for input from various groups of people. Depending on the boundaries established and the degree of sophistication they use, life-cycle analyses can be complicated. Notwithstanding the imperfections of the methodology, it is being applied in several industries and is gaining ground as a preferred method for examining the environmental implications of many products. This frequently has led to a "first time" view of a company's vulnerability and opportunities driven by environmental issues. Some government agencies have been directed to use the system as an aid in procuring materials with the least harmful environmental impacts. Even with its current limitations (it is undergoing rapid evolution in its development), life-cycle analysis does emerge as the most powerful methodology to evaluate the environmental consequences of wood use and most of all to strengthen the science base underlying the system—albeit with caution and with additional systems needed. Marketing, Certification Standards, and Trade Consumer preferences for environmentally friendly products and systems, given that performance and price criteria are met, create an incentive for industry to use life-cycle analysis in marketing and in educating consumers. This leads to environmental labeling and certification and raises the questions of validity, comparability, and the need for standards, and it introduces the question of whether there should be review of certification by a third party. One experienced practitioner says, the reality behind widely held green issues is often more complex than expected. Hence, the need for sound scientific bases for labeling will prevent the omission of some aspects that could markedly change the apparent overall environmental friendliness of the product or system.

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Environmental labeling of consumer products is becoming more common every day. The approach taken by one building materials supplier "to get ahead of the curve" in ecolabeling and in product certification through application of life-cycle inventories is probably a forerunner of an overall trend in retail. Although it is too early to assess the extent to which this trend will take hold, it will result in incentives for manufacturers to reduce environmental impacts in manufacturing. Programs also are being used in the forest management phase of wood production, for example those of the Forest Stewardship Council and Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. These essentially voluntary programs certify forestry practices that meet their criteria for good management. The criteria focus on sustainability and ecosystem management, and they build a foundation for certification and the chain-of-custody concept. Certainly, certified products tie in directly to the green building approach. It is too soon to evaluate the effect on the marketplace of the various forest management certification programs, but some reports indicate a premium can be obtained for wood from certified programs. It is apparent that forest certification is having some effect on improving forest management. Although these certification and labeling programs are positive, industry representatives caution that the programs should be voluntary, that they should involve all stakeholders, and that they should be based on sound science. An important point to consider is that consumers cannot ascertain the "quality" of a product in the market place simply by examining the product; there is a need for information about the process used to manufacture the product and about the consequences of its disposal after consumption. Producing high quality products, or products that are less detrimental to the environment than others, may be more costly to the firms producing them. Consequently, firms must receive a higher price and consumers must be willing to pay more to make production of high quality products economically feasible. Without a mechanism, such as certification or "green" labeling, to assure the consumer that a particular product is worth more, there will not be demand for these types of products. Rather than mandating that firms produce such products, government could collaborate with industry to establish science-based standards and a corresponding certification system that is supported by firms that want to supply certified or "green" labeled products. The cost of certification, then would be born by those consumers who want to purchase certified products. "Green" labeling of products is gaining ground, particularly in Europe. The European Union is developing a series of ecolabels for numerous products based on life-cycle thinking and has recently issued ecolabel criteria for several paper products. Some countries also have begun to develop management standards for specific forest ecosystems. These programs eventually will influence international trade, raising concerns about specific criteria, the soundness of scientific data, and the impartiality of the programs. A major concern for future interna-

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tional trade that was not addressed in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations or any other multilateral trade agreements is the use of nontariff trade barriers to inhibit trade. Existing international trade agreements allow countries to prevent importation of products that do not meet science-based standards for health, safety, or environmental impact. The key issue is defining a "science-based" standard. In this context, the issue of science-based standards for life-cycle analysis and "green" labeling is important, especially in light of the recognized limitations of current life-cycle methodologies and their application. While life-cycle analysis is clearly a valuable tool and holds much promise for the future, it is a rapidly progressing new methodology and currently cannot be considered a comprehensive science-based procedure for national or international standards and certification. The ISO is active in developing voluntary standards in environmental management tools and systems. ISO 9000 deals with production-oriented issues, and ISO 14000 is concerned with management issues, including life-cycle analysis. Forest management is not specifically included but there are plans to do so. The purpose of the standards—involving a multistakeholder approach—is to establish criteria for planning, implementation, and review rather than to define actual performance standards. The United States, taking a proactive role, is involved with the ISO standards development primarily through representatives from industry and professional organizations. Most of the development of standards has been from voluntary stakeholder participation, but government agencies have an interest in standards and certification and in their underlying methodologies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is interested, and policy makers are looking to the methodologies as aids for decision making. It was suggested during the symposium's roundtable discussion, that, in the United States, the preferred role of government could be to support the development of sound science-based methodologies, encourage the involvement of stakeholder groups, and foster market-driven approaches rather than to take mandatory regulatory action. For the Future Symposium participants agree that a clear understanding should be sought about the environmental consequences of forest management and the associated uses of wood because of their national importance. The symposium itself has encouraged forward thinking about ways to promote multidisciplinary activity in this subject. The controversies, strengths, and weaknesses of life-cycle analysis were brought out at the meeting. Issues surrounding the use of wood, ecolabeling, certification, consumer acceptance, and international trade and standards were discussed. Further exploration of the ideas generated at this symposium could lead to consensus among stakeholders, could enlarge and enhance public understanding

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of the issues involved regarding environmental impacts, and should provide a sounder scientific basis for public policy development. Symposium participants suggested ways to advance and enhance the use of current life-cycle methodology. It was generally recognized that an objective, scientifically based analysis is needed that builds on our knowledge of raw materials energy impacts outlined in the 1970s and that now turns the focus to environmental impacts. This environmentally focused analysis could identify a framework for use of methodologies; compare impacts of different raw materials on the basis of and within the limitations of these methodologies; and suggest coordination between government, industry, environmental organizations, consultants, and nongovernment organizations regarding the use of impact assessment. The objectives would be to examine the science base for life-cycle methodologies; identify data that are lacking in current methodologies; suggest research needs; examine the value and impact of wood production in comparison with other raw materials; outline appropriate coordination efforts among stakeholders; and suggest appropriate mechanisms for valuation of environmental, economic, and social aspects of raw materials use.

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PROCEEDINGS

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