News Brief

Methodology in Development for Factoring FSC into LCAs

Forest management practices have a big impact on the carbon benefits of using wood products. SCS has laid out how to do the calculations.

 A forest where some pines have been logged and some retained.

Forestry management practices, like thinning instead of clear-cutting, should be factored into wood product LCAs, suggest SCS. 

Photo: Barn Images. License: CC BY 2.0.
If a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one around to describe how the forest has been managed, is the tree carbon neutral?

This riff on the classic philosophical thought experiment is a practical question that SCS Global Services is seeking to answer for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies have often assumed all wood is at least carbon neutral, if not carbon negative, but these have failed to take into account different forestry practices. In fact, some analysis has pointed to the contrary, suggesting that wood from forests under relaxed forestry laws and not certified to any additional sustainability standard could have a worse carbon footprint than concrete or steel (see Wood: What’s Good?).

Properly accounting for forest management practices, like those incentivized by the FSC, will involve sophisticated modeling with lots of inputs. SCS has tried to lay the groundwork for such analysis by drafting “scope and method requirements” that make sense. For example, SCS recommends that environmental product declarations for wood products require data collection on:

  • forestry practices such as soil preparation; seed sowing; thinning; application of fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides; felling and harvesting; chipping; and logging-road construction
  • biogenic carbon dioxide emissions and removals “based on forest inventory and changes in forest inventory with a landscape perspective”
  • transportation from the forest to an industry facility
  • fuel use for internal transports and climate control of warehousing facilities, if relevant

Using this information, and a model called the ForTab harvest scheduling model, SCS details the calculations for two primary metrics:

  1. Forest Carbon Stocks Per Acre—used to estimate how much carbon is sequestered by an FSC-managed forest versus baseline practices; and
  2. Product-level Net Greenhouse Gas Sequestration—used to indicate net forest carbon storage relative to production for a certain region.

Ultimately, these calculations could help give architects and specifiers the information needed “to generate life-cycle assessment (LCA) products including life-cycle inventory (LCI) studies, whole building LCAs, environmental product declarations (EPD), and carbon footprints for FSC-certified products,” according to SCS.

The organization is accepting public comment on the draft methodology through August 31, 2021.


Published August 2, 2021

Pearson, C. (2021, July 21). Methodology in Development for Factoring FSC into LCAs . Retrieved from

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