According to a new report, Södra has a positive impact on global climate change, equivalent to 20 percent of Sweden’s combined emissions of CO2 equivalents. The measurements are based on the growth rate of forests owned by Södra’s 52,000 members, and the effects of forest products when they are used to replace more emission-intensive products and energy.
“Our understanding of the climate benefits of forests is often limited to the large amounts of CO2 absorbed by growing trees, but the effect of replacing products like steel, concrete, plastic and oil with renewable alternatives is equally important to mention,” said Lars Idermark, President and CEO of Södra.
In recent years, more and more researchers have become interested in how this substitution effect can be measured, and there are many uncertainties. To be on the safe side, we have used a model developed by Holmgren/Kolar for our measurements and maintained a cautious approach. Södra’s measurements have also been reviewed by external researchers. The results show that Södra has a positive climate-change impact of 9.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.
Although substitution effects are not included in formal emissions reporting, they are recognised for their ability to slow climate change.
“We have now made a contribution that shows how measurements are possible, even though the knowledge base is not yet complete. We need more research, but also greater awareness among both politicians and the general public that efforts to tackle climate change can be accelerated,” said Maria Baldin, Director of Communications and Sustainability at Södra.
The substitution factor varies for each type of material. The aspect measured is the amount of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions that is replaced per unit of biogenic CO2 in forest products. Biogenic CO2 is part of a natural carbon cycle in which emissions are constantly reabsorbed by vegetation, while the combustion of fossil fuels increases net emissions in the atmosphere.
Using sawn timber for construction has the greatest effect, but replacing plastic food packaging with bio-based trays, or using biofuels instead of fossil fuels such as natural gas or oil, also has positive effects.
The report also accounts for Södra’s negative climate-change impacts, which are mainly derived from the production of input products such as process chemicals and packaging materials, and from the transportation of raw materials to mills, and of products to customers.
“The report is both confirmation that we are moving in the right direction with our sustainability efforts and an important document for our ongoing work with innovation, resource efficiency and fossil-fuel independence,” said Kristina Altner, Head of Södra’s Sustainability Department.
The lead author of Södra’s climate effect report is Peter Holmgren, who has worked at the UN and has many years of experience in forest management and land use from a climate perspective. The co-authors are Göran Örlander, forestry strategist and Eva Gustafsson, Sustainability Coordinator, both from Södra.