Assessing the sustainability of the forest value chain will soon be possible

Mista Digital Forest has reached half-time, and the programme has made good progress in developing methods for assessing the sustainability of the forest value chain. By visualising scenarios for the production and use of forest raw materials based on different aspects of sustainability, decision-makers are provided with the data they need to make well-founded decisions.

In dialogue with stakeholders, researchers at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have identified indicators that together - and independently - can be used to illustrate the sustainability of the forestry sector. The four indicators are biodiversity, climate, social sustainability, and economic sustainability.

– Much of the work has involved developing a method where the sustainability indicators, in the form of calculated values, can be plotted on a relative scale and can be made comparable. This becomes possible with the help of data linked to forest management, collected from the analysis programme Heureka. By making sustainability assessments for different future scenarios as well as visualising synergies and conflicting objectives between different aspects of sustainability, decision-makers are provided with factual foundations, says Eskil Mattsson, researcher at IVL.

Eskil Mattsson, IVL
Eskil Mattsson, IVL. Photo: Johan Olsson.

Contributing to life cycle analyses of forest products

This knowledge is useful in the strategic work of the forestry companies, and can form the basis for political decisions. Work is now under way to integrate the indicators with the BioMapp visualisation tool. There, the user can calculate and analyse sustainability at each stage of the value chain.

As Mista Digital Forest moves into phase 2, work continues to include the entire forest value chain in the sustainability assessment. Among other things, methods are being developed to include the positive climate effects that arise when wood-based products store carbon. Import and export aspects will also be taken into account; does the climate impact occur where the tree is harvested or where it is processed? Describing the benefits of replacing fossil-based products with bio-based ones is also central to the work ahead. Data for calculating sustainability indicators also needs to be further digitalised, and stored in an accessible and transparent way.

– We are well on the way to developing a method based on the sustainability indicators that can be used in life cycle analyses of forest industry products, says Eskil Mattsson.