New Metrics
Better Analysis, Better Choices:
A New LCA Tool for a Climate-Challenged World

New Leaf Paper founder Jeff Mendelsohn hosted a workshop on day one of Sustainable Brands’ New Metrics ’15 about an improved Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework that helps users make better decisions by incorporating current climate science impacts, as well as greater transparency and comparability. The framework is called LEO-SCS-002 and is in the process of being added to current LCA standards.

Mendelsohn announced that environmental certification company SCS Global Services is the first in the paper industry to use the new standard to evaluate New Leaf Paper’s New Leaf Reincarnation, a 100 percent post-consumer recycled coated paper, compared to three virgin papers. According to study, the new paper has less than one percent of the impact in terms of global climate change and ocean acidification compared to virgin paper.

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First up was panelist Tobias Schultz, manager of corporate sustainability services at SCS, who spoke about the need for a scientific and context-based approach to corporate sustainability measurements. By 2035, he said, the world will be the hottest it’s been in 10,000 years and methane from permafrost thawing could send global warming spinning out of control. These changes will have disastrous impacts on the world’s coral reefs and tropical forests.

“Scientifically, the definition of corporate sustainability means going net zero for all impacts,” he said. But the current LCAs in practice vastly underestimate or leave out essential climate impacts such as Scope 3 emissions and short-term climate forcers such as black carbon.

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Schultz said, “What LCA you choose can dramatically confuse the issue you have in terms of improving sustainability.” For example, current LCA conclusions for paper choices can fail to differentiate the impacts from clear-cutting trees versus selective logging that leaves more of an ecosystem intact.

Jim Ford spoke next about his work with the Environmental Paper Network, which joins 200 NGOs around the world - including Rainforest Action Network and World Wildlife Fund - to maximize recycled paper use and encourage reduced global consumption. Two useful tools are WhatsInYourPaper.com and PaperCalculator.org, which evaluate benefits and savings from making different paper choices.

When it comes to using paper, he said, the new LCA framework will help users better assess the choices they have and the impacts of making these choices.

Kathy Sletten, director of Print for Aveda, spoke next about her company’s journey to use post-consumer recycled (PCR) papers that are “prestigious, beautiful and meet the requirements for a Forbes Top 50 sustainability company.

She said that almost all of Aveda’s materials are 100 percent post-consumer recycled and win international awards for print vendors. Companies such as New Leaf Paper have forced other companies to step up, she said, adding that Mendelsohn was the pioneer: “but now others are following suit. Sustainability-wise, our customers see what we do. That we live it, breathe it and that it’s important. People are buying our products because they’re good and because of how we make them.”

Participant questions and discussion centered on the urgency to use a science-based, 10-year timeframe for addressing climate science impacts, instead of the 20-year time horizon used by the IPCC, as well as several deeper-dive questions about the new LCA framework.

Schultz said that the next steps for LEO-SCS-002 include advancing it in the ISO process so that it becomes part of the current standards.

“So people use the right metrics, so we get the right answers.”

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