With environmental labels, you can set criteria in tenders and, above all, check them.
Environmental labels are of central importance for sustainable procurement for the European Union. Since the variety of products is becoming more and more extensive and production chains are becoming increasingly global and confusing, environmental labels are becoming increasingly important. Their use is recommended by the EU. With an environmental label, however, the municipality and the planner have the guarantee that the criteria will be checked and that what they have advertised will be verifiable without having to obtain extensive evidence for each completed procurement act, because control is an important condition of sustainable procurement in Europe.
In the run-up to an invitation to tender, it is important for a municipality to check what it wants to achieve in terms of sustainability. Each environmental label sets slightly different priorities. None covers all aspects of sustainability equally comprehensively. It can therefore even make sense to prescribe criteria from several labels. It is also important that European eco-labels want and should go beyond the status quo of what is required in the EU and continue to develop. In terms of environmental impact, an environmental label is more than a DIN or EU regulation, but does not replace them.
When purchasing, a municipality cannot rely on self-declarations from companies but must demand proof. Environmental labels are not only trend-setting for sustainable municipal purchasing, but also an optimal opportunity for control of the advertised environmental criteria. An environmental impact can only be achieved if these are observed.
Relevant European environmental labels for wood products and paper:
The environmental labels listed below were included in the evaluations:
Group A: Labels that are used in Germany, are relevant for materials and building products, and ISO
Type I or similar labels. These are described in more detail below and also presented in the individual profiles. These labels were also selected by the specialist agency for renewable raw materials from over 300 environmental labels examined as recommendable for sustainable procurement with renewable raw materials:
Blue Angel (blue angel.de).
Cradle to Cradle (epea.com).
eco label (eu-ecolabel.de).
HOLZ VO HIER (holz-von-hier.eu) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (low-carbn-timber.eu).
Nordic Swan (nordic-ecolabel.org).
Austrian eco-label (umweltzeichen.at).
The summaries below are taken from the European report " Environmental product label - a comparison " (www.alpine-space.eu/projects/casco/en/). All of the following information is only a summary and is taken from the websites of the respective environmental labels and the standards shown there. The report is from 2018 and is therefore subject to change.
Responsible extraction of raw materials
Responsible extraction of raw materials for wood products for the individual labels (alphabetically):
1) Blue Angel. The Blue Angel has various standards for various product aspects (*) . According to the standard for wooden furniture, 50% of the wood must come from sustainable forest management, the rest from legal sources according to the EUTR.
2) EPEA. The wording relevant in the standard for wood products is "from sustainable management".
3) Eco label . The eco label is certified by RAL, as is the Blue Angel. Therefore, the requirements for wood products are probably similar. Specifically, in 2018 the following requirements were in place for wood products: (a) 70% share from sustainable sources for solid wood, (b) 40% for wood-based materials.
4) FSC-CoC. The various FSC Chain of Custody (CoC) standards allow the following requirements with regard to wood products: FSC mix, FSC controlled wood up to FSC 100% proportion of wood that must come from forests certified according to the FM-FSC standard.
5) HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) rep. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT). According to the standard, 100% of the wood in certified products must come from sustainable forest management, verified by an FM certificate from FM-FSC, FM-PEFC or similar.
6) NaturePlus. According to the Natureplus standard, proof of the origin of the wood from sustainable forestry is required for wood products.
7) Nordic Swan. According to the various standards, the proportion of wood that must come from sustainable forestry varies between > 10%, >50% up to >70% depending on the product standard.
8) Ö-UZ. According to the standard, a minimum of 70% for wood energy, 50% for solid wood, floors, furniture, exterior wood (no information for insulating materials) must come from sustainable forestry.
9) PEFC Chain of Custody. According to the PEFC Chain-of-Custody (CoC) standard, similar minimum percentages as for FSC must come from forests certified according to the FM-PEFC standard.
(*) Comments on the Blue Angel
The “Blue Angel Climate” is awarded to products that save energy during use (e.g. electrical appliances, lamps, etc.).
The “Blue Angel Water” is awarded to products that save water during use (e.g. water-saving toilet flushing).The "Blue Angel Resources" is awarded to products that have saved resources as a product, for example by using recycled material (e.g. waste paper or recycled plastics). The "Blue Angel Environment and Health" is awarded to products that are low-emission in terms of certain hazardous substances (in focus: formaldehyde, VOC, plasticizers, compliance with European specifications in this area is also checked).
Climate protection has different aspects and levels of approach. Many labels do not address climate protection or only in the use phase.
A1: Climate-friendly extraction of the raw material. There can be very big differences here, both between different materials and different places of extraction of a material. An example is the clearly different use of energy in the forest for management and harvesting in Germany and Indonesia or Russia (emission factors of diesel engines in both countries). However, there is almost no data or information on these values and no label currently covers this aspect.
A2: Climate-friendly short distances along the entire processing chain (CoC) cradle to gate. This factor can be a significant, if not the most significant, contributor to total emissions through to the finished product, particularly for non-regional processing chains. At present, only the Holz von Hier environmental label records and documents these flows of goods and the associated emissions.
A3: Climate-friendly production. Of course, the manufacture of the product can also be energy-intensive or efficient in different ways. For many products, however, there is a lack of relevant, well-founded and reliable information. In principle, such information should be provided via product-specific life cycle assessments or environmental product declarations (EPD). In practice, however, there are considerable difficulties here, which are summarized in a separate document on the subject of EPDs. Some labels formulate specifications here that production should be better than average from a climate point of view. However, the proof of this is questionable, since there are hardly any corresponding "average values" for most products.
A4: Climate-friendly short distances from the production site to the place of use or use. In view of the increasing proportion of trade processes in product procurement, this aspect can make up an extremely different proportion of the climate balance of construction products at the place of use (cf. procurement of solid structural timber from the region or from Russia or PVC from German production or from China). The emissions from such transport routes can easily reach many times the total emissions from the manufacture of the product. However, it is precisely this information that is usually missing from every planner when purchasing the building materials. The environmental label for wood from Hier is unique here, as it records and evaluates all flows of goods right up to the point of end use. This is inherently not possible with other eco-labels, since they are usually issued for a period of validity of several years and are not related to individual products.
B: Energy consumption in the usage phase. Products differ significantly here. On the one hand, there is the category of products that consume energy during the usage phase and thus cause climate-damaging emissions, such as electrical appliances, heaters and others. However, the vast majority of building products, including wood products, are 'internal' from an energy point of view during the usage phase, which means that no product-related emissions occur in this phase of the life cycle.
The life cycle phases to which it relates are specified below - if available - the climate requirement and climate statement of the various labels.
1) Blue Angel . The "Blue Angel Climate" certifies low-consumption electrical devices in the usage phase. The "Blue Angel Climate" does not exist for wood products.
2) EPEA . Energy consumption of electronic devices and devices consuming electricity in the use phase is certified.
3) Eco label . Energy consumption of electronic devices and devices consuming electricity in the use phase is certified.
4) FSC-CoC . No climate label.
5) HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) rep. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT). Proof of the climate-friendly upstream chains (a1, A2, A3, A4) and especially the short distances (A2, A4) in the material flows of the upstream chains of products. The HVH environmental footprint also specifies the classic environmental parameters such as GWP (and others) for the life cycle phases A1, A2, A3 and A4.
6) NaturePlus . Energy consumption of electrical devices and power-consuming devices in the use phase is certified.
7) Nordic Swans . Energy consumption of electrical devices and power-consuming devices in the use phase is certified.
8) Ö-UZ . Energy consumption of electrical devices and power-consuming devices in the use phase is certified.
9) PEFC Chain of Custody . No climate label.
The preservation of biodiversity, i.e. the variety of species, habitats and genetic variability is an urgent necessity of our time and is just as important for the future and sustainable life of mankind as the containment and mitigation of climate change. However, the recording and evaluation of the effects on biodiversity is still hardly known and methodologically not yet established. Therefore there is almost no evidence.The following aspects relate to evaluations from 2018, any changes to labels are not included here (except for HVH/LCT).
1) Blue Angel . No criteria.
2) EPEA . No criteria .
3) Eco label . No criteria .
4) FSC-CoC . No direct criteria (choice of tree species appropriate to the site). But indirectly protection of biodiversity through protection against overexploitation.
5) HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) rep. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT). No use of wood from internationally endangered tree species according to the IUCN International Red List. (Indirect promotion of biodiversity in native forests).(*)
6) NaturePlus . No use of wood from CITES species.
7) Nordic Swans . No criteria .
8) Ö-UZ . No criteria .
9) PEFC Chain of Custody . No direct criteria (choice of tree species appropriate to the site). But indirectly protection of biodiversity through protection against overexploitation.
(*) Additional note on HVH in the aspect of biodiversity:
The environmental label Holz von Hier has a direct and indirect positive influence on biodiversity in various ways.
On the one hand, by requiring an FM certificate according to FSC or PEFC for the logs that enter the certification process.
In addition, Holz von Hier prohibits the use of wood from tree species classified as internationally endangered according to the IUCN International Red List. This goes well beyond these requirements, because a number of tree species with an FSC certificate can be found on the international red list, which also includes considerably more tree species than are subject to the CITES agreement.
Holz von Hier has an indirect positive effect on biodiversity by promoting demand for a wide range of wood species from regional domestic forestry. This demand creates incentives for local managers to preserve and promote the diversity of tree species in their forests, which in turn forms the basis for a high diversity of accompanying animal and plant species.
However, a major, hitherto largely unnoticed effect covered by Holz von Hier is the impact of transport on biodiversity. As evaluations of the international IUCN Red List show, a large number of animal and plant species are internationally endangered as a result of transport. Table x below gives an exemplary impression of this. This means that depending on the origin, more species are endangered by the transport of materials than by the extraction of the raw materials themselves. By minimizing transport, especially over long distances and from other countries or continents, Holz von Hier also contributes to the protection of biodiversity .
Period of validity of the standards
The period of validity of standards also plays a role in assessing the statement made by eco-labels in terms of environmental impact. Products or companies are usually certified for a specific period of time, ie the mark can be awarded to corresponding products manufactured within the period of time. The longer this period of time, the further the set requirements can lag behind current technical developments. This can be observed in particular with labels for electronic devices.
1) Blue Angel . (1) Number of standards or award guidelines: 113 in total, 3 for wood products, 5 for paper products (as of 2018). (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 2 to 12 years (as of 2018). (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: once during the validity period of the standard .
2) EPEA . (1) Number of standards or procurement guidelines: 1 (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: ?. (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: ka in the above report.
3) Ecolabel . (1) Number of standards or award guidelines: comparable to Blue Angel. (2) Term of validity of the standard, standard revision: validity indefinitely until the standard is changed. (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: once during the validity period of the standard.
4) FSC-CoC. (1) Number of standards or procurement guidelines: also country-specific. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 5 years (as of 2018). (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: annually.
5) HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) rep. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT). (1) Number of standards or procurement guidelines: 1. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 5 years. (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: in real time and related to individual products.
6) NaturePlus . (1) Number of standards or award guidelines: ka from report. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 3 years (as of 2018). (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: once during the validity period of the standard .
7) Nordic Swans . (1) Number of standards or award guidelines: ka from report. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 3-5 years. (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: once during the validity period of the standard
8) Ö-UZ . (1) Number of standards or award guidelines: ka from report. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 4 years (as of 2018). (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: once during the validity period of the standard
9) PEFC Chain of Custody . (1) Number of standards or procurement guidelines: also country-specific. (2) Period of validity of the standard, standard revision: 5 years (as of 2018). (3) Validity of the certificate, audit cycle: annually.
Explanation FM standard and chain of custody standard
Since in practice we always find that the difference between a forest management standard (FM) and a chain of custody (CoC) standard is unclear, here is a brief explanation.
On the one hand, FSC and PEFC have forest management standards that regulate the type of forest management according to the criteria of the respective label: "FM-FSC" and "FM-PEFC". This is the core competency and the core standards of the labels, since you are dealing with the type of forest management. They regulate the type of forest management and the basics of felling according to the respective label.
However, FSC and PEFC also have Chain of Custody standards. These regulate the worldwide material flow of the forest label. The CoC standards ensure that no more wood is marketed according to the respective FM standard than was purchased ("CoC-FSC" and "CoC-PEFC"). As a rule, mass balance standards are used here (e.g. FSC mix, FSC controlled wood).
Especially when importing wood and wood products into the European Union, you should always pay attention to "CoC-FSC" and "CoC-PEFC" certificates. That would be very important, because European due diligence alone is often not enough here.
For wood and wood products within Europe, especially within Central Europe, alternative CoC proofs for sustainable forest management can also be used, such as HVH / LCT or others. Why is briefly explained below.
HVH / LCT has not set its own criteria for sustainable forestry, as there are very good forest laws here in Central Europe and the local forest owners have been managing the forests responsibly and sustainably for centuries. In addition, most of the forests in Central Europe are mostly certified according to the international forest labels FSC and PEFC. In Germany and Austria, for example, >70 to >90%.
HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) ("CoC-HVH/LCT") basically starts on the forest road. However, HVH/LCT requires a forest management (FW) certificate according to "FM-FSC", "FM-PEFC" (see above) or comparable for all round wood (100%) that is included in the CoC certification process of HVH. The Chain of Custody (CoC) is verified at HVH/LCT according to HVH/LCT criteria. No CoC certificates according to "CoC-FSC" or "CoC-PEFC" are required from the participants in the supply chain at HVH/LCT. Such alternative proofs in the supply chains are also permitted and desired according to ISO 38200.
If the criterion 'origin from sustainable forestry' is required for tenders with wood, a HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) certificate must be recognized as an alternative to, for example, an FSC or PEFC certification. This means that bidders who can present a HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) certificate can also take part in such tenders. In Austria HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) has been recognized as proof of wood from sustainable forestry since 2019 and the DGNB has recognized HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) as proof of "responsible raw material extraction". HVH gets 100% of the points in the criterion.
HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) can also, in its core competence, be put out to tender as a leading certificate for climate protection.
HOLZ VON HIER (HVH) resp. LOW CARBON TIMBER (LCT) can be required in tenders in compliance with EU and public procurement law as a "leading certificate for climate protection", in the lower and upper threshold range as well as for construction work and delivery services. This is significant because more and more municipal and state tenders will focus on the aspect of climate protection. After the amendment of the European public procurement law, it is possible to name a certain quality mark in tenders and to focus on it as a "leading certificate".