Within the forest sector, the sustainability concept has evolved from a narrow focus on sustainable wood production to a much broader evaluation of environmental, social, and economic sustainability for whole value chains. A new software tool – ToSIA – has been developed for assessing sustainability impacts of Forest-Wood-Chains (FWCs). In the approach, FWCs are defined as chains of production processes (e.g. harvesting–transport–industrial processing), which are linked with products (e.g. a timber frame house). Sustainability is determined by analysing environmental, economic, and social sustainability indicators for all the production processes along the FWC. The tool calculates sustainability values as products of the relative indicator values (i.e. indicator value expressed per unit of material flow) multiplied with the material flow entering the process. Calculated sustainability values are then aggregated for the segments of the FWC or for the complete chain. The sustainability impact assessment requires carefully specified system boundaries. ToSIA uses a data-oriented approach that is very flexible in the focus of the analysis and the selection of indicators of sustainability. An example of alternative Norway spruce management systems in Southern Germany and their effects on six sustainability indicators is presented. The less intensive management system with natural regeneration and motor–manual harvesting shows higher carbon storage and slightly less energy use. It creates more employment and higher labour costs, but the average rate of accidents is also higher. ToSIA offers a transparent and consistent methodological framework to assess sustainability impacts in the forest-based sector as affected, e.g. by changes in policies, market conditions, or technology. The paper discusses strengths and limitations of the approach and provides an outlook on further development perspectives of the methodology.
- life-cycle assessment