EPD Australasia

PROFILE: Carter Holt Harvey

Carter Holt Harvey has been a part of the Australasian timber industry for more than 150 years.  The company has survived this long through innovation, adaptability, and a commitment to the environment.

These days the business is organised into four business units:  Carter Holt Harvey Building Products (CHH Timber), Carter Holt Harvey Plywood (CHH Plywood), Carter Holt Harvey LVL (Futurebuild® LVL) and Carters Building Supplies.  As part of the company’s program to enhance sustainability, three out of four of these divisions have now published EPDs, providing their customers with independently verified environmental information.

We spoke to Cameron Rodger, Technical Director of futurebuild LVL, about Carter Holt Harvey’s commitment to sustainability and the role that EPDs will play in moving forward.

Carter Holt Harvey has declared that its commitment to the environment is fundamental to its business.  What are the key actions being undertaken by the organisation to improve the sustainability of its products? 

CHH takes its environmental responsibility seriously. Key actions being undertaken to demonstrate this and to improve the sustainability of our products are set out in Table 2 (page 16) of CHH’s just published Environmental, Social and Governance Report (April 2023) including releasing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for our NZ manufactured products.  See latest list of EPDs here.

How do EPDs fit into CHH’s overall sustainability commitments?

As a manufacturer of wood-based construction materials, which form an important part of the bioeconomy, EPDs are a tool that show CHH’s overall sustainability commitment. They are also a tool that CHH’s partners can use when choosing which materials and suppliers to use. We have just published EPDs for our NZ manufactured products and an EPD is in place in Australia covering our Australian manufactured products. Those declarations are important to CHH and enable it to demonstrate its sustainability commitment internally to its workforce and externally to suppliers, customers, and the regions it operates in. Again, our ESG Report references our EPDs (at pages 14-16) and should give those outside CHH confidence in the environmental credentials of our manufactured wood products and allow them to rely on our published data in determining their own sustainability footprint.

Futurebuild recently joined other CHH subsidiaries in publishing their first EPD for Laminated Veneer Lumber.  Were there learnings from the process of developing the EPD?

Like the plywood and timber EPDs, the process of the development of the LVL EPD has added an opportunity for an additional level of rigour and consideration for optimisation of our manufacturing operations. One of the major learnings from completing our LVL EPD was the impact of wood-based products being a carbon store when considering Global Warming Potential Total (GWPt).  The positive contribution towards environmental impact measures of residues being burnt as part of the drying and conditioning processes supports advantageous GWP values and the reduced energy use off the grid.

How do you intend to use your EPD moving forward? 

The initial drive towards the development of EPDs across our timber, LVL and plywood product ranges was to provide data to design professionals to be able to make conscious decisions around GWP and other environmental impacts during product selection.  As we have further developed our internal understanding around ESG and EPDs we have begun to use the data in a number of different ways across operations, engineering and marketing.

Operationally, as part of Continual Process Improvement processes across our sites,  we are beginning to consider measured environmental impacts in our manufacturing practices and are analysing EPD data to consider environmental hotspots and opportunities for optimisation.

We are now tying the EPDs into our overall ESG commitments and marketing when engaging with the wider market about our products and solutions.  One of the key parts of our market interaction is the development of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) across our Residential Design Service (RDS).  The EISs will provide project specific data around floor and roof designs in our engineered wood products (EWPs), providing designers with GWPand GWPf totals for the LVL, hyJOIST and plywood members, as appropriate, complimenting the Design Certificates and layouts already included as part of the RDS.

Is the growth of LCA and EPD changing the construction industry as a whole, and if so, how?

We have experienced the changing face of the construction industry regarding LCA and EPDs firsthand with an increased level of enquiry over the past eighteen months through our in-market support services. Whilst some of the interest is being driven by climate change initiatives and a high-level understanding about wood-based products as a carbon store, we have found that in general, architects and engineers are actively considering the environmental impacts of products and systems at the design phase.  Building contractors are also engaged in making sure that the products they purchase through the supply chain support the building design intent by actively asking for products that are sourced locally and supported by verified EPDs over and above being manufactured and treated to the relative NZ standards.

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