Carbon footprint 2021 offset: Finnish Design Shop bought and protected almost 10 hectares of Finnish forest

To make carbon offsetting as transparent as possible while also contributing to biodiversity, Finnish Design Shop acquired and permanently protected an old forest in Pirkanmaa, Finland. At the same time, new ways to further reduce the carbon footprint are being constantly developed.

A forest in Pälkäne protected by Finnish Design Shop
A hill separates Finnish Design Shop’s conservation area from the rest of the forest. Photo: Jukka Ruutiainen

IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE 2021 SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY, Finnish Design Shop will offset its annual carbon footprint through forest conservation. The first protected area is a 9.56-hectare forest estate in Pälkäne, some 150 km north of Helsinki. The area, surrounded by a few lakes, will continue to thrive under the METSO program protection.

The purpose of the METSO program is to promote forest biodiversity in Southern Finland. Only natural diverse habitats, such as old-growth forests with a variety of species, are accepted into the program.

“The size and southern location of the forest estate in Pälkäne seemed suitable for our goals right away, and the forest was also old, with a great number of species, and also rich in herbs. This was the basis as we conducted the preliminary carbon calculations and a more detailed evaluation of biodiversity values. The forest seemed to fulfill our criteria both in terms of carbon sequestration and biodiversity, and also be suitable for the METSO program,” says Evie Kivi, Finnish Design Shop’s Sustainability Coordinator.

“The forest seemed to fulfill our criteria both in terms of carbon sequestration and biodiversity, and also be suitable for the METSO program.”

The deal was closed following a tight call for tenders in July 2022.

“The Pälkäne forest was found through a forest trading website. We took part in a public call for tenders and won narrowly. The deciding factor for the seller was that through us the forest would receive permanent protection, instead of potentially being sold as plots or for logging.”

A forest in Pälkäne protected by Finnish Design Shop
Old-growth forests and decaying trees are particularly valuable in terms of biodiversity. More than 600 beetles and polypore fungi can make use of decaying aspen. Photo: Jukka Ruutiainen

Immediate climate benefits

“We wanted the compensation to be as transparent as possible for our customers and its effects to be permanent, scientifically proven and clearly demonstrable,” says CEO Teemu Kiiski, whose initiative led to exploring forest conservation as a means to offset emissions. An extensive study conducted by Ethica consultants also spoke in favor of it.

The carbon sequestration potential and natural values of the area were evaluated following the criteria for high-quality compensation by Finnwatch, a non-governmental organization that monitors the global impacts of Finnish companies. One of the most important criteria is additionality, which means that the project needs to produce genuinely additional climate benefits that would not have happened without it. For example, planting new trees after final felling is a legal obligation in Finland, so it cannot be considered additional.

A forest in Pälkäne protected by Finnish Design Shop
Compared to a commercial forest, a protected forest is more diverse with variations in density and species. Only six percent of Finnish forests are protected – and just three percent in the south, where biodiversity is the highest. Photo: Jukka Ruutiainen

Without protection, the Pälkäne forest estate would probably have been cut down, releasing the carbon sequestered in it. Protection can ensure the permanence of the carbon pool and thereby achieve immediate climate benefits. The difference is huge compared to, for example, the planting of new trees: climate benefits will not appear until about 20 years later, and a young sapling stand actually releases more carbon than it absorbs.

Once the conservation process has been completed, the rest will take care of itself – a protected forest requires no management, it only needs to be left alone and let develop naturally. This is also the best way to support natural biodiversity and help introduce more species into the habitat.

The protection ensures that the forest will remain a carbon sink well into the future. Because the Pälkäne forest is protected under the government-organized METSO program, the forest will be protected for decades or even centuries ahead.

A forest in Pälkäne protected by Finnish Design Shop
The protected forest also has a small area of approximately 50-year-old planted spruce trees. Photo: Jukka Ruutiainen

Primary goal to minimize emissions

The protection of the forest in Pälkäne results in climate benefits totaling 3,890 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), exceeding the figure caused by the 2021 operations of Finnish Design Shop, 3,633 tCO2e. The carbon dioxide equivalent is a unit that measures the combined effect of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.

According to life cycle assessment expert company UseLess, the carbon footprint calculation included not only emissions from the Finnish Design Shop’s own operations, but also those in the value chain that can be affected either directly or indirectly.

“70 percent of our carbon footprint is caused by deliveries, so this is something we are looking to improve with our delivery partners.”

The primary goal of Finnish Design Shop’s sustainability strategy is to minimize emissions and reduce its carbon footprint. How does the company plan to reduce its emissions?

“We first and foremost tackle the factors that are the source of most of our emissions. 70 percent of our carbon footprint is caused by deliveries, so this is something we are looking to improve with our delivery partners. We also optimize our packaging solutions, although packaging also accounts for just five percent of our total emissions,” says Evie Kivi.

A forest in Pälkäne protected by Finnish Design Shop
Over the decades, this field will eventually turn into a forest. Photo: Jukka Ruutiainen

According to Kivi, Finnish Design Shop’s own direct emissions reduced radically in 2021 after moving to new, energy-efficient premises: “Our energy use emissions were reduced by 96% compared to the year before as we moved to a new BREEAM Excellent-certified logistics center that operates fully on renewable energy.”

Thanks to geothermal heating and its own solar panels, the logistics center helped to minimize the emissions of the company’s direct operations to a mere 0.1 percent.

“In the future, we will calculate our carbon footprint annually to be able to acquire and protect enough forest to offset our emissions. We will not trade any offset units we produce, not now nor in the future", Kivi ensures.

See also:

Climate action: Our steps towards 100% carbon neutrality >
Finnish Design Shop’s sustainability strategy >
• Questions and additional information: >

Text: Nora Uotila

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