There are so many claims made around the sustainability of materials that it is hard for both consumers and professionals alike to determine what the truth is. To help you make informed buying decisions EnviroBuild has conducted an LCA for Sisu LVT and compared the findings to our competitors.
What is Sisu?
Sisu is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. Being a new flooring brand with big ambitions this courage is important, because Sisu wants to transform how the industry views sustainability.
Sisu Dry-Back LVT has the lowest Global Warming Potential of any LVT on the market.
There are so many claims made around the sustainability of materials that it is hard for both consumers and professionals alike to determine what the truth is. The only method is to perform a life cycle analysis (LCA) of the product. This is a cradle to grave analysis that measures every input into a material. This includes mineral extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, maintenance of the product during its lifetime and then the method of disposal.
There are many outputs given on an LCA, but one of the most important is the Global Warming Potential (GWP) which is defined in kg CO2e/m2. This is the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere across the lifecycle of the product and is given in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) which therefore includes all the greenhouse gases like methane and CFCs.
GWP is therefore the figure that we were constantly looking to improve, and below is the story of how Sisu drove itself to become the most sustainable LVT flooring in the world by this metric.
The quality of the product is absolutely fundamental to sustainability and this is visible in the LCA. If a product requires replacing in a shorter timeframe then it’s environmental impact is obviously going to be higher. The reflection of Sisu LVT’s quality is the 35-year warranty.
Similarly indicative is the amount of maintenance a product requires. A lower maintenance product will have less impact over its lifetime as cleaning products themselves have an environmental impact that can build up. There is more on this later...
Increasing the recycled content of a product will generally decrease the GWP impact, as less material needs to be mined/manufactured.
Sisu, as with all LVT, is formed of layers, each with a different function, such as the top wear layer. In this particular layer we found inclusion of recycled material lowers the performance of the product. So whilst this would save carbon in manufacture, the result is detrimental to our efforts, because if a floor has to be replaced after 15 years rather than the 35 years that Sisu is warrantied for, the environmental impact is significantly magnified.
In order to overcome this we tried experiments to incorporate nano-materials into our products, which we hoped would improve the recycled content whilst maintaining performance. Though this avenue eventually came to nothing it started a chain of events allowing the recycled content that we have managed
Over the past two years we’ve worked hard at trying to incorporate more recycled materials into our manufacturing process. Within the industry, recycled content is often simply taking the offcuts from manufacture and putting them back into the manufacturing process. This is then presented as post-industrial recycling, though in reality it is a sensible money saving device carried out as standard by all manufacturers.
Sisu also incorporates recycled PVC allowing at a rate of 12% for 2.5mm dryback LVT and 23% for 4mm click LVT. The headline figure we show, does not and will never, count pre-consumer waste as recycled content. We believe everyone should only mention post-consumer waste, to not do so is greenwashing, and we want to lead the way in doing that even if it affects our headline numbers.
Results from our provisional LCA indicated that another large source of greenhouse emissions was the electricity used in extraction. Now, Sisu not only uses renewable energy in the manufacture of their product, but has also worked with their supply chain to ensure that renewable electricity has been used all the way back to the extraction of the raw materials.
We compared our findings against our main competitors. It is potentially clear from this graph why Sisu claims to be the most sustainable LVT on the market at 6.4 kg CO2e/m2.
The published form of an LCA, in line with the specific guidelines contained in EN15804 is an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). The EPD’s taken are from the direct websites of our competitors trying to find the most equivalent product to Sisu 2.5 mm dryback LVT
The great thing is that all the differing marketing headlines of sustainability such as - lifetime, maintenance, recycling schemes, disposal, offshore production, recycled content, last mile logistics and shipping is included in the number.
This gives an indication of why an LCA is so valuable, as the impact behind marketing phrases can be compared. However, and this is important, there are still issues with comparisons due to:
LCA’s undertaken at differing times might use older/newer databases
A glaring example within the EPD’s that we compared was the amount of energy given to the maintenance which varied from 0.32 to 11kg CO2e/m2 (across a range of service lifes as well, 1 year up to 35 years). For products that would likely have very similar maintenance regimes this seemed unfair, and is an indicator that things aren’t always as they initially appear. This was sometimes due to the cleaning regime used, and other times due to the length of time covered by the LCA.
We wanted to be fair to everyone so in this graph we have stripped out the GWP responsible for maintenance which shows Amtico in a significantly better light.
We suspect that this graph is more accurate, but it does require more digging within the EPD and is therefore not easy for the lay-person to achieve. You could also then correct for thickness, but usually this isn’t sensible as a thicker board will have more impact, but potentially other reasons such as durability, depth of pattern, or rigidity, why it is thicker and the environmental trade-off should be clear.
In fact, if we were to run this same analysis for Laminate flooring then we’d nearly always suggest the 8mm rather than the 12mm flooring. Very rarely is the usage such that the floor would have worn away before people wish to change it, but whilst we often advise this, it isn’t something that is often taken up.
A potentially important contributing factor that is not taken into account during an EPD is offsetting of carbon. Offsetting is where you pay for projects which in some way reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, such as planting trees. There are several products which claim to be carbon neutral, whereas their EPD shows a positive value of GWP. This is simply because offsetting of carbon is not countable within an EPD.
The most prominent example is Interface, who say that they offset the carbon of their products. This is a very good thing to do, and gauged by sustainably they are one of the better flooring companies.
Offsetting is generally acknowledged that there is a hierarchy to sustainability, as laid out by the WWF in their fully referenced table below. In this table the most important undertakings that you should prioritise first are placed at the top, and approximate parallels drawn between different industries. In every instance where offsetting is possible it is the least important measure.
Greenpeace is even more stinging in their assessments, claiming “Carbon offsets are a scam”. We don’t fully endorse this view, but want to make all other changes we can first.
EnviroBuild doesn’t have a formal offsetting programme, instead it donates 10% of profits to sustainable charities primarily to prevent the destruction of rainforests. These are often not eligible for offsetting, but we believe it is a better use of our limited money to give to the projects we believe to have the greatest impact than to look for the credit.
For example EnviroBuild helped the Rainforest Trust save 300k acres of primary rainforest in projects around the world, as detailed in our most recent impact report. We don’t know the equivalent amount of money others are giving to offsetting schemes.
Through our LCA journey we have learned a lot about the sustainability of LVT, and the improvements that we can make. The biggest impact that we can make would be for our significantly larger global competitors to make changes to their own supply chain creating an “arms race” to the least impact or most sustainable.
Therefore, if a competitor reads this, and takes action to correct their EPD, we will update this. The whole construction industry needs to do everything that they can to drive the impact of the built environment, and visibility and challenging the status quo is the only way to go about this. EPD’s are a great step in this direction, we just hope that they continue to be used correctly and not subverted to create “best case” scenarios.
At the top of most hierarchies of sustainability is avoid/prevent. The same is true of flooring. Do you actually need a new floor, could it wait a few years, are there sections that could be repaired? This doesn’t help Sisu as a company, but it does help the world, and that’s what we’re trying to do anyway. To help reduce the consumption of those who do need a new floor, we have designed Sisu to be extremely durable and offer a lifetime warranty (35 year residential). Meaning that anyone who purchase Sisu shouldn't need to replace it for at least another 35 years, helping to do our part to reduce consumption.
What Makes Sisu The Perfect LVT For Your Project
Sisu LVT is a high quality and durable indoor flooring that is built to last and comes with a lifetime warranty (one of the longest warranties on the market). Sisu LVT is produced using 100% wind energy and made using up to 100% recycled PVC that would otherwise go to landfill. Sisu LVT was designed with quality and sustainability in mind, its low maintenance requirements allows it to have a lower impact over its lifetime and the quality and durability of the product gives it a lifetime (35 year) residential warranty. Sisu LVT is also simple to install. easy to clean and suitable for most rooms, helping make it the perfect choice for your next flooring project.