January 2010 – Sustainable Product Standards and Certifications for the Built Environment and Industrial Sector; What are They, How do They Benefit MY Company, and How do I Get Certified?

Background

With the social and regulatory push toward reducing the global carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint due to climate change concerns and the existing contribution of the built environment (existing structures) and industrial sector (approximately 72% of energy consumption comes from these two sectors), the demand for cost effective and sustainable improvements are necessary and quickly growing.  The improvements need to encompass both the products that make up existing buildings as well as the manufacturing processes and products that will be included in future buildings.  Sustainable-certified products are now a requirement of many governmental, academic, and health institutions that have established sustainable product procurement procedures and a requirement to buy products that are safe for human health and the environment.  The trend is quickly spreading to private industry in the form of tax incentives and strong public support. Let’s explore what you need to do and the benefits of certification.

The Benefits of Being a Certified Company

Manufacturing a product, improving an existing building, or constructing a future building in a “sustainable” manner (economically, socially, and environmentally), and obtaining certification have many benefits to both small and large companies.

Companies certify that their products and buildings are sustainable for a multitude of reasons:

  • to enhance corporate standing;
  • to claim an industry leadership position; and
  • to boost customer perception with the added benefit of increasing profitability.

In addition, the movement towards a green manufacturing process has the potential to control and reduce future environmental investigation and remediation corrective action activities that result from the release of hazardous materials, wastes, or substances (e.g., asbestos, lead based paint) to the environment that can cost companies millions of dollars in cleanup liability from an environmental legacy perspective.

How Do I Get Certified?

The push for buildings that are constructed using the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership for Energy and the Environment (LEED) rating are becoming more sought after and economically profitable to own.  The use of sustainable certified products contribute to the overall LEED certification rating of a building.  Use of sustainable product standards and certification to these standards provide a means of certifying that a manufacturer’s product is a “green” product.  This is accomplished by evaluating the life cycle of the product from the raw material procurement stage, through the manufacturing process, to the “end of life” of the product.  As a result, there are a vast array of green product directories, labels, certifications, and other evaluation systems that have been used to verify green product claims.  Navigating through the wide array of green product standards and assessment tools is an important consideration for those in the supply chain for green building certification.

Generally, the best standards are those which were developed using a consensus-based process, input from all possible stakeholders, a required third party verification, and a life cycle assessment. One such standard that addresses all of these criteria and has been used to certify products manufactured by several manufacturing entities is the Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SMaRT) standard.  Use of the LEED certification rating and SMaRT standard are important steps toward certification.

How Can EHS Support Help Me Evaluate and Obtain Certification?

EHS Support has teamed with Environmental Logic, Inc, a Pittsburgh-based environmental consulting firm that specializes in LEED certifications.  Our team can review and work hand-in-hand with you to choose the appropriate product certification standard and evaluation process and guide you through the process in a timely, cost-effective manner.  If you would like to discuss the benefits of obtaining certification, please contact Kenny Ogilvie at kennyo@ehs-support.com or Margaret Zak at margaretzak@comcast.net.

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