Global Sustainable Product Standards Sought

by | May 4, 2009

allianceforsustainablelogoThe Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments and the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) have formed an educational partnership to advance global sustainable product standards. The partnership is aimed at eliminating market confusion about green products and related greenwashing issues.

The joint initiative will focus on the building environment, including construction materials, mechanicals, interior finishing products and products that support green building operations and maintenance.

The first initiative is a marketing and educational program that defines and promotes sustainable products that are certified through life cycle assessment criteria, according to the partnership.

The Alliance is a group of industry leaders who practice and are recognized for leadership in sustainability. MTS is a nonprofit public charity of leading environmental groups, governments and companies that administers the Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SMaRT), a consensus sustainable product standard that covers 80 percent of the world’s products. Similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification, the SMaRT rating system offers several levels of certification — Sustainable, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

MTS is also promoting the use of green procurement systems for listing and labeling green products to make consumers aware of these products available in the market. The organization is trying to set standards for product categories and create green product directories to help make the switch to sustainable purchasing faster and easier, says MTS.

Sustainable rating systems that certify other types of products include the U.S. Environmental Agency’s ENERGY STAR programs that identify energy-efficient appliances, buildings, and soon data centers, as well as the EPEAT green procurement system that certifies “green” computer products. EPA also sponsors WaterSense, a program that certifies water efficient products and services.

In addition, The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute’s Greenguard certification targets indoor quality performance of products such as flooring, furniture, bedding, air filters and wall finishes, and NSF International developed the NSF140, Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard, claimed as the first ANSI accredited and industry-wide unified product standard for carpets used in all types of buildings in the United States.

Scientific Certification Systems provides numerous sustainability standards, including for flowers and plants, as well as responsible forestry practices.

Also, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) provides certification for wood that comes from environmentally managed forests and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative addresses nine areas of concern relating to sustainably forested fibers. FSC certified products are found worldwide.

To verify green claims made by manufacturers, Underwriters Laboratories, well known for testing product safety, has launched a new unit, UL Environment. The company says it will work with manufacturers to test, validate and certify environmentally sustainable products. The Federal Trade Commission is also working to update its “Green Guides” in an effort to curb misleading green advertising claims.

Green Seal, which awards its Green Seal of approval to environmentally responsible products and services, recently established a Laureate Program to recognize companies for their leadership in meeting eco-friendly standards. The program will offer three levels of Green Seal certification: bronze, silver and gold.

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