Framework would certify manufacturing sustainability

Companies have until mid-September to comment on proposed third-party certification.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Yesterday, I posted a blog about supermarkets moving to support sustainable harvesting methods for their seafood products. The biggest thread of comments that I received had to do with the fact that "sustainability" means different things to different people.

Actually, I think the issue is that many different people are trying to designate their standard for what sustainability should and can mean. From the consumer standpoint, it is hard to understand whether any one of the literally hundreds of ecolabels that you can earn for a product or a company is better than another particular label.

I predict that there will be a consolidation and rationalization of those labels. Meanwhile, there's another one for you to consider: being development by UL Environment, which was born out of Underwriter Laboratories, and Greener World Media, which is the media and consulting company that runs the GreenBiz.com service. The two are working on a standard called "ULE 880 - Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations," which (as you will have guessed) is focused on helping manufacturers measuring and certify their sustainability.

The reason I am writing about this is because there are 102 different indicators (200 possible points) included as part of this certification, and the two are looking for public feedback. The different measuring levers include:

  • Sustainability governance: As in, how does an organization measure and self-police?
  • Environment: What tactics are using to control the company's environmental footprint?
  • Workforce: How good are working conditions and workforce culture?
  • Customers and suppliers: What product safety procedures are espoused?
  • Social community engagement: How does the company work with the local communities where it operates in order to ensure ethical, responsible conduct?

The standard includes elements of existing reporting frameworks including various ISO guidelines, the Social Accountability International SA 8000 standard and the Global Reporting Initiative. In other words, it brings together different reporting standards into one place, which is useful for organizations that look at sustainability in ways that aren't just all about the environment.

The idea is that you will be audited and verified independently, which is (I'm guessing) where these two organizations hope to play a role.

The one thing I'm not hearing about in these guidelines, which maybe be covered in the whole report (I haven't read it yet) is how you dispose of things. Hopefully that is a bigger concern, because it certainly is becoming a bigger concern for many of the companies that I interview.

How you manufacture a product means a world of difference in how you take it apart at the end of its life.

Greener World and UL Environment are seeking feedback on the framework until the middle of September.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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