The Sustainability Buzz

A New Year, A New Standard

Evaluation FormThe new year brings us a new standard for certifying and measuring the sustainability of manufacturing organizations.  Released in early December by the venerable Underwriters Laboratories and GreenBiz, the new standard, UL 880: Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations, is the culmination of the past several years’ worth of work in developing a comprehensive and verifiable standard that addresses five main areas of enterprise sustainability:

  • Environment
  • Governance
  • Workforce
  • Community Engagement and Human Rights
  • Customers and Supply Chain

In developing the standard, the authors examined 140 existing standards worldwide, including product, industry and single media standards, and aggressively engaged stakeholders to provide feedback.  In two rounds of commenting, 800 stakeholders from 32 countries significantly contributed to the architecture and content of the final standard.

The standard has seven prerequisites, which are mainly compliance-related, including the use of an environmental management system (EMS) and the existence of sustainability, ethics and occupational health and safety standards.  Similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process, organizations meeting the prerequisites are then awarded points for performance against 100 different indicators to become certified.  There are 22 core indicators, spread across the five different domains, for which organizations seeking certification must achieve points in each one (although they need not achieve all the available points in any individual core indicator).

There is a total of 1003 points that an organization could theoretically achieve, but according to Rory Bakke, Director of Sustainability at GreenBiz Group and one of the standard’s authors, UL 880 is designed to be aspirational, and they don’t believe any company out there today could achieve the maximum points (although they encourage someone to prove them wrong).  Bakke says that at 200 points, a company would be doing pretty well; the core requirements are meant to be aggressive but accessible.

UL Environment will be administering the standard, and in their commitment to transparency, a key component of sustainability, they will be listing certified companies’ scores on their website.  UL Environment has developed a program called Sustainability Quotient (SQ) to guide organizations through the certification process, and they are currently developing an SQ training program to allow individuals to become “SQ Qualified” (similar to the LEED Accredited Professional designation) to work with organizations seeking certification.

According to Bakke, this is the first set of sustainability audit procedures in the world to have been developed for manufacturers.  It will, no doubt, be a bellwether for the industry to see how many organizations begin to adopt this standard and achieve certification.  Already, LG Electronics, Intuit and igefa have signed onto the standard, and the authors are at work drafting another standard, UL 881, for the service sector.

iSpring will be watching the evolution of this standard closely.  It has the potential to serve as an excellent foundation for any organization that is interested in taking a holistic approach to sustainability and becoming recognized for it.  With the credibility of the UL name behind it, there’s a good chance that the standard will take off and become the standard, similar to the LEED standard for green buildings.  We, of course, couldn’t be more excited about the standardization of evaluating sustainability performance, as we’ve discussed previously on The Buzz.   A solid (and evolving) standard only serves to raise the sustainability bar across the industry.

Interested in getting started on the road towards certification?  iSpring can help you assess where your gaps are relative to the new UL 880 standard.  Give us a call.

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