UL Environment's EPD Program Offers Greater Product Transparency

UL Environment's EPD Program Offers Greater Product Transparency

UL Environment plans to launch an environmental product declaration program in January, a move that adds a new dimension to the organization's green verification services by offering companies a way to provide greater product transparency.

The EPD program will roll out as UL Environment begins its third year in business. Underwriter Laboratories Inc. introduced UL Environment in January 2009 with the aim that the new division becomes known in the green arena the way that the nearly 116-year-old UL label is recognized in the field of product safety standards and testing. 

Entering a market crowded with green product claims and eco-labels, UL Environment initially offered two services: environmental claims validation and sustainable product certification. This past summer, the organization and GreenBiz.com announced they are partnering in the development of sustainability standards for companies with the first being ULE 880, which is designed for manufacturing businesses. 

The environmental product declaration program comes as companies -- and prospective customers -- are seeking even more information about goods and their environmental impact across their lifespan. An EPD provides detailed, standardized documentation of an audited lifecycle assessment of a product's environmental performance.

"With more than 300 certifications and eco-labels on the market, determining which products are truly green is next to impossible," UL Environment President Stephen Wenc said in a statement.  "Our EPD service will add credibility and alleviate market confusion by helping purchasers make informed decisions."

"We're trying to bring clarity to this space," Paul Firth, UL Environment's manager of science and research, told GreenBiz.com.

Businesses producing building materials, lighting, textiles, electronics and other consumer goods are among those that have indicated an interest in such a program. Firth said he's fielded about two dozen queries on the subject in the past six months. 

Firms that supply the building industry are expected to be a key market for the EPD service. A study conducted by MindClick SGM for UL Environment showed that in the past year 90 percent of architects and designers have researched, specified or purchased green products, according to ULE.

Firth credits the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED rating system for driving the interest in green building products and the desire for greater transparency regarding the environmental performance of materials.

"Architects and designers are asking more questions, they are more aware of carbon," said Firth. They are realizing "you can't have a sustainable building if it is assembled with products with less than positive attributes," he said.

UL Environment plans to complement the launch of its EPD program with education materials, including white papers and webinars, as the service gets underway.

Environmental product profiles are frequently seen in Europe, particularly for building materials, and are expected to gain currency in the United States. Modular carpet maker Interface and Bekaert Specialty Films, which produces Solar Gard window films, are among the firms that recently compiled EPDs.

"You're going to see more references to EPDs in the future," Firth said. "In general, the whole idea of transparency is like a snowball running downhill."

More information will be available about the program in January at www.ulenvironment.com/

Image courtesy of USG Corporation, which received ULE Sustainable Product Certification for SHEETROCK Brand UltraLight 1/2-inch panels in October.