Underwriters Laboratories to Validate Environmental Claims
Extending its mission of product safety from people to the environment, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) will offer manufacturers two new programs to test and certify environmental product claims. Set to launch in January 2009, the Environmental Claims Validation (ECV) program will test and assess environmental product claims, and a second program will certify products to environmental standards. With a 114-year history and one of the most recognizable product-safety logos in the U.S., UL could help address widespread confusion in the green products certification world. “Our customers have been asking us, ‘When are you going to get in and help us? We’re looking at a maze and we don’t see any power brand that can truly give us peace of mind,’” said Marcello Manca, vice-president for new business development at UL. Those customers include product manufacturers as well as retailers looking to market green products on their shelves, Manca said. He added, “The building industry needs something like LEED on the products side.” UL’s two programs have distinct features. The first, for environmental product certification, will be “a classic certification program,” said Manca. It will identify relevant green product standards and test and certify products to those standards. Certified products will be able to display a UL-branded label that shows the relevant standard. According to Manca, UL will adopt industry accepted standards for various product areas and would add new standards when they become available. In addition to joining the field of third-party certifiers, UL plans with its ECV program to directly address claims made by manufacturers. These claims are often subject to greenwashing: exaggeration, distortion, or lying. “If the customer comes to UL and says, ‘This is what the advertising says about our product,’ that is what we’ll test,” explained Manca. Relevant claims include energy efficiency, recycled-content levels, volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, and avoidance of banned substances. Referring to Federal Trade Commission guidance for environmental marketing claims, UL will determine what tests it must perform to validate a given claim and will carry them out. If a claim is validated, it will publish the results in an open database. “We like to think the end point will be certification to industry standards,” said Manca, noting that he considers ECV a “bridge to certification.” Manufacturers will not be allowed to use the UL logo in association with validated claims, although they will be able to note in text that a claim has been validated by UL. This aspect of the program, which should help prevent manufacturers from exaggerating the relevance of a validation, contrasts with another claims validation program recently announced by an industry heavyweight, the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES; see EBN). In that program, which does not require third-party certification of claims, any claim that is validated within a number of categories allows a manufacturer to use an ICC-ES logo in its marketing. Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), which has been certifying green products for years, differs from both of the other programs in that it will validate any appropriate claim and allow its logo to be used with that claim, although advertisements must clearly specify what was validated by SCS.
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Environmental Services Programs
January 1, 2009
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