Feature Article

The Product Transparency Movement: Peeking Behind the Corporate Veil

Manufacturers are offering more product information than ever, but how can we know what to trust?

Design firm Perkins+Will has developed the Transparency label as an example of how EPD information might be displayed in a digestible, on-product format—much like the nutrition label on a cereal box.

Image: Perkins+Will

I’m looking through you. Where did you go?
I thought I knew you. What did I know?

– The Beatles

In the last two years, building product transparency has started to get traction in North America: changes in consumer expectations, building certification systems, and international laws and standards have finally begun to converge in standardized corporate reporting about any number of environmental, social, and health impacts. Many in the design community as well as the manufacturing community are developing ways to easily communicate some of this information through what is often called a nutrition label for building products.

While lots of folks are looking forward to having this nutrition label, there are different visions of what this means. Most are talking about environmental product declarations (EPDs), which are designed to inform us about the environmental impacts of a product over its life cycle. Some are referring to disclosure of ingredients and their health impacts through a health product declaration (HPD).

Published December 27, 2011