Op-Ed

Thanks To You, Transparency is Reaching Deeper into the Supply Chain

The A&D community’s “ask” for ingredient reporting continues to move entire industries toward healthier products, especially now with the Supplier HPD.

By Wendy Vittori

Wendy Vittori

Wendy Vittori, executive director, HPDC

Photo: Health Product Declaration Collaborative
“Ask for transparency.” Over the past decade, the material health and transparency movement has demonstrated that ingredient suppliers, product manufacturers, architects, designers, contractors, and owners can work together to make ingredient transparency the norm in the building industry.

The market speaks

It all begins by asking, “What’s in the product?” There has been a groundswell of voluntary participation by hundreds of manufacturers to respond to this request by creating thousands of public transparency reports. Spurred by market demand, manufacturers committed to transparency are reaching deep into their supply chains to better understand their own chemical formulations. Some manufacturers are using this information to initiate the redesign of products and processes to remove chemicals of concern. Others are investing in research and development aligned around the principles of green chemistry, resulting in a next generation of healthier high-performance products.

The result so far is encouraging: thousands of increasingly optimized products are earning certifications such as Declare, GreenScreen, and Cradle to Cradle Certified, and are contributing to improved healthfulness of LEED, WELL, and Living Building Challenge projects.

What do all of these programs have in common? A need for interoperability.

Collaboration is key

To have confidence in the certificates, we need confidence that the data they are based on are accurate, reliable, and consistent across products and product categories.

And when those data are consistently reported, they can also flow easily from one organization’s database over to another’s certification program, and then into another’s product-selection tool. This flow also gives us more return we all get on the manufacturer’s investment. That’s why all of these organizations have collaborated on an underlying consensus approach to data reporting called the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard.

Now, enter the Supplier HPD. This new tool extends the use of the HPD Open Standard to direct use by ingredient suppliers. Once entered, the data are interoperable with all the harmonization and automated data partners that collaborate with the HPD Open Standard. With this important next step, a supplier will be able to provide transparency about the contents of its ingredients and the associated health information, with the same standards-based rigor—and safeguards for proprietary data—offered in the Product HPD. For example, a chemical producer can use the Supplier HPD to create a report of its ingredients and can easily make this available to any formulator or manufacturer that uses this chemical. It can also choose to make this information transparently available to anyone. 

Powered by architecture and design professionals

The rocket engine pushing this transformation is the combined “ask” that a growing number of firms and LEED project teams are making. By asking for transparency and continuing to include it in their specs, they are fueling a new paradigm of open, collaborative innovation based on information sharing across multiple platforms and participants. When architects and designers select manufacturers who have committed to the transparency path, they turbo-charge this progress.

Some architects and designers are going further—boosting their own knowledge about material chemistry, developing expertise in toxicology and industrial hygiene. We applaud their initiative.

Also fueling healthier product selection is the development of the growing number of databases, tools, and certifications that help A&D practitioners more easily translate ingredient and health information into healthier product recommendations. With these advances, we’re on the cusp of a more transparent marketplace for ingredients and products, supported by a robust understanding of their health consequences. And because many suppliers work across industries—not just in building products—the effects of these efforts will be far-reaching.

The next breakthrough in transparency

The A&D Community gave birth to this acceleration of transparency in the building industry. Thank you to every one of the practitioners who is asking for transparency and making this the norm on their projects. Thank you to the hundreds of manufacturers who have voluntarily—and publicly—shared their product information. The work of the key research, rating, and certification organizations has made it possible to know much more about the health attributes of thousands of products that go into our buildings. A special thanks also goes to the immense effort undertaken by the volunteer members of the HPD Collaborative Technical Committee, Technical Sub-Groups, and 250-plus HPDC member companies. Representing a cross-section of the entire building industry, their leadership and support has established an open standard as a foundation for this extraordinary progress.

This community, collective, voluntary effort has—through open collaborative innovation—now set the stage for the next breakthrough in transparency and material health practice. We are rapidly approaching the day—within our working lifetime—when we can easily know the health characteristics of any product, and a growing number contribute positively to the health of our buildings, our communities, and our lives.

Wendy Vittori is Executive Director of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative. To learn more about the Supplier HPD, part of HPD Open Standard version 2.2, or to engage in any way with this movement, please leave your comments here or visit hpd-collaborative.org.

Published June 3, 2019

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