Have you noticed that almost every organization wants to “go green”?
That’s a great goal, one that every organization should strive toward. Conserving our natural resources — reducing waste, recycling and reusing products — are important tools for sustainability that will protect and ensure our futures and those of our children.
But sometimes what results is a plethora of green certifications popping out of the woodwork with no common standards but a lot of “vested interests.”
We have seen it happen in the carpet industry, going back to 2002 when “green guides” were proliferating. Back then, about a half dozen or so green guides on carpet sustainability were produced. Each seemed to promote a different aspect of going green, and each seemed to give credit to whatever methods of sustainability that their company or interest was currently supporting.
It was as if there were a bunch of beauty contest standards floating around. What resulted was a lot of confusion for, and manipulation of, the consumer.
For example, one organization might view products as sustainable or “green” if the product contained a large amount of recycled content, say 50 percent or more. But another organization might vaunt the fact that a product was “green” because the manufacturing process they used resulted in a small environmental footprint, conserving resources such as water and electricity in production.
Some of these green guides were produced by people in business whose goal was to make money, and some were produced by organizations that had vested interests in particular areas. But the bottom line was there were no common standards for what was “green” and what wasn’t.
Fortunately, our Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Board of Directors had the insight to promote the development of a consensus standard to assess the sustainability of carpet products.
We got together with the National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF) to develop a carpet sustainability assessment standard. Our desire was to accomplish this under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The advantage of going through ANSI was it would result in a multi-stakeholder process. One of their requirements is that we had to form a joint committee. Members on that voluntary committee included those who were interested in the sustainability process, representatives from carpet mills, leaders from state and federal government, architectural designers and academic professionals, just to name a few.
This combination of representatives helped ensure that one interest could not dominate the group. It became a truly consensus-driven process which has resulted in a very fair and equitable standard for all.
We refer to this standard as NSF/ANSI-140, which is shorthand for ANSI’s Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard. It’s a good example of how you can take multiple standards and, through a thorough consensus process, get rid of the confusion that can flood the marketplace.
Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.