Before reading the rest of this entry, write or type the names every green certification or regulation that you can remember.
Does your list include REACH? What about Energy Star and Green Globe? If any of these are on your list, please comment back to me about what’s going on inside your organization in connection to REACH, Energy Star or Green Globe. If none are on your list, let me make brief introductions here.
The requirements of REACH will affect any business that exports to the European Union. The regulations define responsibilities and responses to all substances in all articles (REACH-speak for chemicals and products, respectively). The object is integrated compliance, meaning that a product to be exported to the EU carries with it an unbroken chain of identity for the chemicals it contains and the documented environmental effects of these chemicals throughout the product’s lifecycle, including disposal, should any chemical be released under normal use or by accident. Manufacturers are responsible to obtain documentation from suppliers for chemicals contained in components, and the suppliers have to obtain the same documentation from their suppliers. If a manufacturer uses the same chemical in three different applications, then that’s three sets of documentation. Additionally REACH defines Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs). Any chemical that the manufacturer cannot certify to never be released is considered a SVHC, which could include printer ink as an example. REACH, which refers to the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, was explained at a seminar I attended recently by two Ph.Ds and chemical expert and I would not presume to cover it all here. The audience included carpet manufacturers, wall covering manufacturers and others who export to the EU and have a vested interest in figuring out how to meet REACH to continue selling into the European marketplace. One attendee discussed the various additives that enhance carpet performance and will they still work if reformulated to meet REACH. Another attendee added that regulations like REACH will spread around the globe, and that the City of San Francisco and the State of California have legislation in place or pending. The costs, say both, will be passed on the consumer here and in the EU because businesses cannot afford to develop separate product lines for domestic and export uses. For communicators, there is the need to know about REACH, understand the fundamentals and be prepared to adjust communications tools where necessary to address how your business is meeting REACH or similar legislation.
Energy Star and Green Globe
The USGBC’s LEED program is the preeminent certification today, or at least it is the certification with the highest awareness and recognition. That statement alone may not help me skirt the political arguments brewing under the surface among those at policy-making levels for things of an environmental nature. Some say that LEED goes astray in failing to have a strong energy efficiency component. This, say the critics, is the comparative strength of two lesser-known programs.
Energy Star creates a certification for facilities that measurably cost less to operate and improve the quality of the environment. Sponsored by the EPA, Energy Star rates products, offers home improvement advice, sets standards for new homes and includes a section on buildings and plants. The strategies available to building owners include superior energy management for improving energy and financial performance. The EPA offers a range of tools and resources for building owners, beginning with energy as the first step to green buildings.
The idea of a financial return for the investment in Energy Star is a departure from the real world experiences of managers at LEED certified facilities. In June, a representative of the Merchandise Mart speaking about that building’s recently earned LEED status was asked about the expected timeframe for return on investment from the improvements. His response: Never. The investment was made as a marketing strategy for the Mart, not as building performance enhancement.
That LEED does little to enhance energy efficiency or building performance was a point made by a representative of the American Chemistry Council of Georgia. Speaking to a group assembled for an Energy Conservation Seminar in Dalton, Georgia, in earlier October, Mr. Rudy Underwood alleges that LEED seeks to guarantee a green building but not necessarily an energy efficiency building. He and the ACC would prefer certifications that encourage utilization of products that enhance building energy performance and reduce operating costs, rather than a basis in the ultimate greening of a building as a successful end unto itself. Mr. Underwood offered that LEED has a strong brand and has somewhat overwhelmed the offerings for efficiency-based programs like Energy Star and Green Globe.
Green Globe, as it is known in Canada, and the Green Building Initiative, here in the U.S., is an assessment and rating system backed by eleven years of research. Where LEED is complex and involves multiples teams, uncertainties about results until the end of the process and an abundance of management and staff time, Green Globe uses online tools and questionnaires that automatically generate a report with ratings, achievements and recommendations during and after construction. Where LEED takes months, Green Globe takes considerably less time to determine the value of improvements to new or existing construction. For certification, Green Globe involves third party verification similar to LEED.
The relationship between LEED and Energy Star or Green Globes has been compared with that between Apple’s iPod and all of the MP3 players on the market. As with the Apple product, LEED is better known, better promoted and enjoys a certain cache. Where the MP3 players products by lesser known brands may play music just as well, some will say the sound is sweeter from the iPod. The difference between LEED and its shadow programs may be more easily verified, being energy efficiency and building performance, except the challenge remains for all of us to become knowledgeable about each program and decide for ourselves which tunes are sweetest to our ears.