Amid a rising backlash against "greenwashing" claims, ASTM International has unveiled a new program that seeks to clarify the full cradle-to-grave environmental impact of a product.
"With the proliferation of green measurement systems and labels, there is a growing need to understand the true impact of a product on the environment," the global standards organization reports.
ASTM's new Environmental Product Declarations Program aims to help professionals understand the environmental impact of a product’s life—from raw material extraction to disposal or recycling.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
ASTM International says the program will clarify the full environmental impact of products, from raw material to disposal.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) provide “quantifiable environmental data to compare products that fulfill the same function,” according to ASTM. A declaration is based on a life-cycle assessment. To create comparable data, declarations must follow the same Product Category Rules (PCRs).
Similar to standards, PCRs are "best developed in a collaborative manner and ASTM is uniquely positioned to provide the venue for developing industry PCRs," ASTM says.
“The ASTM International program will provide scientifically based, quantifiable information about product parameters, such as resource consumption and ozone depletion, which will give both businesses and consumers an understanding of a product’s real impact on the environment,” said Timothy Brooke, vice president of certification, training and proficiency testing at ASTM International.
Through ASTM’s certification program, technical advisory committees will oversee the development process for PCRs, the organization says.
EPDs will be verified to ensure their adherence to ISO 14040 standards and to ensure that life-cycle assessment data accurately describe the environmental aspects of a product, ASTM says.
ASTM has developed its program in accordance with ISO 14025—Environmental Labels and Declarations—Type III Environmental Declarations—Principles and Procedures.
Roofing Group: ‘Win-Win-Win’
The roofing and waterproofing industry is already active in the program, according to ASTM.
“Virtually every roofing product on the market now touts its green benefits, but it is often difficult for the specifier, contractor and building owner to evaluate the veracity and relevance of the marketing claims,” said Philip Moser, P.E., a building envelope consultant at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger and a member of ASTM’s Committee D08 on Roofing and Waterproofing.
“Once consensus-based PCRs are developed for the North American roofing industry, environmental declarations can use a consistent format and, more importantly, be based on a more consistent set of calculations and assumptions.
“The end result is a win-win-win for responsible manufacturers, for concerned professionals and consumers, and for the environment.”
Why ASTM is Involved
ASTM says that its reach of more than 30,000 of the world’s top technical experts and business professionals representing 150 countries and its ability to deliver documents to more than 90 industries make it an ideal program operator.
The organization says the program will assist industries by:
• Providing an established infrastructure that can be used for PCR development;
• Offering a proven collaborative process;
• Bringing all relevant stakeholders to the table;
• Assisting in identifying life cycle assessment experts;
• Identifying other related PCR documents; and
• Connecting to other organizations developing similar PCRs.
For more information, contact ASTM’s Certification and Declarations Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.astm.org/EPDs.
ASTM International is involved in international standards development and delivery systems.
Paint Makers Watch
ASTM is not the only group trying to impose standards and order on freewheeling environmental claims. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued newly updated "Green Guides" that crack down on the unsupported use of broad terms like "green" and "eco friendly."
The American Coatings Association, which represents coating manufacturers, is analyzing the new guides for their impact on coating certifications and labeling. The ACA also reported the new ASTM program.
The FTC is already beginning to rein in paint makers. Last week, it negotiated settlements with both Sherwin-Williams and PPG Industries to cease "zero VOC" claims on several lines of paint.