Transparency in Business: Shedding Light on New Standards in Sustainability

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Transparency in Business: Shedding Light on New Standards in Sustainability

Co-Authored by Patrick Boyle, Director, Corporate Sustainability, Sloan and Rebecca Macies, Admin/Ops Analyst, Terrapin Bright Green. 

Learn more about our environmental strategy work and services by emailing us at info@terrapinbg.com. Follow the conversation on twitter: @TerrapinBG.

As sustainability practitioners, we’re always on the lookout for sustainable products and partners that we can trust. It can be challenging to know how sustainable a product or an organization really is when we’re bombarded with information and advertising, our global supply chains are incredibly complex and difficult to navigate, and the evidence and impacts of climate change continue to build. Transparency has become increasingly important as business has become more complex. Having more information available allows us to make more informed choices.

The rise of product labels and certifications, and their increasing rigor, speak to this desire for wide reaching standards and accountability. Most of us are familiar with the rise of labeling that has happened in recent years. Whether it’s through our food purchases, where we see labels such as Fair Trade and USDA Organic, or through our professional careers working with the LEED rating system in buildings or the ISO standards, certification standards have a significant impact on our environment. They are transparent because we know what standards a producer must meet to achieve the label, and they can be held accountable. If companies are audited and are found not meeting the required standards, they can lose their certification and its associated benefits.

We want to be able to trust that the products and people we work with are truly walking the walk of sustainability and health. With that in mind, both Terrapin and Sloan decided to pursue certifications: Terrapin is a Certified B Corporation, and Sloan has Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs), and Declare labels for certain products.

Transparency in Products

It all began in 1906 when Sloan introduced the Royal flushometer and has been a leading pioneer in commercial restroom water conservation ever since. The Royal was an alternative to the typical tank and chain set-ups of that time, but it reduced water use by up to six gallons per flush, all while not sacrificing performance.

Fast forward to 2017 and Sloan is still revolutionizing the sustainability of today’s commercial restrooms with technologies that improve water-efficiency without compromising design, quality, affordability or performance. However, Sloan is not solely focused on water conservation and high performance. We’ve entered the next evolution of sustainable product design, looking beyond how our products conserve water. Sloan’s high efficient fixtures and fittings utilize such small quantities of water to effectively and hygienically evacuate waste that the question of how low can we go begins to emerge.

Consider the evolution of flush volumes for the commercial water closet (toilet) – in the 1950s it took seven gallons of water to flush the standard toilet. Today, a water closet needs only 1.1 gallons to flush. The water savings for urinals have been even more dramatic, as commercial urinals use as little as 0.125 gpf, or less with waterfree and hybrid fixtures.

Evolution of Commercial Restroom Design

So how much further can we go to reduce water consumption without sacrificing sanitation for the sake of conservation? With that in mind the next evolution of commercial restroom design in upon us – product transparency.

This evolution opens the door to infinite opportunities that recognize the entire life-cycle of an individual product, from harvesting those metals from the earth to manufacturing, operation, and end-of- life – a true “cradle-to-grave” perspective.

The development and incorporation of EPDs and HPDs are ushering in a new level of sustainability, shifting and broadening our focus from gallons per flush to how each production detail can impact both human beings and the environment. EPDs and HPDs are taking green, high performance construction to another level—offering the product transparency that an increasing number of architects, designers, engineers and building owners are demanding.

Working with SCS Global, we have been successful in creating EPDs and HPDs for some of our best selling products – diaphragm and piston manual flushometers. Following the strict guidelines of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14044 standard, SCS developed our EPDs utilizing five  different data types – energy use, sourced components, waste generation, logistics, and product performance – SCS Global conducted a rigorous cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment and prepared our first ever Environmental Product Declarations.

The EPD provides us with a myriad of science-based, environmental information over the entire life cycle of the product – production, construction and installation, use and end-of-life. The results show us, and the rest of the world, how each individual product impacts environmental and human health. Not only are we reducing water consumption, but now we also have the ability to take a detailed look at our supply chain structure and manufacturing methods to create a more environmental and human friendly product. Our Environmental Product Declarations helped put critical information into our hands so we can make better decisions that can have a measurable impact on our bottom line and the environment.

Keith Killpack, Manager of LCA Services for SCS Global and his team were pivotal in the development of Sloan’s first product transparency reports.  “We are pleased to support Sloan’s commitment to product transparency and sustainable practices” said Killpack.

Diving Deeper

Sloan’s product transparency reports dive in even deeper with our Red List Free Hybrid Declare labels for the Hybrid and Waterfree urinals. The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) developed the Declare label as a transparency platform and product database allowing manufacturers to publicly ‘declare’ the life-cycle sustainability of their products based on the presence of environment and human friendly chemicals. The Red List created by the ILFI contains over 800 chemicals identified as hazardous to humans and/or the environment. The list is used as a mechanism to help eliminate the use of these chemicals in commercial products because they may not be included in any project seeking to meet the criteria of the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

There are three Declare label certification levels: LBC Red List free, which means the product is free of all red list ingredients; LBC compliant, which means the product contains some Red List chemicals but ILFI has designated a temporary exception; or Declared, which means the product is not compliant with the Red List or its temporary exceptions.

Product transparency reports like Environmental Product Declarations, Health Product Declarations, and Declare labels are the new standards shifting and broadening the focus from how Sloan’s high quality products can reduce water consumption to how each production detail can impact both human beings and the environment.

Sloan currently has the widest breadth of transparency reports available. We started the EPD and HPD process on our best-selling manual diaphragm flushometers and piston flushometers and achieved Declare labels on our Waterfree and Hybrid urinals. We’re not finished just yet. Expect to see more EPD’s HPD’s and Declare labels on more product lines in the near future including our top selling sensor flushometers, our vitreous china lines and faucets.

Transparency in Business

Sustainability; noun

  1. the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
  2. Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance

When we think about the word sustainability, we are usually thinking about the second definition, the one that applies to environmental science. However, as a business, being sustainable means being able to stay in business. It’s easy to think that these definitions are mutually exclusive—that business and the environment are entirely separate from one another. In fact, there are businesses that bring these two definitions together.

Terrapin was founded with a deep commitment to sustainability and well-being, not just for the natural environment, but for the people in it. Our mission, creating a healthier world, has evolved over the past decade and includes the people who inhabit the buildings, neighborhoods, and cities that we work to improve. We work to maintain a broader view of sustainability, one that blends environmental sustainability with the sustainability of the people and businesses with whom we work.

With these values in mind, Terrapin decided to pursue the B Corp certification. Certified B Corporations are companies using business as a force for good. We chose to become a Certified B Corporation to recommit to these values and to hold ourselves accountable to them. To become certified, we went through a rigorous assessment and were required to meet the highest standards in environmental and social performance, accountability, and transparency. The assessment, called the B Impact Assessment, reviews our impact in Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. For example, the Workers category evaluates the company’s contribution to employee well-being, including topics related to compensation and benefits, training, health and safety, and job flexibility. Companies must score a minimum of 80 points (out of a maximum of 200) to become a Certified B Corporation. B Lab, the non-profit behind the B Corp certification, has made the Impact Assessment freely available for anyone to use, meaning that anyone can see exactly what standards are used to measure each company.

Measure What Matters

The assessment provides a tool to “measure what matters.” Committing to the assessment was a way for us to benchmark our performance across the five impact categories. It allows companies to understand how their policies are tied to their values. It shows to what degree we were really “walking the walk” and living our values. We completed the assessment internally and worked with B Lab to go through our answers and finalize our score.

Much like Environmental Product Declarations measure the environmental footprint of a single product, or LEED measures a building’s environmental performance, B Corp certification measures an entire company’s environmental and social performance.

Terrapin shared the assessment internally to show the team how we were performing in each of the five impact areas. Internally, it provides a way to measure and track the progress of our internal goals. Whether those goals are inclusive hiring, employee training or the company’s environmental footprint, having a benchmark to work from means that change can be quantified and measured.

Beyond our own office, one of the benefits of becoming a Certified B Corp is that the certification engenders trust. People familiar with B Lab know that the certification is rigorous and that it represents a certain set of values. The B Corp label conveys those values immediately.

Making More Information Available

B Corp certification makes more information available, which helps companies make better decisions about how they operate internally, as well as who they work with. After all, we want to work with businesses we can trust are doing good. Transparency is how we hold each other accountable and how we learn from one another. Much like the peer-review process in research, or citing your sources when presenting new ideas, transparency provides the information needed to start a productive dialogue.

The assessment is a valuable benchmarking tool for us to know where we are today, and to give us an idea of where we can aspire to be in the future. Our score is tangible evidence that we are living up to our commitment to be a positive impact on the environment and society, beyond internal surveys or conversations with peer businesses.  Our impact report is now available online. We encourage you to take a look and take the assessment for yourself.

Rebecca is the Director of Operations at Terrapin and has a background in natural resource policy and management. She is interested in how policy helps shape our relationship to nature, and how we can work with and learn from natural systems to address human needs.