Certifiably Sustainable?

Celia Spence

Celia SpenceMeasuring sustainability is something companies have been struggling with for several years, especially in the area of supply chain management.  On August 2, UL Environment and Greener World Media announced a draft standard for manufacturing companies to measure and certify their sustainability.

The standard has been released for a 45-day comment period and the public is encouraged to review and provide comments in an open, transparent process.  “ULE 880 – Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations” spans 102 indicators in five areas of sustainability, that include:

  • Sustainability governance: How an organization leads and manages itself in relation to its stakeholders, including employees, investors, regulatory authorities, customers and the communities in which it operates.
  • Environment: How an organization manages its environmental footprint across its policies, operations, products and services, including its resource use and emissions.
  • Workforce: Issues related to employee working conditions, organization culture, benefits and retention.
  • Customers and suppliers: Issues related to an organization’s policies and practices on product safety, quality, pricing and marketing as well as its supply chain policies and practices.
  • Social and community engagement: An organization’s impacts on the communities in which it operates in the areas of social equity, ethical conduct and human rights.

Having a tool that will actually result in a score and allow companies to obtain certification could be extremely useful for those companies wishing to demonstrate that their supply chains or operations are sustainable.  But the challenges we have faced with measuring sustainability have resulted from the enormous diversity of manufacturing processes, raw materials and cultural practices we encounter in global corporations.

It will be interesting to see how this has been addressed in this new standard.  Is it actually possible to agree on the metrics that should be used to determine which of the companies among us is operating in a sustainable fashion?  Are there too many subjective choices in deciding what is sustainable and what is not, or do we have enough of a consensus to move forward with a standard at this point?

It will be important to get involved in this and to provide our feedback on the draft.  If such a standard is finalized and becomes widely used, it is something that will affect us all and shape the work that EHS managers do on a daily basis.  What are your thoughts?  Is a standard a welcome development?  Will consensus be possible?

About NAEM Staff

The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), is a non-profit professional association that empowers corporate leaders to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability. As the largest network for environmental, health and safety (EHS), and sustainability decision-makers, we provide peer-led educational conferences and an active network for sharing solutions to today’s corporate EHS and sustainability management challenges. Visit NAEM online at www.naem.org.

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1 Comment
  1. Elizabeth Kujan

    August 25, 2010

    How does ULE see itself in relation to GRI reporting standards?

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