Published on Jul 09 2012 in blog
This month at San Francisco EcoTuesday we are very excited to have Linda Brown, Co-founder and Executive Vice President of SCS Global Services, speak. SCS Global Services has been working since the 80’s to promote sustainability by providing third party certification services in environmental performance and social responsibility, auditing, testing and standards development. SCS was launched long before sustainability became fashionable, much less a top priority, for companies.
“Greenwashing Gets Sophisticated” is the title of her presentation this month. Throughout the evening, she will point out that environmental and sustainable claims are not always what they are cracked up to be, and discuss the importance of educating ourselves about this issue to appropriately weed out the hype.
She’s in a good position to know. SCS launched its third party certification programs in response to greenwashing and has remained a staunch defender of legitimate green claims ever since.
What is a “third-party” certifier? Third-party certifiers are neutral organizations that verify claims on behalf of manufacturers, retailers, public agencies, NGOs and other entities. By contrast, “first parties” are the companies themselves, while “second parties” are other interested parties, such as industry trade associations. A legitimate third-party certifier provides scientific, non-biased assessment, with an emphasis on transparency in order to build awareness and support informed product comparisons.
SCS currently conducts certifications under 16 internationally recognized accreditations including green building, product manufacturing, food and agriculture, forestry, retailing and more. These certifications range in complexity from specific claims such as recycled content to complex sustainability and life cycle assessment based claims. Here is a quick primer on the types of claims that fall under this certification umbrella:
Single attribute environmental claims are simple, straightforward claims about one attribute of a product. For example, SCS’s Indoor Air Quality certifications look at the emissions of products like furniture, flooring, or carpet and verify that the emission factors pass the indoor air quality requirements of California Section 01350. Multi-attribute claims are claims about a broad set of attributes, for instance, a group of environmental, health and social measures. The “level” certification program, developed by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) for furniture, is an example. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for responsibly managed wood is another.
Life-cycle assessments approach the issue of environmental performance differently. They look at and measure the entire scope of impacts associated with a product, process or service. Ideally, these results can be compared among product options to facilitate educated decisions.
SCS’s environmental and social mission is reflected in the company itself. For instance, in January of this year, SCS was one of the first corporations in California to become a California Benefit Corporation under the recently enacted AB 361 legislation, along with Patagonia and 10 other California companies. SCS is additionally a Certified B Corporation. B Corporations conduct business for the benefit of the people and the environment. They engage stakeholders to ensure corporate accountability and transparency by meeting higher legal accountability standards. They also meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.
To learn more about the environmental claims and greewashing, the challenges of third-party certification, and the importance of transparency, join us at EEFG at 6:30pm on Tuesday July 24th. Register here!
Please note, I am an employee of SCS Global Services but have made this article as objective as possible.