Green Notes By Jo Rossman, LEED AP
Gauging Corporate Sustainability:
New industry-focused developments emerge
WHAT MAKES A BUSINESS GREEN? The market is flooded
with standards and certifications grading a corporation’s level of
sustainability and/or issuing stamps of approval. Most are not tailored to any particular industry, but several new developments have
a direct bearing on the retail environments industry.
Suppliers: ULE 880
For manufacturers, a new consensus-based third-party certification
as a sustainable business will soon be available. Developed by UL
Environment and Greener World Media, the draft standard ULE 880
– Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations completed an open
comment period in September. Following the integration of feedback
into the draft, the standard will undergo pilot testing before being
deployed and reopened for stakeholder comment to foster continuous improvement.
The idea is a rating system by which to measure the corporate sustainability performance of manufacturing companies. Qualified, independent third-party reviewers would verify a company’s performance
against these metrics for ULE 880 certification.
Developers intended the certification to be challenging, yet achievable. In addition to prerequisites required for certification, the draft
system includes a possible 200 points plus 18 additional innovation
points. Conformance levels were undetermined at the time of publication, but a trilevel certification system is anticipated.
The standard addresses five areas:
1. Governance and management for sustainability, including
sustainability strategic planning, board of director accountability,
public reporting, fair operating practices, sustainable operations, and
2. Environment, including products and services, sustainable
resource use, energy efficiency and carbon management, materials
optimization, facilities and land use, habitat and pollution, and waste
3. Workforce, including recruitment and retention, human resources,
and employee well-being.
4. Customers and suppliers, including product safety, sustainable
supply chains, and fair marketing practices.
5. Social and community engagement, including environmental justice, community engagement, community investment, and
The five areas are weighted, with environment currently the
heaviest, as analytical criteria is more widely available for this area
than for the others. The system includes reporting requirements
and references a number of existing frameworks such as GRI and
ISO. The standard is designed for large and mid-sized manufactur-
ers, but ULE will consider certifying small-business manufacturers
on a case-by-case basis for companies playing a significant role
in their industries. ULE also plans to develop a similar standard for
Retailers: Several Options
In Europe, 17 retailers have committed to a voluntary retail business standard known as the Code for Environmentally Sustainable
Business, which was released in June. Developed by the Retailers’
Environmental Action Programme (REAP), a coalition of retailers and
retail organizations, the code addresses sourcing, resource efficiency,
transport and distribution, waste management, communications, and
reporting. Examples of possible action under each area are included
in the code, but rather than define criteria or identify strategies, the
code asks retailers to set their own initiatives and report on their progress in their annual corporate sustainability reports (CSRs) or other
existing procedures. The code does not rate or approve retailers, but
acts more like a pledge.
While the REAP code seems attuned to consumer marketing purposes, a new tool by the National Retail Federation attempts to help
retailers assess their sustainability status. The NRF’s Sustainable
Retailing Consortium unveiled its Sustainability Scorecard at the NRF
trade show in January. This free online questionnaire for self-scoring
is intended to be used internally to promote discussion that can help
retailers develop their own action plans. Scores remain confidential,
but can be compared against cumulative aggregated data. Questions
address program elements and administration, the consumer, building design, energy management, recycling and waste reduction, supply chain and logistics, products and packaging, accountability, and
education on sustainability.
A similar fee-based program for retailers adds an initiative recommendation element. In July, the Green Business Bureau (GBB),
a Houston-based company, announced its Eco-Industries Program
for Retailers (E-IPR). It, too, features an assessment survey, but the
system also suggests new initiatives upon the completion of target
objectives. Certification is available to companies completing five
prerequisite initiatives. E-IPR features standard GBB initiatives for
energy, water and paper reduction and adds an additional 28 retail
industry-specific initiatives focused on packaging and waste reduction. While the list of initiatives is not published, the company notes
that they address store and office operations as well as customer
satisfaction, and that they can be adapted to the brand and merchandise sold. Consultants not only perform on-site audits to ensure
compliance, but assist retailers in meeting goals.
For a few retail segments, fee-based green business certification
programs tailored to the segment already exist. The non-profit Green
Restaurant Association administers the Certified Green Restaurant