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The Era of Full Disclosure

A phenomenon that has clearly been picking up speed throughout the last decade is the increasing public demand for full disclosure.

 

A phenomenon that has clearly been picking up speed throughout the last decade is the increasing public demand for full disclosure. Given the failures of our politicians, the banking and financial system, and, yes, even Corporate America over the last 10 years, is it any wonder that much of the American consuming public looks at almost everything with a bit of a jaded eye?

The need for disclosure doesn’t stop at the banking industry or political sphere; it impacts the adhesives and sealants industry directly with more and more customers and regulatory agencies asking for more data. The OSHA GHS program was overhauled to foster more communication. The USGBC LEED program includes several references to sharing information, including the need to have what is called an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in order to receive a material credit. And the EPA recently announced a chemicals prioritization program that is predicated on receiving more health and environmental impact data.

At the Adhesive & Sealant Council (ASC), we started to grapple with how the need for more information impacts our industry as a result of our 2011 Sustainability Summit. Clearly one of the important takeaways from that event was that consumers of adhesives and sealants are increasingly demanding more information on how our products impact the environment and their health. One of the summit’s conclusions was that the industry needed to begin to address information gaps proactively.

An approach to addressing that demand for more information is the EPD, which can be thought of as something like the information you may find on your ketchup bottle. An EPD sets out the environmental effects of your product or service. It contains information about various impact measures, as well as data regarding the use of renewable resources, water use, waste generation, and other measures.

A company may develop this information by undertaking a life cycle assessment (LCA). Undertaking an LCA is not something any company can do on the fly. It can only be accomplished by following a set of rules designed specifically for that product category. These are known as Product Category Rules (PCRs).

There are different types of EPDs and they mirror the International Organization Standardization’s ISO standard for labels. A Type I is a label that lists certain verified attributes, such as the inclusion of a certain amount of recyclable material in the product. A Type II is a self-declaration claim that has to be backed up with independent laboratory test data. Type II EPDs are primarily intended for use in business-to-business communications, but their use in business-to-consumer communications is not precluded. A Type III declaration is the most detailed and verifiable with LCA data, life cycle inventory analysis, and additional environmental information when relevant.

Once a company has developed an EPD, it has a document that allows its customers to understand a product’s global warming and ozone depletion potential, its use of non-renewable/renewable energy sources in its manufacture, and how much hazardous/non-hazardous waste it produces. In short, the EPD contains a lot of what customers and regulatory agencies are looking for from industry.

The ASC believes that our members must fully understand what EPDs are and how they are created in order to make knowledgeable decisions about their level of involvement. With that concern in mind, the council has undertaken a partnership with ASTM International to educate the membership on the value of Type III EPDs and encourage broad industry involvement in developing the PCR building block.

The ASTM Committee C24 on Building Seals and Sealants will meet June 9-11 in Indianapolis, Ind., at which time C24 stakeholders will begin a research and learning session aimed at taking the first steps toward developing a PCR for sealants. That meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 11 at 3:15 p.m. and will be conference call accessible. If you are interested in participating in this meeting, please contact Steve Mawn at smawn@astm.org.

The era of full disclosure is not going to slip quietly away. More and more consumers want to feel that they have the opportunity to make decisions that will protect the environment, their communities and—most importantly—their families. This Indianapolis meeting may be our industry’s first step at getting ahead of the full disclosure phenomena that inevitably rolls on across the American environmental landscape.

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