"Clearly" Transparency is the Wave of the Future

Posted on 9/3/2014 1:03:39 PM By Mark Collatz

“Transparency” as a concept is outrageously popular in the business/consumer market place.  For the adhesive and sealant industry and for that matter any industry manufacturing chemical containing products, this is not a phenomena that is going away any time soon.

My fellow blogger, Paul Bertram, has written and spoken eloquently on many occasions about the growing movement toward requiring full disclosure of what goes into building construction materials. By now, all of us involved with adhesives and sealants have at least a passing knowledge of what has taken place with regard to the United States Green Building Council’s LEED v.4 Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Credit.  That can be considered just the tip of the iceberg.

  • California Department of Toxic Substance Control has begun implementation of rules that will require manufacturers of certain identified consumer products to reformulate with safer chemical alternatives or risk the possibility of having products banned from state commerce.
  • The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is beginning to consider the creation on a state website that would allow public access to company formulation information and possible routes to exposure as part of the existing Prop 65 Rule.
  • Last month, Vermont’s governor signed legislation that will authorize the states’ Department of Health to require manufacturers to report, label, and remove what they deem hazardous chemicals from children’s products.
  • Wal-Mart has announced that it will require its suppliers to phase a number of hazardous chemicals from personal care products, cosmetics and cleaning products sold in its stores. It will also require the suppliers of those types of products to disclose all chemicals in their formulations.
  • Recently, a well-connected architectural firm launched a transparent website that catalogues building materials and substances “ known (or associated with those known) to be harmful to human and environmental  health..”

What do all of these industry and regulatory trends have in common?

Transparency, my friends.

There was a time not so long ago when MSDSs and product labels offered enough information to satisfy regulators and customers, but that time has come and it seems, gone.  Ignoring this rising tide of demand for information is pointless; it will not go away.

I would like to say that we as an industry already have a bullet-proof answer for addressing transparency demands, but unfortunately it’s not that easy.   I am encouraged to say that efforts are underway to meet these challenges.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the ASC Technical Advisory Group (TAG) prior to our July Sustainability Forum in Baltimore.  The TAG, made up manufacturers and suppliers associated with building sealant production, first came together a little more than a year ago with the intended purpose of exploring the possibility of developing Product Category Rules (PCR) for sealants. Now you’re probably asking what’s a PCR?

Let me back up and see if I can tie this together.  Many manufacturers of building products are demonstrating transparency by creating Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). An EPD is a verifiable  document that reports environmental data of products  based on a life cycle  assessment and other relevant information and is in accordance with ISO 14025 (Type iii Environmental Declarations).  But before developing any EPD, specific and strict methodological prerequisites have to be established to ensure that the same procedures are used for the same types of products.  In laymen’s terms, a PCR is an established guideline for considering and using certain type of information in the development of an EPD; it’s a roadmap for assuring consistency, if you will.

Right now, the ASC TAG agrees at the very least that we need to develop a PCR for construction sealants that will allow companies, either individually or through some type of joint effort, to create EPDs for their products.  Additionally, ASC plans on bringing speakers to its Fall Convention in Greenville, South Carolina to talk about some of the things taking place in Europe on the PCR and EPD front.

This is an important step forward in the entire product transparency debate and further highlights how individual companies working together through ASC can move forward to address challenges that none of them would be willing to tackle alone.

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