Sustainable Standards

Jan. 16, 2015
New standards offer certification for chemicals and water contact products

About the author: Mindy Costello is standards development liaison for NSF Intl.’s National Center for Sustainability Standards. Costello can be reached at [email protected].

NSF Intl.’s National Center for Sustainability Standards worked with stakeholders from municipalities, industry, government and academia to develop two new sustainability assessment standards for water contact products and water treatment chemicals. NSF 375: Sustainability Assessment for Water Contact Products provides a science-based framework for collecting data and communicating information on the sustainable attributes of water contact products in the recreational water, wastewater and drinking water areas. NSF 416: Sustainability Assessment for Water Treatment Chemical Products establishes a consistent approach to the evaluation and determination of environmentally preferable and sustainable chemical processes for water treatment chemical products.

Sustainability assessments provide manufacturers with a way to gauge their current status, as well as criteria to include in their future sustainability practices. These third-party assessments, which certify that manufacturing processes and corporate practices are sustainable, are anticipated to be recognized by municipalities; federal, state and local government agencies; and consumers. Both standards are in the final stages of becoming American National Standards and are currently available for certification.

Certification Criteria

The sustainability assessment criteria for NSF 375 and 416 cover the entire product lifecycle, from raw material extraction through manufacturing, use and end-of-life in the following focus areas:

Product/chemical design: Criteria encourage product designers and developers to understand how to reduce the human health and environmental impacts of the products they develop.

Manufacturing: Criteria encourage manufacturers to quantify the environmental impacts of their product or chemical manufacturing and then act to reduce or remove those impacts.

Durability/performance: For water contact products, these criteria encourage manufacturers to maximize product durability and minimize impacts during product use. For water treatment chemicals, the criteria ensure that the product performs at or above recognized industry performance standards.

Product end-of-life management: Criteria ensure that existing and new products can be collected, processed, recycled and/or composted in the existing materials recycling infrastructure.

Corporate governance: Criteria encourage corporate social responsibility, such as providing a desirable workplace, being involved in the local community and demonstrating financial health.

Key Categories

These standards promote continuous improvement by setting one threshold for conformance for these industries. As the industries move forward in their sustainability achievements, so will the threshold for conformance. NSF 375 requires all prerequisites and requisites, as well as 30% of available optional criteria, which then allow the manufacturer to make the product declaration “Water Contact Product Sustainability Conformance.” In the water treatment chemicals standard (NSF 416), to make the declaration of “Water Treatment Chemical Product Sustainability Conformance,” the manufacturer must meet all prerequisites and 30% of available points within the standard.

Meeting prerequisite criteria is necessary to claim conformance and provide a baseline for all water treatment chemicals and water contact products for their respective sustainability profiles. The prerequisites address water, energy, air emissions, waste inventories and management policies as entry-level criteria.

Requisite credits for NSF 375 include demonstrating non-discrimination in the employment process at the corporate level, affixing a label to the product if materials in the product can be recycled into other products, having a documented and operational waste minimization program, and documenting a plan for energy management and establishing a program to implement the plan.

Optional credits are available for standards an organization already may have in place, such as third-party certification that the manufacturer’s environmental management system meets the requirements of ISO 14001, or packaging and delivery practices that minimize waste generation. The optional credits also provide guidance on future opportunities to increase a company’s sustainability profile.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Being a socially responsible corporation is an important aspect of sustainability. Both standards require transparency reporting of corporate social responsibility metrics and goals through options such as SA 8000 Social Accountability, the Global Reporting Initiative, ISO 26000 Social Responsibility or ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems. For water treatment chemicals, additional options include Responsible Care 14001, Responsible Care Management System and National Association of Chemical Distributors Responsible Distribution.

Additionally, these standards cover stakeholder engagement and community investment. All NSF sustainability standards prohibit child and forced labor, and require discrimination prevention and a functioning health and safety program.

Value of Certification

Manufacturers of water treatment chemicals or water contact products using NSF sustainability assessment standards to guide their efforts also may mitigate corporate risk through a more comprehensive view of process and corporate actions.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has developed stricter guidelines for identifying sustainable or environmentally preferable products. Use of sustainability standards to meet these guidelines increases the likelihood of obtaining governmental preference in contracts. In the water industry specifically, interest in more sustainable and environmentally preferable products also is advancing. Additionally, utilities can advance their own sustainable infrastructure and operations by choosing sustainably certified products for their facilities.

An associated product, NSF Performance Plus, is an affordable data reporting support tool that can save time and increase accuracy to accommodate the sustainability reporting needs of any company. It is compatible with both NSF sustainability standards.

About the Author

Mindy Costello

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