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Certification Spotlight – GreenCircle

June 22, 2016

This label deflates greenwashing with verified performance data.

Feeling dubious about a product’s green claims? When buzzwords such as natural and eco-friendly don’t have a regulated definition, manufacturers are free to use these terms without any supporting performance data. To combat unverified marketing claims, GreenCircle Certified uses a third-party assessment to substantiate a product’s environmental benefits. Learn how this label can simplify your purchasing policies.

Scrutinize Green Claims

When pressured to secure an ROI or document the benefits from going green, building managers shouldn’t have to second-guess whether a product will deliver sustainable advantages. GreenCircle Certified, launched in 2009, is a concerted effort to ensure that product marketing is rooted in transparency.

GreenCircle can be found on all classes of building components, from construction materials such as wall frames, insulation and ductwork to door assemblies, access control components, millwork, acoustical panels, glass tiles and janitorial supplies.

The mark offers six areas for a manufacturer to certify product attributes:

  • Energy Savings – Reviews a product’s energy performance in both lab and field conditions to prove its percent savings over comparable offerings. If a solution claims that it saves 30% more energy but doesn’t offer any verification, those declarations are just empty words. GreenCircle removes any doubt that a product will lower your utility bill.
  • Closed Loop – Ensures that an item can be salvaged and processed into new products of a similar nature, like discarded glass bottles turned into new ones. GreenCircle will verify that a manufacturer offers a take-back program and reuses or recycles the material into an equivalent commodity.
  • Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) Optimized – Establishes a baseline LCA for the product and then quantifies reductions in its environmental footprint once improvements have been made across raw material extraction, manufacturing practices and end-of-life options.
  • Recyclable Material – Validates how much of a product can be recovered and repurposed when the item is discarded. GreenCircle also confirms that landfill diversion programs exist for the material.
  • Recycled Content – Certifies what percentage of a product’s recycled composition is based on pre-consumer (scrap materials captured during manufacturing) and post-consumer content (items that no longer fulfill their original purpose but can be transformed to another).  
  • Renewable Resource Content – Confirms that materials are sourced from natural products that are replenished within a 10-year window. These include agricultural sources, forestry materials and animal byproducts.

“Specificity is one value that sets GreenCircle’s certified products apart from other eco-labels,” says Annie Bevan, Certification and Operations Manager. “Rather than just saying that a product is eco-friendly, our mark clearly identifies specific sustainable attributes, such as X% recycled content or energy savings.”

If you’re on the building certification track, specifying these products can fulfill requirements under the National Green Building Standard, International Green Construction Code (IgCC), CALGreen and LEED.

Dig Deeper Into Manufacturing Impacts

What happens when a finished product has glowing green attributes, but its manufacturing process has negative environmental impacts? If you’ve been challenged to specify products that are ecologically respectful across their entire lifecycle, GreenCircle also authenticates manufacturing processes and does so on a “per plant per product basis rather than a national average,” explains Bevan.

Plants can demonstrate how their operations reduce landfill waste, decrease carbon emissions, deploy on-site clean power, purchase renewable energy credits, conserve water and use energy-efficient equipment. ASSA ABLOY, a group manufacturer of door and access control brands, uses GreenCircle for both its products and operations.

“We want to certify not only the product, but also the manufacturing processes and layers of our supply chain. GreenCircle has audited and validated our claims for energy savings, regional materials and recycled content,” says Amy Vigneux, Director of Sustainable Building Solutions for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. “It is imperative for customers to be able to research products without the fear of greenwashing. With GreenCircle certifications, facility managers can immediately identify a product or solution that has been audited for its claims.”

Jennie Morton is a contributing editor for BUILDINGS.

About the Author

Jennie Morton

A former BUILDINGS editor, Jennie Morton is a freelance writer specializing in commercial architecture, IoT and proptech.

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