Regulatory update: Sustainability Policies in United States

Posted on January 8, 2011 by

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently carried out a benchmark survey of corporate sustainability programs in United States. It was a first of its kind and identifies nine major components to be noticed.

  1. Energy conservation
  2. Renewable energy purchases
  3. LEED building construction
  4. Greenhouse gas emissions
  5. Production and transportation
  6. Supply-chain accountability
  7. Product stewardship
  8. Solid-waste conservation
  9. Water conservation.

As of date, there is no binding governmental sustainability requirement. Therefore there is some flexibility in the way the concept of sustainability is applied. With actions of EPA, Binding sustainability requirements are expected to start soon.  Environmental Protection Agency is working on “Role in Promoting Sustainability in Products.” Till 2011, National Academies of Science (NAS) under the EPA will develop an overall framework on sustainability for EPA regulatory actions.  Till the commissioning of NAS report, previous provision for ‘Alternatives Assessment Criteria for Hazard Evaluation’ would be in practice. It helps companies, states and other group to identify human health and environmental “hazards” posed by chemicals of concern in products. This provision is known as ‘Design for the Environment’ (DfE) program.  DfE is involved in product based sustainability decisions e.g. substitution of chemical constituents to reduce the toxicity or hazardous waste generation linked to the product. DfE alternative assessment partnership also intends to bring together environmental organizations, industry leaders, academia, and others. These people and organization monitor and evaluate the environmental and health impacts of potential alternatives to problematic chemicals. They also help the private sector in choosing safer chemicals in the manufacturing processes.

There is active interest in the real estate sector as well. U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is conducting a pilot project to grant LEED credits for sustainability including energy savings, water efficiency, and improved indoor environmental quality. ASTM International released a compilation of Standards for Sustainability in Buildings including the Standard Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings, which describes methods of decision-making in “applied sustainability”. This applied sustainability concept links to real-world sustainability decisions involving cost-benefit trade-offs.

It is in the best interests of the industry to understand the implications of all such developments and to engage and influence the direction of future sustainability policy and regulation.


Posted in: Sustainability