Dec 28, 2018

Riding the Sustainability Wave

Sustainability certification meets environmental needs while providing returns

Sustainability certification meets environmental needs while providing returns

Sustainability certification is gaining momentum as we head into the new year, driven by a combination of societal and economic forces that help make the case for certification self-evident. With that in mind, new certification options are being rolled out at the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) that provide opportunities for manufacturers to take the next step in having products certified to WQA’s sustainability standards, developed with significant input from relevant stakeholders within the industry. In many cases, obtaining sustainability certification might be easier than one might expect.

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. Products that meet sustainability standards can be marketed as environmentally preferable and socially responsible as compared to the average product in that space. From a societal perspective, governments are moving ahead with laws and regulations for sustainable products. It is important for the industry to take the lead on setting these new standards so that regulation is not imposed from the outside. Dealers and consumers are asking for and are concerned about sustainable products, and in general, an increasing number of college graduates have degrees in sustainability or related specialties.

What often is lost in the discussion is the fact that sustainability makes good business sense. It is about improving efficiency in the overall production process, and that directly affects the bottom line. As such, sustainability is more of an investment than an expense. 

Customizable Sustainability

Some examples of improved efficiencies include using fewer raw materials, reduced costs for hazard management and risk management, and reduced regulatory risk and expense. That is why many companies are already well on their way to achieving sustainability certification simply by their current efforts to cut costs and improve efficiency.

The WQA Sustainability Certification program takes that process one step further by allowing qualified products to apply the Sustainability Certification Trademark, which demonstrates to dealers and consumers independent, third-party validation of a company’s efforts in this area. It also provides a road map that companies can use to further improve their performance and become more sustainable in the future. 

What might be surprising to many executives is that obtaining the sustainability certification is easier and less costly than they might expect. One reason for this is that there is no testing associated with the sustainability standards. Testing typically is a major cost component for other product certifications. 

In addition, the points-based standards allow companies to select from a menu of options and chose exactly which criteria they wish to be evaluated against. It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. As long as the overall points threshold is achieved, the company is free to pick and choose what sustainability initiatives will provide the maximum environmental benefit at a minimum of expense and effort, as guided by the company’s goals, objectives and overall business model.

The WQA Sustainability program also recognizes past achievements for previous certifications. For example, if a factory already is certified to ISO 14001, that certification is rewarded with automatic points under the sustainability standards, plus a substantial discount on the evaluation fees. So far, every applicant company that already achieved ISO 14001 had no significant difficulties in attaining the WQA/ASPE/ANSI S-802 or S-803 certification.

If a company already is a WQA Gold Seal client, there might be other ways to reduce the cost of obtaining the sustainability certification. For example, WQA only needs to send one auditor on a single day for both the Gold Seal and sustainability audits, allowing WQA to leverage that efficiency to slash the cost of the Gold Seal Audit by 75%. Cross-promotional discounts on listing fees are offered. 

New Developments

With that in mind, WQA is offering several new developments in the sustainability program. Here are the highlights:

  • WQA now certifies water treatment chemical additives to NSF/AWWA/ANSI Standard 416 for sustainability; 
  • Raw ion exchange resin also now can be certified to S-802; 
  • Softeners and filtration systems that utilize ion exchange resin have been added to the scope of S-803 in addition to the current scope of polyethylene or polypropylene, string-wound, and ceramic filters; activated carbon filters; ultraviolet systems; and coolers, heaters, and dispensers;
  • Treatment systems that use media (resin or carbon) certified to S-802 easily are certified to S-803 (automatic 50 points);
  • Companies that make systems certified to S-803 are looking to preferentially purchase media certified to S-802; and
  • The S-803 standard currently is open for revision to add membranes and membrane systems, as well as membrane components to the scope of this standard.

Sustainability offers great opportunities on many levels. It provides marketing differentiation and a way to benchmark a company or product against others within the industry. It offers recognition in the marketplace and a positive return on investment. 

About the author

Stuart Mann is sustainability certification manager for the Water Quality Assn. Mann can be reached at [email protected] or 630.929.2546.