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Greenbiz, UL Environment Introduce Sweeping Sustainability Standard for Companies

Sustainability is a subjective thing, one whose definition changes depending on the industry. But that hasn’t stopped Greenbiz and UL Environment from teaming up to generate ULE 880, a sweeping new standard.

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As it stands, there is no reliable way to judge the sustainability of a company. Sustainability is, of course, a subjective thing, and one whose definition changes depending on the industry. But that hasn’t stopped Greenbiz and UL Environment from teaming up to generate ULE 880, a sweeping standard that aims to define sustainability metrics for manufacturing businesses–companies that manufacture tangible goods–of all stripes.

ULE 880 has an ambitious objective: “to create a uniform, globally applicable system for rating and certifying companies of all sizes and sectors on a spectrum of environmental and social performance characteristics.” And according to the standard’s 60-plus page description, it will be the first company-level corporate sustainability performance rating standard to do it. Companies won’t be ranked against each other–instead, they’ll all be measured against the standard. So how can a single sustainability standard possibly cover every industry?

ULE 880 takes into account a number of broad factors, ranging from renewable energy use and solid waste production to recycling and child labor policies. The standard’s sustainability metrics fall into five distinct domains:

  • Sustainability Governance: how an organization
    leads and manages itself in relation to its stakeholders, including its
    employees, investors, regulatory authorities, customers, and the
    communities in which it operates
  • Environment: an
    organization’s environmental footprint across its policies, operations,
    products, and services, including its resource use and emissions
  • Workplace: issues related to employee working conditions, organization culture, and effectiveness
  • Customers and Suppliers:
    issues related to an organization’s policies and practices on product
    safety, quality, pricing, and marketing as well as its supply chain
    policies and practices
  • Social and Community Engagement: an organization’s impacts on its community in the areas of social equity, ethical conduct, and human rights

All of the categories feature quantifiable measurements. In the Social and Community Engagement category, for example, a company gets points for certain milestones in human rights, indigenous rights, and employee participation in community, among other things.

ULE 880 isn’t quite ready for prime-time–Greenbiz and UL Environment are seeking input during a feedback period over the next month and a half. Eventually, ULE 880 will spawn a consumer-facing standard. But for now, interested parties can register to check out the first-draft supply chain standard here.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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