This morning Big Room Co-Founder Anastasia O’Rourke presented a workshop at the American Institute of Architecture’s Center in New York on “ecolabels-101”, organized by the NY Industrial Retention Network.
The workshop aimed to help participants navigate through the maze of options companies seemingly have in making green claims – from “does not include PVC” type claims, to third-party certified life-cycle based ecolabels, and everything in between.
Guidance was given on how to assess the credibility and relevance of a label, and some of the costs and benefits associated with different types of labels currently on the market. Anastasia provided participants some conceptual tools, checklists, and information sources (such as ecolabelling.org) to help assess how and when an ecolabel will help them to gain a market edge from being green.
The workshop participants ranged from retailers like Green Depot, to specifiers, to New York based SMEs with building products such as wood panels, architectural moldings and lighting solutions.
A key question that was raised by SME participants was how to get their own suppliers to change their practices in order that they meet a label’s standard. As small players, many SMEs have a difficult time influencing suppliers’ to change their practices (such as switching processing methods, or materials). And they are not always able to pay more to change to those suppliers who are able to help them.
Various suggestions were given, such as taking a collaborative approach with suppliers and other stakeholders, providing them a business-case for making any changes; and talking to other companies using the same suppliers to also exert some pressure.
What is clear is that getting certified is not a one-off activity, but rather one step in a company’s longer-term effort to become more sustainable and offer green-er products.