A new set of standards aims to improve the sustainability of fabrics used to make commercial furnishings in the US.
Developed by third-party certification group NSF International, the standard is meant to satisfy a growing demand from designers, architects, facility managers and purchasing agents for independently-verified sustainable fabrics to use in their products and facilities.
The Standard - NSF/ANSI 336: Sustainability Assessment for Commercial Furnishings Fabric - addresses the environmental, economic and social aspects of fabrics used in commercial furniture and other furnishings.
A variety of fabrics can be certified to the standard, including woven, non-woven, bonded and knitted fabrics used for upholstery (e.g. office and hotel furniture), as well as vertical fabrics (e.g. drapery, panel system fabrics) and decorative top of bed applications (e.g. bedspreads) that are commonly used in institutional, hospitality and office settings.
The standard also incorporates life cycle assessment criteria, which measures inputs, outputs and environmental impacts of textile products across their entire lifespan, from cradle to grave.
The standard outlines several criteria that are used to measure a product's sustainability attributes. The criteria are divided into categories such as fiber sourcing, water and energy use, and recycling practices, and a weighted point system is assigned to each category. A fabric's total score determines Compliant, Silver, Gold or Platinum tier certification. For example, a product certified Compliant meets entry-level criteria, and Platinum adheres to the most strenuous requirements.
"Products making environmental claims continue to enter the marketplace and third-party certification to national standards such as this helps eliminate greenwashing and cultivates confidence in buyers and the public that a product is sustainably produced," says Jane Wilson, NCSS Director, NSF International.
"Although the economic downturn has created many challenges, the contract textile industry has responded with this proactive sustainability standard that will help differentiate their products in the global marketplace and contribute to the long term sustainability and success of the industry," says Janan Rabiah, Executive Director, Association for Contract Textiles.
Product Category Rules In Development
NSF International also announced it is collaborating with the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) to develop Product Category Rules for the furniture industry.
Product Category Rules (PCR) help meet the growing demand for science-based verification of environmental product claims. PCRs define how to conduct a life cycle assessment for a particular product group and what to include in the resulting report.
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is the ISO-compliant third-party-verified report that functions like a nutrition label to explain the data generated from a life cycle assessment.
Adopted by European countries and growing in recognition in the U.S., PCRs and EPDs provide an international method of communication to compare and report a product's environmental impact throughout its entire life cycle.
"Product Category Rules and, ultimately, Environmental Product Declarations will give customers a uniform way to evaluate the full array of environmental impacts of products," says BIFMA Executive Director Thomas Reardon.
In addition to the BIFMA collaboration, the National Center for Sustainability Standards is working with several flooring trade associations on the first North American PCR for resilient, carpet, laminate, tile, and wood flooring products.
Stakeholders interested in participating in the development of product category rules for furniture products should contact:
Mindy Costello, NSF NCSS or Brad Miller, BIFMA