James Bogdan, Senior Director, Sustainability Initiatives for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association

 

It’s been said that business is marketing in the age of transparency. Companies and businesses are realizing that consumer access to information is influencing their purchasing decisions. This is apparent in social media with likes, shares, comments and ratings. And now, it’s becoming apparent in business-to-business relationships. There has been significant activity in evaluating suppliers by having them disclose environmental and social practices, whether product or enterprise related. This is being done to make more informed and responsible purchasing decisions, and determine risks in the supply chain.

Similarly, changes coming to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and other green rating systems entail more than just new point structures. They involve a growing emphasis on transparency. The push to disclose more product information has been integrated into LEED v4 in what’s referred to as the “product transparency credits.” Within the Materials and Resources category, there are several credits that are driving product disclosure, such as:

  • A product’s environmental impacts as communicated through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
  • A product’s environmental impacts as communicated through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
  • A product’s health impacts as demonstrated through various material ingredient reporting mechanisms.

Architecture/Engineering/Construction stakeholders are closely examining product and building life cycle data and making greater demands for product reporting. To respond to this demand, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) set a course to encourage the industry to also be more transparent. By collaborating with industry members, affiliates, academia, partners, consultants and other stakeholders, NRMCA helped deliver programs and guidance to lead the concrete industry towards environmental transparency, such as:

  • Product Category Rule (PCR) – the industry rules to measure environmental impacts of raw material suppliers and product manufacturing.
  • Environmental Program Operator – a program that governs the procedure for developing and verifying life cycle assessment (LCA) reports and EPDs. To date, thousands of concrete mixtures have been verified.
  • Industry-wide EPD and Benchmark Report – an extensive research project that disclosed the average environmental impacts for producing various concrete mix designs, including regional averages.
  • Industry-wide EPD and Benchmark Report – an extensive research project that disclosed the average environmental impacts for producing various concrete mix designs, including regional averages.

 

What is on the horizon for manufacturers and designers?

With the construction market driving transparency, materials manufacturers need to become familiar with the new metrics in order to remain competitive and, in some cases, even to retain their status as a preferred material provider with certain AEC and specifiers. Projects have already been identified that are pursuing LEED’s product transparency credits. Most manufacturers will need to learn—quickly—how to disclose their impacts and communicate with stakeholders. Therefore, companies will need to start a dialogue with leadership regarding disclosure and their level of comfort to become more transparent.

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