Transparency reporting—from Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to Declare Labels to Health Product Declarations (HPDs)—is becoming increasingly common, thanks to sustainability frameworks like LEED. But once that carbon footprint has been identified, what role do manufactures have in offsetting it, before and after the product has been sold and installed?
Sloan, a longtime sustainability leader in the commercial plumbing industry, considers the carbon footprint of its products in two ways: 1) cradle-to-gate, inclusive of every step from raw material sourcing through manufacturing to installation, and 2) cradle-to-grave, encompassing the entire life cycle of the product, including maintenance, use and ultimate disposal.
Collecting the data
The company released its first transparency reports in 2016. The information collected includes data on raw material acquisition; energy use and efficiency; content of materials and chemical substances; emissions into air, soil and water; and waste generation for each individual unit of a product. Building on the success of those efforts, the company had to answer the question, “What’s next?”
The wealth of information that Sloan could now provide to customers, including each assessed product’s alignment with certain LEED credits, was important so that customers could understand the environmental impact of Sloan’s products. However, it still left the onus on builders, owners and end users to deal with the product’s footprint. Knowing was an important step, but acting is even better.
Supporting sustainability through carbon offsets
Sloan partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to offset embodied carbon for its products. Using data gleaned from its EPDs, the company can identify how much carbon is contained within its products and purchase an equal number of reforestation credits to offset the carbon generated for every single unit sold. For example, for each Sloan flushometer produced, 2.5 trees are planted.
Sloan’s reforestation credits support the foundation’s Mississippi River Alluvial Valley project. Through this commitment, Sloan has helped improve water quality, stabilize soil, control flooding and restore wildlife in an important region. The company also provides certificates indicating the exact amount of reforestation credits purchased to verify the product’s carbon neutrality.
Sloan’s partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation demonstrates actionable next steps to transparency reporting. But where do they go from here?
Exploring deeper carbon reduction strategies
Sloan is actively looking at solutions to reduce the embodied carbon in its products. This requires a deep look at the supply chain and manufacturing facilities.
Another avenue is finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint of products’ operation. The biggest impact Sloan’s products have on the environment is the carbon-intensive potable water flowing through them.
Actively supporting code changes to allow the use of non-potable water indoors to flush toilets and urinals will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of all buildings.