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Closing the Transparency Loop Part 2: Words have been written, now it is time for action

Posted on July 16th, 2019

Superior Essex is paving the way to a more sustainable future for the entire building materials industry. Global Head of Sustainability Annie Bevan explains the movement towards transparency in sustainability and how you can join in its progress.

In terms of inspiring the progression of impactful, industry-wide, movement towards truly sustainable design, the recent reply from an impressive list of signatories, deemed the “Materials Pledge”, indicates that the Design Community is ready to make its next steps toward progress.

In May 2018, on behalf of Superior Essex and in partnership with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), there was a co-authored letter (which can be read here, as well as further described in Closing the Transparency Loop Part 1) to the A&D community. It was a letter that urged the A&D community to refresh conversations about healthy materials selection and purchasing that had gone stale since the original campaign in 2012. It also marked an unprecedented move by the manufacturing industry as it was the first time there been such a coordinated commitment to product transparency and sustainability across such a broad spectrum of global manufacturing leaders.It featured 40 leading building product manufacturers — all of which are members of the Living Product 50 (LP50) — that co-signed a stance to 300 leading architects, designers and building owners.

In April 2019, nearly, one year later, 70+ of the leading architect and design firms across North America responded with a signed Materials Pledge. Of the signatories, which can be viewed here, there was definitive language that echoed the initial ask, stating that mutually beneficial partnerships between the design community and manufacturers must be made to drive sustainable design forward, and to truly make an impact, together.

“To be clear, our ultimate aspiration is to design and construct with holistically optimized materials,” the pledge stated. “We want the materials used to create our projects to positively impact human health, the climate, the environment, and society. We cannot achieve this goal alone. We must work together as designers, building owners, developers, and contractors to build knowledge and demand. And, of course, your help is crucial.”

The signatories of the Materials Pledge outlined that they are prepared to support human health, support climate health, support ecosystem health, support social health, and be active participants in creating and supporting a circular economy through designing for material efficiency, long life, and perpetual cycling.

What may be the most impactful is that the Materials Pledge repeated, “We understand that none of us can do this alone.”

It also continued on to describe further initiatives, asking for on-going communication: “We welcome your engagement and commit to an ongoing dialogue with the Living Product 50, as well as other manufacturers, building owners, contractors, researchers, and others who are interested in working towards building product industry transformation,” the response read. “To move forward more quickly, we suggest convening face-to-face forums at Greenbuild, Living Product Expo, Living Future, and other similar conferences. We value our relationship with each of you and understand that the change we seek will not be accomplished overnight. Please join us in continued dialogue and collaboration as we learn from each other and improve our industry together.”

This indication of collaboration has reinvigorated the movement towards making actual market change.The concerted and resounding response from the A&D Community will reassure those who were questioning its investment in sustainability. However, the true test will be to see what action comes from those pledges.

Since May 2018 (when the LP50 letter was published), the LP50 has since taken its words and created action. It has creating real, trackable and documentable action items from the commitments made within the LP50 letter. These actions ultimately define holistic sustainability at a building product manufacturer and how each of us can continue to advance down the path of net positive regenerative and fully optimized products.

These actions include:

* Continuing to build sustainability practices into R&D and manufacturing processes

* Continuing to invest in product transparency measures and programs

* Using common platforms for product information to make it easier to specify products with preferable environmental attributes, like mindful MATERIALS

* Prioritizing suppliers that support transparency and environmental impact reduction efforts

* Educating employees internally as well as externally in supply chains, regarding the importance of transparency and sustainable products

* Walking the talk through the specification of transparent products within the buildings, factories, and purchasing programs of the signatories

The LP50 will track and report on metrics related to each commitment to the A+D community and beyond. In demonstrating this leadership and progress, there is hope to inspire other manufacturers and suppliers to join the LP50, and other industry groups to act to transform the sustainable materials economy.

These actions can inspire and provide a roadmap to those just starting their sustainability journey. The LP50 themselves can be a resource to those manufacturers just beginning their journey with no idea really how to make tangible progress.

Where the process goes from here is what will shape the course of sustainably designed buildings both in the immediacy and to usher in the future.

The words of Simon Sinek have been raised as the slogan for this movement, “Words may inspire, but it’s action that creates change”. What real action is done after these words have been written will be the true test. The LP 50 is committed to showing how we’ve started to track progress to our commitments; we can’t wait to see what the A&D will do with theirs.

For more information on the LP50, visit the LP50 website here:

To join the LP 50 movement or learn more, contact Alex Muller at [email protected]

To join the AIA Materials movement or learn more, contact Melissa Wackerle or Lona Rerick at [email protected]  or [email protected]

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