Responsible Materials Sourcing

By Tushaar Sharma
Engineering Analyst Intern
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

Map with Buy Local pin on itResponsible materials sourcing is an aspect of business that various companies globally have started paying greater attention to, as they begin to realize the environmental, social and economic impacts of adopting this practice. This business process refers to the method through which companies or vendors build local supply chains with the aim of ethical business, keeping in mind human rights of labor and sustainable production of goods. This practice is only possible with the compliance of all the business ends- from investors to manufacturers, to human rights lawyers to company executives. By adopting modern responsible material sourcing polices, construction companies can make a concerted effort to be eco-friendlier and socially responsible.

Why is responsible material sourcing important?

With the US and other developed nations facing dynamic environmental issues, companies, stakeholders, and vendors have developed a consciousness about the ways they can make their businesses more sustainable and ethically aligned. Not only is it for the greater good of the environment but consumers are more willing to pay for products that are certified as sustainable and socially responsible. Sourcing as a practice has developed into a more complex network of supply chain activity, wherein each component of the final product is individually certified as eco-friendly by the various environmental standards put in place; varying from state to state in the USA. Responsible sourcing as a practice provides consumers with greater transparency into the process of production and supply chain activity, considering whether local vendors received fair treatment from corporations and whether the goods produced meet eco-friendly standards. It is a growing trend in businesses as stakeholders are beginning to invest heavily in sustainable practices as more consumers wish to be consuming products that are transparent in the production process. Such practices not only make companies more transparent but also increases their levels of accountability to vendors, stakeholders and the consumer market. In effect, higher levels of sustainable and responsible material sourcing result in companies enjoying higher levels of consumer satisfaction, an increase in market competitiveness and growth of their market share. Through this, companies are also able to develop better relations with vendors, middle-men and stakeholders, as sustainable and ethical business practices is the need of the hour.

How does this relate to existing building projects?

The US Green Building Council (USGBC), as part of its LEED certification criteria, lists various ways in which existing building projects can ensure responsible sourcing of materials is practiced by construction companies. USGBC lays out its intent under the ‘sustainable purchasing policy’ credits. Some of the point relevant points include the establishing of “material source reduction program”[1] through which companies reduce mercury content in buildings by purchasing EPA certified light bulbs and reduce environmental and air impact by constant monitoring of air-cooling systems by using Energy Star certified systems. The USGBC suggests building companies have an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) policy for sustainable material sourcing in place. The following credits are applicable in the case of existing building projects striving to be responsible in their material sourcing.

MR Credit 2.1 – Sustainable Purchasing – Electric-Powered Equipment

MR Credit 2.2 – Sustainable Purchasing – Furniture

MR Credit 3 – Sustainable Purchasing – Facility Alterations and Additions

MR Credit 4 – Sustainable Purchasing – Reduced Mercury in Lamps

How does this relate to new construction projects?

The US Green Building Council (USGBC), as part of its LEED certification criteria lists various ways in which new construction building projects can ensure responsible sourcing of materials is practiced by construction companies. USGBC lays outs various methods of achieving LEED BD+C credit such as USGBC certified wood products, producer responsibility programs and recycled content usage programs which use high amounts of pre and post-consumer recycled content in new construction projects.



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