Certifying Green Tech as Green: A Chat with UL Labs

Energy Star. EPEAT. These words, and others, are designed to help alert you, the green consumer, to the energy efficiency and eco-friendly thought put into select consumer electronics, appliances and other devices which draw power. When looking at the packaging or reading descriptions of products online, the discovery of one of these names or an affiliated logo is designed to suggest the product you are considering is more environmentally sound, for one reason or another, than similar items because it has been tested to meet certain standards.

Now entering this green friendly phrase/logo war is UL Environment, a part of the Underwriters Laboratories group. The UL logo is something consumers see and can generally rely upon to know the labeled product has been independently tested to be safe. UL Environment is now looking at green tech-focused items in a similar way, so we caught up with Marcello Manca, vice president and general manager, UL Environment, over email to get a better understanding of this new consumer offering:

EarthTechling: Explain how the UL Environment certification works in regards to electronics. What is ULE looking for?

Marcello Manca: UL Environment (ULE) scientists and technicians perform laboratory tests and audit processes and materials for compliance with defined environmental attributes. We look for accuracy and scientific provability in determining conformity, and at the end of our process we release a certification or a validation report. Through our mother company Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), and the collaboration of international experts, we have global facilities and expertise available to test and assess virtually any environmental attribute on the market—provided that it is scientifically measurable.

In electronics, the applicable attributes can vary from specific levels of energy efficiency to percentages of recycled content for product materials.

We offer two possible services to customers in the high tech industry:

1) ECV (Environmental Claim Validation) – Aimed to verifying a manufacturer’s own environmental claims, with reliable and repeatable test methods and assessment procedures, in an effort to restore credibility in a world riddled with “greenwash”.

2) Beyond ECV, our Sustainable Product Certification (SPC) program is a full-attribute wider-scoped evaluation, and applies when we have an industry-accepted, product-specific sustainability standard to operate with. In the case of computers and associated electronics, for example, ULE certifies these products in accordance with IEEE-1680, which we consider to be a credible, industry-accepted sustainability standard.

ET: What benefits do consumers get from purchasing a UL Environment ECV or SPC certified electronics product?

Manca: Confidence and trust. In order to build demand for greener products and support a more sustainable economy, it is important that buyers feel confident that the “green” products they’re buying are meeting environmental standards. ULE leverages Underwriters Laboratories’ 115 years as a globally-known, credible third-party testing organization to build trust with consumers. With such a long history and successful track record of consumer protection, we feel we are well-positioned to maintain objectivity, proven over time, in our new environmental testing services.

ET: How can a consumer tell a product has been put through the UL Environment ECV or SPC process?

Manca: There are several ways that consumers can identify the products that have successfully completed ULE’s validation and certification programs. Each claim ULE validates for a particular product appears on our website, along with the validation date and the testing methods used to validate the claim. Consumers can download a report which indicates the product name, model number and validated environmental claim.

Products that have one or more environmental claims validated by ULE earn the right to use the UL Environment logo on the product packaging. Consumers can look for this logo and know that the environmental claim advertised is true.

image via UL Environment

image via UL Environment

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.