Ask anyone in the architecture, construction, and design industries about certifications and they’ll tell you the same thing: certifications are essential, but not all certifications are created equal. In fact, one of the better measures of a company’s commitment to sustainability is to look at their certifications with an understanding of how rigorous and involved the processes for each are. One particularly well-respected certification is the Declare program.
“The Declare program provides us a platform to screen our product ingredients, identify and eliminate, or flag chemicals known to pose serious risks to human health and the environment - known as Red listed chemicals,” says Jamuna Sivathasan, Environment & Sustainability Manager at GH Commercial.
The Red Listed chemicals mentioned by Jamuna are essentially the “worst in class” chemicals, elements and materials that are prevalent in some building products. They are collated within the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List, and include substances like asbestos, cadmium, lead and phthalates. Declare enables manufacturers to disclose verified product information on an easy-to-read nutrition label, providing transparency on the product ingredients in relation to the Red List in just a glance. It’s part of the Living Future Institute of Australia's (LFIA) suite of programs that endeavors to drive sustainable change in the Australian built environment. “The Declare program essentially requires you to answer three key questions,” says Jamuna. “First, where does the product come from? Second, what is it made of? Third, where does it go at the end of its life?”
The program gets serious when it comes to answering those three questions. “We have to identify every single chemical ingredient at – or above – 0.01% in the final product by weight, then assess all the ingredients against Red Listed chemicals on the Toxnot verification platform to identify them,” says Jamuna. “If any Red Listed chemicals are identified, we work with suppliers to eliminate them, or find alternative suppliers to ensure the delivery of products free of potentially harmful chemicals to our customers.” They then have to complete VOC (volatile organic compound) identification tests to ensure the emissions are within the threshold, before submitting all the details and test results to the Living Future Institute of Australia (LFIA) for assessment, approval and publication.
The compliance with the Red List is expressed through the product’s Declaration status, which is then visible on the Declare label. There are three levels: Declared, Red List Approved and Red List Free. Declared is the most basic out of the three, and it’s applicable to products that disclose 100% of ingredients, but contain one or more Red List chemicals that are not covered by an approved exception. A level up, the Red List Approved products disclose a minimum of 99% of ingredients present in the final product, while meeting the Red List imperative requirements through one or more approved exceptions. Lastly, the highest level a product can obtain is the Red List Free status. These products disclose 100% of ingredients present at or above 100 ppm (0.01%) in the final product and do not contain any Red List chemicals.
GH Commercial was the first floor covering manufacturer in Australia to achieve the Red List Free accreditation, and they’ve certainly taken to it with gusto since then. Today, they are proud to hold more Declare labels than any other Australian manufacturer, with 27 Declare Red List Free labels that cover over 70 standard products and extensive range of custom products.
As demand for transparency and specifier interest in the makeup of products increases, so does the movement towards stronger attestation up the supply chain - and transparency programs like Declare are integral to that shift, a fact that’s not lost on Jamuna. “We feel it’s an important certification because buildings have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing,” she says. “That means it’s essential to supply better products for use in our built environments, and our Declare certification shows that we guarantee the quality of our products to the market.”