the BIFMA sustainability standard
level is the multi-attribute, sustainability standard and third-party certification program for the furniture industry. It has been created to deliver the most open and transparent means of evaluating and communicating the environmental and social impacts of furniture products in the built environment. Taking into account a company’s social actions, energy usage, material selection and human and ecosystem health impacts, level addresses how a product is sustainable from multiple perspectives.
With level, customers can make informed choices about commercial furniture that exceed single attribute eco-certifications. The level brand identifies that a product has been vetted by an independent third party certifier and its numeric marking 1, 2, or 3 indicates what threshold of certification it has achieved.
Manufacturers – big and small – now have a methodology to present the environmental characteristics in a clear, easily understood manner with a vernacular that gives end users the ability to make an “apples to apples” comparison.
American National Standards Institute Oversight
Developed with ANSI oversight in mind, level has to function in ways proprietary standards do not. The ANSI process requires full transparency, open and balanced participation in the standard’s creation, and a consensus based approach to dealing with all issues related to the standard. Additionally, level certification assures that an accredited third-party has verified a specific product’s conformance to the standard.
Inherent in the standard is an understanding that it is in a state of continual maintenance and review. This means that as part of the standard’s evolution, any emerging issues will be reviewed on an ongoing basis through the ANSI process as opposed to issues being addressed through a “batched” approach. As a result, the level sustainability standard will be undergoing constant improvements that will be fully open to public input and discourse. In the standards world, this concentration on “real time”, continuous improvement for sustainability is necessary due to the growing body of scientific knowledge on these issues as well as the urgent need for actions to benefit the planet.
The world of environmentally responsible products and manufacturing is now more clear. Commercial furniture that meets the demands of environmentally focused purchasing is now level.
About the Standard
Since 2006, the Joint Committee on Furniture Sustainability, a volunteer group of stakeholders from inside and outside of the industry, has undertaken the development of the first open, consensus based, sustainability standard for the contract furniture industry. Using the ANSI process, over 125 participants contributed to committees and sub-committees to develop the BIFMA e3-2008 Furniture Sustainability Standard.
The standard deals with the issue of materials from a variety of perspectives. At a prerequisite level, all participating manufacturers must have a design for environment (DFE) program in place, followed by an assessment of a variety of component parts. The standard recognizes a variety of sustainability attributes for materials, such as climate neutralility, recycled content, efficiency of material usage, biodegradability, selection of rapidly renewable materials, life cycle assessments, and more.
Energy and Atmosphere
Corporate sustainability policies, manufacturing facilities, and finished products are accounted for within this section. Credits are available for demonstrating an EnergyStar equivalent of 60 or higher. Measurements from “cradle to gate” and “gate to gate” for embodied energy, green house gases, lighting, and transportation impacts all provide a lens to reflect the sustainability impacts of materials as they move from their simple origins as raw material into their ultimate finished state.
A level certification provides a perspective on what it took to produce the final product.
Human and Ecosystem Health
Few items have as great a significance or impact on total well being than human and ecosystem health. The credits within this section first require basic compliance but build dramatically from there. This standard is the only furniture standard of its kind with a publicly disclosed Chemicals of Concern list. The standard has listed over 500 chemicals that manufacturers should be aware of and rewards reporting of, and the eventual reduction or elimination of, chemicals on the list from finished products and manufacturing processes. Listed in Annex B of the standard, the Chemicals of Concern list identifies persistent, bioaccumulative reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
Hazardous waste, air emissions and other elements that affect the greater ecosystem are accounted for in this section as well.
Beyond health and safety, level accounts for labor and human rights within the standard. Social responsibility, external health and safety management as well as inclusiveness are optional credits within this section. As companies continue to incorporate greater social responsibility into their corporate actions, level certification to the standard can, and does, account for those contributions.
The ANSI Process
The American National Standards Institute works to develop and assure the safety and health of consumers and the environment by overseeing the creation and use of norms and guidelines that directly impact business. ANSI is also actively engaged in accrediting programs that assess conformance to both quality driven and ISO 14000 (environmental) management systems.
BIFMA supports the ANSI mission of promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems and ensuring their integrity. Only ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers may submit standards through the ANSI approval process. Adhering to this process demonstrates that the standards developer is committed to an open, fair and time-tested consensus process benefiting both stakeholders and the public.
BIFMA has adhered to this process and its influence can be seen throughout both the standard itself and in how level is being brought to market.
As a furniture manufacture we are always looking at ways to improve our products, so knowing that there is now a standard for sustainability credits for furniture is very exciting news. Now comes the hard part, developing product and have it tested for such credits. So keep checking with us on a regular basis for updates on our Verde’ Furniture line and its certification.
Information acquired from: level certified organization
For more information, visit www.levelcertified.org