ASID Icon - Spring 2011 - (Page 30)
By Sharlyn Underwood, ASID, LEED AP BD+C
Greater Than Just Green
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS AN ESSENTIAL ASPECT OF SUSTAINABILITY/
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and social responsibility together. One example of a company leading the way in socially responsible manufacturing is surfacing material innovator Maya Romanoff, whose extensive philanthropic outreach provides safe, clean and pleasant work environments to its employees and artisans. Similarly, O Ecotextiles is producing fabrics in ways that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable. Cisco Brothers, Industry Partner of ASID, is a furnishings manufacturer located in a former factory in south central Los Angeles. They use only FSC-certiﬁed woods, water-based glues, natural latex, vegetable-dyed leathers and sweatshop-free craftsmanship.
IN THE WORLD of sustainable design, there are many tints and shades of green, encompassing broad deﬁnitions of what it means to be “sustainable.” Most of the time, manufacturers are all-too happy to tout credentials for products that do not offgas toxic chemicals or those with high postconsumer recycled content and locally-sourced, rapidly-renewable materials. Now go back and look at those same products whose green credentials seem unbeatable. Can you tell if they were manufactured or fabricated without child labor and by individuals who were paid a fair wage, while working in a safe and healthy working environment? As manufacturers become more transparent in their practices, these are issues that they should be addressing. As interior designers, we are to promote health, safety and welfare in our work, and ultimately in our clients’ lives and environments. It should also be our responsibility to ensure that the manufacturers, fabricators and workers whose products we specify are also promoting health, safety and welfare within their work environments and communities. However, verifying these less-quantifiable factors of product lifecycle can be a challenge. Humanitarian working conditions at a factory across the world may not be as easy to identify as a material list, for example. And in many cases, designers simply may not have the time—or expertise—to do so. Fortunately, there are several third
party certiﬁcations that we can utilize to help us in the process.
SETTING A STANDARD
In the textile industry, Goodweave is working to end child labor in the handmade rug industry. Not only do they certify products, through the Rugmark label, but they take action to address the underlying social issues of the industry. When Goodweave inspectors ﬁnd children at work during random site visits, they remove the children from the facility, return them to their families when possible, and ensure that they are provided rehabilitation, education, vocational training and eventually job placement. Two years ago, BIFMA introduced the e3 sustainability standard, otherwise known as level™. Products carrying the level name have been certiﬁed by a third-party auditing ﬁrm using standards developed speciﬁcally for furnishings, based on an extensive and comprehensive review of each product. Similar to LEED, the standard includes various sections: materials, energy and atmosphere, human and ecosystem health, and social responsibility. Within each of the sections are prerequisites, including—for the social responsibility section—requiring health and safety policies to be in place and followed, voluntary employment and no child labor. In addition to those you’ll ﬁnd on the level certiﬁcation site, other manufacturers are working independently to bring design, environmental standards
In addition to those companies who achieve a particular certiﬁcation, a growing number of smaller manufacturers may walk the walk even if they cannot afford the extensive costs involved with third party certiﬁcations. Designers willing to roll up their sleeves and devise a list of questions regarding environmental and socially responsible issues will most likely be able to get straight answers from such groups. To devise a list of questions that address issues which matter to you, start by downloading the BIFMA level standard to use as a template. Feel free to try your questions out with some of these green manufacturers: Loll Designs, Q Collection, Baltix and el: Environmental Language, Industry Partner of ASID. In addition to thinking about the environmental and social issues for furnishing and ﬁnishes, keep in mind that accessories and artwork are often an easy, if overlooked, way to support the community, local artists and socially responsible organizations. Some resources to consider are Green America and Ten Thousand Villages. Social responsibility is a critical leg to moving forward with environmental practices. As a designer, exercise your ability to be creative, inquisitive and compassionate. Require that the manufacturers included in your speciﬁcations are being socially responsible, equitable and compassionate in their facilities, their communities and the world. As more designers begin to inquire about social and ethical practices of manufacturers, increased demand will make this information more readily available and ultimately will affect market change. i
A former member of the ASID Sustainable Design Council, Sharlyn Underwood, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, is a sustainable design consultant in Roanoke, Va.
the magazine of the american society of interior designers
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASID Icon - Spring 2011
ASID Icon - Spring 2011
Still in the Dark
Design for Life
Resource Guide & Advertisers
ASID Icon - Spring 2011