SMART Sustainable Standards

17 08 2011

The SMART Sustainable Product Standards  is a group of standards, applicable to building materials, apparel, textiles and flooring. These products constitute 60% of the world’s products, according to the SMART website .  The SMART standards for these products are, again according to their website, “based on transparency, using consensus based metrics and life-cycle analysis.”  The term “consensus based metrics”  means that the standards they use have been pre-established, and are widely available, thereby “eliminating both redundancies and potential inconsistencies”.  Some of these include:

SMART contends that, by using these widely accepted standards, SMART  standards become transparent, i.e.,  nothing is hidden in their requirements or in their decision making.   They further contend that  their rules  prevent industry trade association dominance, allowing the SMART standard to move substantially beyond the status quo.

The SMART Standard confers multiple achievement levels – depending on the number of points a product accrues in the rating system, it can be certified either:

  • Sustainable
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

This all sounds lovely, but in sieving through the SMART website, I found it extremely confusing.     It also seems to me the web site is designed for large companies with deep pockets – the first question in their INFO/FAQ tab on the website answers the question:  “Why are sustainable products more profitable than conventional products?”  The answer:

  1. The public prefers sustainable products and will pay somewhat more for them
  2. coupled with the assertion that  sustainable products have “cheaper raw materials”  (I can certainly dispute that in the field of natural fibers – organic cotton simply costs more to produce, sometimes considerably more, than conventional cotton), “less liability” and “fewer regulatory constraints”.

Also, becoming SMART certified is very expensive:  For all levels except Platinum, it costs $7500 for certification; Platinum is $10,000.   Maybe that’s why the web site for the SMART Sustainable Textile  lists only 10 products from three companies as being SMaRT certified.  (see )

Finally, the fact that the SMART standards are based on widely available, public standards, such as the Stockholm Toxic Chemicals List, means that the SMART standard is not trying to push any envelopes.  For example, the Stockholm Toxic Chemicals List (actually titled the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants) originally banned or restricted twelve chemicals because they accumulate in the tissues of living things and are all but indestructible once they’re released into the natural world.  They can spread across the globe with weather patterns and migrating animals.  They have all been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer and reproductive and developmental problems.  In 2010, nine more chemicals were added to the list, making a total of 21.  But today there are 80,000 chemicals in use by industry, most of which have not ever been tested, so we really don’t even know the extent of our exposure to toxins.  So it’s terrific that  SMART incorporates the Stockholm Convention list, but aren’t those chemicals banned by the Stockholm Convention already?   Also, why stop with just the Stockholm Convention list?  Toxic pollution is a problem without national boundaries.  Chemicals are an issue for international negotiation and have been so for decades.  To date, more than 50 regional and international agreements on chemicals and waste management have been adopted by governments.