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NSF International Develops New Standard for Sustainable Furnishings Fabrics

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In response to a growing demand for independently verified sustainable furnishing fabrics, NSF International, an independent developer of American National Standards that protect health and the environment, has developed an official American national standard for sustainable commercial furnishing fabrics – NSF/ANSI 336: Sustainability Assessment for Commercial Furnishings Fabric.

Developing national standards by which to measure a product’s sustainability attributes brings transparency and credibility to the sustainability marketplace and helps eliminate greenwashing. Independent, third-party organizations can now certify commercial furnishing fabrics against the new Sustainable Commercial Furnishings standard to verify the furnishing fabrics are sustainable. This satisfies a growing demand from designers, architects, facility managers and purchasing agents for independently-verified sustainable fabrics to use in their products and facilities.

The science-based standard (NSF/ANSI 336) addresses the environmental, economic and social aspects of fabrics used in commercial furniture and other furnishings. A variety of fabrics can be certified to the standard, including woven, non-woven, bonded and knitted fabrics used for upholstery (e.g. office and hotel furniture), as well as vertical fabrics (e.g. drapery, panel system fabrics) and decorative top of bed applications (e.g. bedspreads) that are commonly used in institutional, hospitality and office settings. The standard also incorporates life cycle assessment criteria, which measures inputs, outputs and environmental impacts of textile products across their entire lifespan, from cradle to grave.

The standard outlines several criteria that are used to measure a product’s sustainability attributes. The criteria are divided into categories such as fiber sourcing, water and energy use, and recycling practices, and a weighted point system is assigned to each category. A fabric’s total score determines Compliant, Silver, Gold or Platinum tier certification. For example, a product certified Compliant meets entry level criteria, and Platinum adheres to the most strenuous requirements.

“Products making environmental claims continue to enter the marketplace and third-party certification to national standards such as this helps eliminate greenwashing and cultivates confidence in buyers and the public that a product is sustainably produced,” said Jane Wilson, National Center for Sustainability Standards (NCSS) Director, NSF International.

“Although the economic downturn has created many challenges, the contract textile industry has responded with this proactive sustainability standard that will help differentiate their products in the global marketplace and contribute to the long term sustainability and success of the industry,” said Janan Rabiah, Executive Director, Association for Contract Textiles.

Background on the Development of NSF/ANSI 336 Sustainability Assessment for Commercial Furnishings Fabric

The National Center of Sustainability Standards, founded by NSF, led the NSF/ANSI 336 standard development process, in collaboration with The Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) and GreenBlue. The standard was developed using an ANSI-accredited consensus-based process that brought together fabric manufacturers, architects and designers, academics, trade associations and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and also was subject to a 45-day public comment period.

About NSF International
NSF International has been testing and certifying products for safety, health and the environment since 1944. As an independent, public health and safety organization, NSF’s mission is to protect human health and the environment through standards development, inspection, testing and certification for the food, water, build/construction, retail, consumer products, chemical and health science industries. NSF is a leading American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited developer of more than 75 American National Standards that protect public health and the environment.

Operating in more than 120 countries, NSF is committed to protecting human health worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains.

Developing national standards by which to measure a product’s sustainability attributes brings transparency and credibility to the sustainability marketplace and helps eliminate greenwashing.  With this in mind, NSF founded a new, national initiative to support sustainability standards activities – the National Center for Sustainability Standards – in the fall of 2010.

Through the National Center for Sustainability Standards (NCSS), NSF develops life-cycle based, multi-attribute sustainability standards for building products and materials, furniture, carpet and flooring, fabrics, wallcoverings, roofing membranes, green chemicals, and water and wastewater infrastructure.  The NCSS will continue to add to its growing portfolio of standards while providing education, outreach, and innovation support to private industry, trade associations, government and academia to foster a consensus-based approach toward conformity assessment in the sustainability field.

About ACT
ACT is a professional trade association comprised of companies involved in the design, development, production and promotion of textiles for commercial interiors.  The Association for Contract Textiles was founded in 1985 as a not-for-profit trade association to address a variety of issues related to contract fabrics. Currently the membership of the association includes principal members, associate members, and industry partners and individuals. Principal members are textile wholesalers directing all or the majority of their business to the contract interior market; associate members are furniture manufacturers; and industry partners and individuals are suppliers to the principal member companies.

About GreenBlue
GreenBlue is a nonprofit institute that stimulates the creative redesign of industry by focusing the expertise of professional communities to create practical solutions, resources, and opportunities for implementing sustainability.


Posted June 14, 2011

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