As concern for the environment moves ever more to the forefront of public and media attention, the water treatment industry has been the subjected to some criticism in this area. Companies are increasingly concerned about making environmental claims out of fear that they will be accused of "green-washing," which is the practice of making unfounded, misleading, or unsubstantiated environmental claims.
Therefore, in order to meet growing demand on the part of manufacturers, consumers, retailers, regulators, and environmental groups, the WQA members and board directed the proactive development of a voluntary certification program for sustainable water contact products.
A product is defined as “sustainable” if it meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. These needs are further delineated as encompassing responsibility for the three P's of sustainability:
- People: the safety and welfare of production workers and consumers);
- Planet: the continuing health of our ecosystems); and
- Prosperity: the economic realities that the product must fulfill a need, perform as advertised, and be offered for a competitive price – all of which lead to success in the marketplace.
Clearly, certification to a sustainability standard meets an emerging need in the marketplace. But what are the costs of implementing the programs and policies that the standards require? The answer may surprise you.
Sustainability is more of a journey than a destination, and embarking on this journey does require some initial investment of resources. However, most sustainability initiatives actually produce a positive return on investment over time. This is because, in practice, sustainability is largely about reducing waste and improving efficiency. Therefore, these efforts usually result in some or all of the following longer-term cost savings, including in raw materials, energy and water consumption, manufacturing/productivity, occupational health and safety, waste disposal, hazards management, regulatory compliance, public relations, and reduced risk (business, liability and regulatory).