Northbrook, Ill.-based Underwriters Laboratories Inc. is restructuring for global and green growth. The 114-year-old product-safety testing organization says it is creating five new operating units: product safety, UL University, environmental services, life and health sciences and verification services.
Critical to the growing green market is UL’s new environmental claims validation service and its sustainable-products certification service. “Both are brand new services that are part of a new company that is wholly owned by UL called UL Environment Inc., Geneva, Switzerland,” says Christopher R. Nelson, director of corporate development. “There is a rising demand for products that are environmentally sustainable, and there is a proliferation of eco-compatible products. We think there is a need for third-party validation services for these products in order to make sure manufacturer claims are truthful. Also, organizations such as retailers need to know the products they sell are eco-friendly, as do manufacturers. They all need an independent source to ensure accuracy and truthfulness.”
Commercial launch of the validation program in the U.S. and Europe will be at the end of January; the launch in Asia will be later in the year. UL also is working with associations such as the American Society for Testing Materials to develop green-product standards, and will certify the standards when available. Products that meet the standards will receive a green UL certification mark. “This will close the gap between what manufacturers are self-declaring and what associations are doing to develop threshold standards,” says Nelson.
UL is developing service agreements with firms for certifying entire product lines. Cost standards also are being developed. The certification process takes four to six weeks depending on the number of product claims. “We are very focused on making sure UL Environment is a valid business: It’s a growth pillar for us,” says Nelson. “This is just the beginning of a number of environmental efforts for UL. We are analyzing other opportunities.”