Sunday, October 18, 2009

Earthster, the Next Sustainability Rating Tool

For those of you following all of these emerging rating systems... Earthster is one of the latest attempts to create a common life cycle assessment tool for companies to use to rate their products. Earthster is headed by Gregory Norris and designed to be an open-source information system to evaluate a product’s life-cycle assessment relative to industry norms. Norris is part of the Sustainability Consortium, which is developing the index and is centred at Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas.

Normally, a system like this would take decades to get thousands of companies to 1) see its value in the marketplace, 2) adopt it 3) make needed changes in their production process to improve environmental impact. What is unique about this rating system is that Wal-mart has agreed to use this rating system to influence their more than 100,000 suppliers. I'm sure other organizations will also be considering this third party system (especially since Wal-mart is doing it... I mean, who wants to be behind Wal-mart when it comes to the environment!)

The fact that the system is open source is also intriguing, as it will help suppliers and bulk buyers spot ecological upgrades that will improve the product’s rating. Given that a number of Wal-mart's suppliers are in China (some 20 percent of factories in China provide products for Wal-mart) this means the impact of these ratings is global almost immediately.

A pilot project now underway with Earthster involves seven products from Wal-Mart. The intention is to make the system scalable, so that one day all items in Wal-Mart’s (and other retailer's) aisles will have a sustainability rating.

The founding and current members of the Sustainability Consortium is an impressive list of companies by the way... everything from the EPA to Seventh Generation to P&G to Waste Management. If you have any interest in this consortium, get involved now! Here are the academic minds behind the Earthster and the standards behind it:

Dan Vermeer, Duke University
Eli Cox, University of Texas
Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan
Greg Norris, Harvard University
Tony Kingsbury, University of California, Berkeley
Peter Guthrie, University of Cambridge


David said...

I'm afraid I don't buy into all these new green rating and certificate set ups. Sounds like a way for them to make money and I happen to think people can decide for themselves if something is green or not. For example: You can save money in the office immediately by installing hand bathroom bidet sprayers in your toilets. With these you almost don't need toilet paper anymore just a towel to dry off. It can usually be attached without a plumber to the same water line as the toilet. Not only saves you money but it's very green by cutting back on toilet paper use and manufacture and it also has health benefits when it comes to hemorrhoids. It's a great gadget for under $50.00! Available at:

Ed Monchen, NL said...

I like this initiative! Consumers don't see the wood for the trees anymore with all the eco labels. Greenwashing is happening everywhere!One overall rating will fix this. It is very important the rating will be open source, otherwise it will not be transparent and companies don't know what to improve. We need to avoid the risk commercial interests are covered in such a rating. Open source will at least show the metrics behind it.

New Home Green Materials said...

WalMart's involvement at this beta stage bodes well for the future of sustainability rating tools. It may not be perfect but it sure seems like a step in the right direction.

Unknown said...

Did the admin fall asleep? David's comment is clearly spam. He even includes to price, after criticising other people for trying to make money.

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