Accreditation: Third party review and assessment of an organization’s conformity with an established standard and certification.
Attribute: The characteristics or elements of products or services that determine the type of extent of their short- and long-term impacts on the environment and/or human health. Environmental attributes include, for example, biodegradability, recyclability, volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air emissions, hazardous waste, and carcinogenicity.
Audit: A systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which predetermined criteria are fulfilled.
Auditor: A person with the demonstrated personal attributes and ability to apply knowledge and skills necessary to conduct an audit.
Benefit: An environmentally, economically or socially positive outcome.
By-product: A secondary or incidental product of a manufacturing process (e.g., scrap or emissions).
Certification: Third-party confirmation (or, the process leading to confirmation) that products, processes or persons have demonstrated specific requirements.
Certifier: An organization which assesses an entity’s compliance with a standard or set of criteria, and issues a certificate if deemed successful.
Chain of Custody: The tracing of a product or commodity through a supply chain to determine whether the product meets the criteria of an eco-label and that the certified product is identifiable.
Cleaner Production Assessment (CPA): A methodology to systematically identify and evaluate cleaner (less polluting, less toxic and less wasteful) production opportunities and facilitate their implementation.
Closed-loop Production: A production system in which any industrial output is capable of being recycled to create another product.
Corporate Social Responsibility: The continuing commitment by businesses to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workplace as well as the local community and society at large.
Cost of Ownership: A financial estimate designed to help consumers and enterprise managers assess direct and indirect costs related to the purchase of any capital investment.
Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA): An estimate of the total equivalent money value of the benefits and costs to the community of projects. A CBA is used to establish whether a given project is worthwhile.
Compliance/Conformance Audit: A check to verify whether an entity meets applicable standards of a program.
Conformity Assessment: A demonstration that specified requirements for a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled. This may include any activity concerned with determining directly or indirectly that relevant requirements are fulfilled.
Corporate Social Responsibility: A form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model in which a business embraces responsibility for its actions and encourages a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, and stakeholders.
Corrective Action Reports: Reports that are issued during certification evaluations or audits that require entities to make specific changes in order to meet criteria.
Cradle-to-cradle Manufacturing: An approach to the design of products that seeks to be essentially waste-free. All materials used are designated as either technical nutrients, which are non-toxic synthetic materials that are reused in continuous cycles, and biological nutrients, which can be disposed of into natural environments to decompose into the soil.
Cumulative Energy Requirements Analysis: A process to quantify the primary energy requirement for products and services from a lifecycle perspective.
Eco-efficiency Analysis: An assessment aimed at maximizing a production process’ economic efficiency while minimizing the impact on the environment.
Eco-label: A visual communication tool that indicates environmentally preferable products, services, or companies that meet specific standards. Different types of eco-labels include pass-fail; tiered; multi-attribute; and single attribute.
Ecological Footprint: The total amount of land, food, water, and other resources used by, or the total ecological impact of, a person or organization’s subsistence; usually measured in acres or hectares of productive land.
Environmental Claim: Any statement, assertion, or visual display about the environmental aspects of an organization, product, or process.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): The process of identifying and evaluating the consequences of one economic activity on the environment and, when appropriate, mitigating those consequences. An EIA is used as an aid to public decision-making on larger projects.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. An EIS is a tool for decision making. It describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action, and it usually also lists one or more alternative actions that may be chosen instead of the action described in the EIS.
Environmental Management Systems (EMS): A framework that helps a company achieve its environmental goals through consistent control of its operations. The assumption is that this increased control will improve the environmental performance of the company. The EMS itself does not dictate a level of environmental performance that must be achieved; each company’s EMS is tailored to the company’s business and goals.
Environmental Performance Indicators: Indicators that describe products’ or processes’ impacts on living and non-living natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water.
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): A declaration of a product’s performance with regard to different environmental parameters during the product’s life cycle. An EPD requires the gathering of quantified environmental data for a product with pre-set categories of parameters (raw material, energy use, etc.). Also includes additional product and company information.
Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA): The examination of technology-related risks that threaten ecosystems, animals and people.
Environmentally Preferable Products: Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment as compared to competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison involves the impacts of a product or service’s raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal.
Eutrophication: The process by which a body of water or ecosystem acquires a high concentration of organic matter with potentially damaging consequences.
First, Second, and Third Party: These terms describe a person or organization’s relationship to a product or organization. The first party is the organization, and provides the object. The second party is usually a person or organization that the first organization interacts with. The third party is a person or body that is independent of the first and second party.
First Party Certification: When the producer of an entity claims to meet a criterion or standard without the verification or endorsement of another party.
Green Design: The design of products, services, buildings, or experiences that are sensitive to environmental issues and achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in terms of energy and materials use.
Green/Sustainable Procurement: A process for buying products with a reduced environmental impact compared to similar products.
Harmonization: A process whereby national or regional standards and requirements are aligned, including product and manufacturing standards and conformance assessment requirements. Harmonization does not necessarily require that standards be identical in each jurisdiction, but rather that they be consistent or compatible.
Harmonized Standards: Standards approved by different standardizing bodies that establish interchangeability of products, processes, and services, or mutual understanding of test results or information provided according to these standards.
Impact: The adverse or beneficial effect or output of an activity, product, or substance on the environment or human health.
Input-Output Analysis: An economic tool used to measure the impacts of an existing, proposed, or anticipated business operation, decision, or event on the economy.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards: ISO standards are developed by an international body in order to establish requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose. Two examples of ISO standards are ISO 14001 for environmental management systems and ISO 50001 for energy management systems.
Landfill-free: All waste (or at least 90 percent) generated from operations is reused, recycled, or converted to energy.
LEED Certification: An acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a program sponsored by the United States Green Building Council that creates standards for developing high performance, sustainable buildings.
Life Cycle: 1. Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to final disposal. 2. Life cycle stages include raw material extraction, manufacturing/production, transportation, use, and disposal/recycling.
Life Cycle Assessment: Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs, and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle. The comprehensive examination of a product or service’s environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use, and disposal.
Life Cycle Cost: All costs associated with the defined life cycle of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal costs. This definition does not include external costs (i.e., those not borne directly by the entity that owns and operates a product/service, such as environmental costs to society at large).
Life Cycle Thinking: A concept that integrates existing consumption and production strategies. Life cycle approaches help avoid shifting problems from one life cycle stage to another, from one geographic area to another and from one environmental medium (e.g., air, water, soil) to another.
Material and Substance Flow Analysis: Mapping of the total use, recycling, and disposal of a specific material or substance in a defined region.
Material Input per Unit Service (MIPS): The weighted cradle to-grave material inputs of a good, as defined per units of services obtainable. This concept can be used to measure the eco-efficiency of a product or service. The calculation takes into account materials required to produce a product or service. The total material input (MI) is divided by the number of service units (S). For example, in the case of a passenger car, the number of service units is the total number of passenger-miles during the whole life span of the vehicle. The lower the material input per mile, the more eco-efficient the vehicle.
Multi-Attribute: A type of eco-label or standard that captures a number of environmental attributes or life-cycle attributes or impacts of a product.
Open-Loop Recycling: A recycling process in which materials from old products are made into new products in a manner that changes the inherent properties of the materials.
Organic: A term signifying the absence of pesticides, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and other toxic materials in the cultivation of agricultural products; “organic” is also a food labeling term that denotes the product was produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act.
Pre- and Post-Market Certification: Two types of conformance checks, where “market” means when the certification is publicized to the market. These two approaches are used within a certification system that implements a strategy for credibility assurance.
Product Stewardship: A product-centered approach to environmental protection that calls on those in the product life cycle (e.g. manufacturers, retailers, users, and disposers) to share responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts of products.
Pollution Prevention: Practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources, or protection of natural resources by conservation, including:
- Reduction in the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant into the environment prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.
- Reduction in hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants.
Recycling: The process of converting waste into a reusable material or return a material to a previous state in a cyclic process.
Registration: Third party attestation that systems have demonstrated specified requirements. Such systems include those established for the management of product, process, or service quality and environmental performance. Registration is the first step in the process of certification.
Remanufacturing: A form of product recovering that involves rebuilding, repairing, and/or restoring parts or an instrument to match the same consumer expectations as new machines.
Second Party Certified or Verified: The assessment of an entity against a standard by an organization that has an interest in the entity but is not the producer of the standard.
Sustainability: A concept based in the principle that humans depend on the natural environment for survival and well-being, and that humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. Sustainability is the conditions that ensure that human impact on the environment is sufficiently mitigated in pursuit of the protection of natural resources and of future generations’ access to water, material, resources, and social and economic requirements.
Supply Chain Management: An information management tool which integrates procurement, operations and logistics from raw materials acquisition to customer satisfaction.
Sustainable Manufacturing: Sustainable manufacturing (also called sustainable design or green design) is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing also protects employee, community, and consumer safety.
Third Party Certified or Verified: An entity is assessed against a standard by an independent (third party) organization that is independent from the entity being certified (first party), and from the program that set the standard (second party).
Transparency: A measure of increased accountability and decreased corruption in which a business reports on its ethics and performance results through accessible publication of the business’ practices and behavior.
Triple Bottom Line: A phrase describing a company’s improved top line financial performance over the long term due to sustainable business practices, including less capital investment and increased revenues. The triple bottom line refers to environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
Voluntary Consensus Standards: Standards developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, both domestic and international. These standards include provisions requiring that owners of relevant intellectual property have agreed to make that intellectual property available on a non-discriminatory, royalty-free or reasonable royalty basis to all interested parties.
Voluntary Consensus Standards Bodies: Domestic or international organizations that plan, develop, establish, or coordinate voluntary consensus standards using agreed-upon procedures. These bodies are defined by openness, balance of interest, due process, the existence of an appeals process, and a consensus process.
Waste-to-Energy: A recovery process in which waste is incinerated or otherwise turned into steam or electricity, and used to generate heat, light or power through the process of combustion.
Waste-to-Profit: The process of using one company’s waste or byproduct as the input or raw material for another company, thereby increasing business profits and decreasing waste; also referred to as “byproduct synergy.”
Zero Waste: A system-wide approach that seeks to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption, and ensure that products are designed to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into the environment or marketplace.