Case Studies

GreenCircle Certified LLC

Driving sustainability, changing industry

Reliable, easy-to-understand sustainability certification is not always easy to come by – but GreenCircle Certified LLC, headquartered just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is changing that. Tara and Tad Radzinski founded the company in 2010 to offer third-party certification services to companies seeking to provide their customers with sustainable products and materials that are manufactured and/or assembled with lower environmental impacts.

Unlike many certification programs, GreenCircle stands out from the crowd with dedication to transparency and simplicity, making it easier for consumers, contractors, architects, designers, and other professionals to find products that meet their criteria for functionality and sustainability. The company has certified more than 1,000 products and operations claims over the last five years and continues to break into new markets.

Distinct expertise

“Tad was serving as the consultant for the first LEED Platinum single-family home in Pennsylvania,” recounts AshLee Eustace, sales and marketing coordinator for GreenCircle. “After a third-party certified flooring product was installed in more than 70 percent of the home, they found out that the particular color used was not actually certified as previously portrayed, and it almost cost the LEED  Platinum certification of the project.”

The Radzinskis ran into the issue again during the GreenCircle office fit-out. “We wanted to use all sustainable materials, from desks with recycled content to repurposed chairs,” shares AshLee. “Tad’s engineering background and decades of experience made him question the integrity of several desktops’ claims of being 100 percent recycled. Following some investigation, it turned out these desktops were not truly 100 percent recycled and were misrepresented by inaccurate third-party documentation. Fed up, they decided that they could create a better system, committed to specificity and integrity in green product claims.”

GreenCircle Certified LLCAs the cofounder and certification officer of GreenCircle, Tad developed and implemented the company’s rigorous evaluation process backed by his extensive experience with green building standards, international codes, auditing, sustainability, product manufacturing and waste management.
GreenCircle now has 15 internationally recognized certifications, including certified energy savings, closed-loop products, life cycle assessment optimized, waste diversion from landfill, bio-based content and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Building sustainable relationships

While these single-attribute certifications continue to play an integral role in GreenCircle’s daily operations, the company is constantly pushing the envelope with up-to-date services that are leading the market and applying expertise to new areas. One of the most popular certifications clients are currently seeking is the Certified Environmental Facts (CEF) Multi-Attribute certification. The CEF label is designed to look like a nutrition label, enabling end users to see several sustainability attributes of both the product and the manufacturing facility of a specific organization in an easy-to-read format. These unique labels also help manufacturers compare specific attributes year-to-year, to gauge progress in sustainability and drive continuous improvement.

Annie Bevan serves as the company’s certification and operations manager. She has played an integral role in expanding GreenCircle’s presence in the sustainable marketplace. One of the most significant developments over the last few years has been a growing relationship with the Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies.

Bevan first met David Asiello, sustainable procurement lead for the DOD, at the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s annual summit held in Washington, D.C., in 2013. It was through many in-depth conversations that Bevan learned that it was incredibly challenging for the procurement officials to dig through pages of documentation to determine if a product has the desired sustainable attributes. The DOD and many other agencies had collectively been looking for a method to simplify the sustainable procurement process for federal purchasers and consumers alike. Since that first meeting, GreenCircle has conducted numerous surveys of federal procurement agents to see if the Multi-Attribute certification was a fit – and it was.

“With an annual sustainable procurement goal of 95 percent of products and services – as well as sustainable procurement mandated by Executive Order 13693 – the DOD is working with GreenCircle in a pilot effort to use the Multi-Attribute label as a means to more easily identify and compare sustainable products,” says Bevan. “A recent survey of policy makers and procurement agents at various DOD installations showed that over 80 percent of respondents believe third-party certification, like GreenCircle’s Multi-Attribute label, would help them make better purchasing decisions and meet established procurement goals.” Those manufacturers participating in the pilot will be among organizations that are able to offer products that can directly help federal procurement agents meet sustainable purchasing mandates and executive order.

Breaking into new markets

GreenCircle has also partnered with Clean Production Action (CPA) to develop a third-party certification that deems LEED v4 compliance associated with the GreenScreen Pathways within Option 1 and Option 2 in the MR Material Ingredient Reporting credit. Within Option 1, GreenCircle can certify a manufacturer’s inventory to be in compliance with LEED v4 requirements; and in Option 2, GreenCircle will verify (on behalf of CPA) that a manufacturer’s product has no GS-List Translator 1 chemicals or GS Benchmark 1 chemicals within it.

“The GreenCircle team has worked directly with Clean Production Action to develop a procedure on how these claims should be audited and our marks have been approved by the USGBC,” Bevan elaborates. “We have received many comments from the A&D community, as well as GBCI reviewers, that this certification will help simplify an extremely complex credit, which is very positive feedback.”

Beyond U.S.-based partnerships, the certification firm has taken on new opportunities abroad. With a growing presence in China, GreenCircle is identifying and making moves to answer inquiries from several countries with growing populations and parallel concerns about sustainable products and production.

“With the rise in population in other countries, like China and India, it’s imperative that global corporations understand what is in their products, how their facilities are operating, and where their raw materials come from to offset the impacts of rising population,” explains Eustace. “This assessment will allow them to make changes to reduce manufacturing impacts, change materials being used or even switch suppliers. Sustainability isn’t just a trendy way to increase market value, it’s becoming a necessity.”

While materials, products, and manufacturing have long been a focus of the company’s certification services, GreenCircle has sustained a goal from the very beginning to break into the consumer products market. The team is currently working with several consumer products manufactures via the Waste Diversion from Landfill certification, which has been gaining major traction over the past few years and is second in popularity only to the Multi-Attribute certification.

“We are proud to announce that we have certified two Zero Waste-to-Landfill facilities in 2015 and have one of the most robust auditing processes in assessing these claims,” Bevan notes. “The two manufacturers are Superior Essex, a copper cable manufacturer, and J+J Flooring Group, a carpet manufacturer, both with superior programs. We are excited we have been able to help them tout their achievements and validate their successes. Not only is this a huge achievement for the organizations that we have certified, but this is a fantastic way to connect with consumers, as this claim is relatable and easily understood.”

While the consumer products market does not face the same sustainability drivers as building materials, consumer product manufacturers with a robust waste diversion program are gaining traction. Consumers can connect to these organizations and want to buy products from companies who are making a difference. Existing relationships with manufacturers continue to drive and expand GreenCircle’s business, as the company offers a variety of ways to authenticate sustainability claims.

Bevan and her colleagues foresee continued growth for the coming years. GreenCircle Certified LLC is taking on new team members in order to maintain the high level of service, integrity and innovation that has become the trademark of the operation.

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