Case Studies

SCS Global Services

Third-party certification, auditing and support services for full supply-chain green building

When it comes to sustainably built environments, many projects barely skim the surface with a LEED-focused approach by suppliers and contractors. California-based SCS Global Services, led by Dr. Stanley Rhodes, president and CEO for more than 30 years, has developed a highly integrated approach, providing third-party certification, auditing, testing, standards development and support services geared toward full supply chain sustainability and improving the impact of a project on the community, contributors and the greater environment.

SCS Global Services

As one of California’s first Benefit Corporations, SCS’ goals and metrics are oriented toward creating a material, positive impact on society and the environment, as reflected in its annual report of environmental and social performance. The company accomplishes its mission by driving the creation of science-based leadership standards, and by certifying the outstanding achievements of innovative companies and organizations.

A legacy of commitment

Since SCS first came on the scene in 1984, the company’s programs and services have revolved around sustainability: environmental stewardship, worker health and safety, community engagement and economic viability.

Dr. Robert J. Hrubes, executive vice president, heads the company’s natural resources division. As a registered professional forester with a Ph.D. in wildland resource sciences, he brings nearly four decades of experience to the table, along with a deep understanding of wildland management and resource economics.

“Full disclosure: I dislike the term sustainability,” he starts. “Casual use of the term for marketing claims has rendered it almost meaningless. We subscribe to the classic definition of sustainability, one that encompasses the ‘three-legged stool’ with environmental, social and economic dimensions. Any credible definition of sustainability needs to account for all three of those dimensions.”

SCS pioneered the business of certifying responsible forestry practices in 1991. A few years later, SCS participated in the multi-stakeholder body that developed the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program. Certification of forests and products to FSC responsible forestry and chain-of-custody standards remains a core component of SCS’ business. SCS-certified products in the built environment include flooring, wall coverings, veneer, furniture, dimensional lumber and much more.

Out of the woods

According to Hrubes, the built environment, whether residential, commercial, industrial or institutional, has environmental, social and economic impacts, good or bad, dependent on key decisions made throughout the building process — particularly in regard to materials. And since the dawn of human civilization, wood has been a primary building product.

“To be a true leader in environmental design, you really need to know where your wood products come from and seek to source from well-managed, sustainable forests,” says Hrubes. “It’s one thing to tell a contractor, designer or architect to go out and get wood from a sustainable source, but it’s not that simple. FSC certification teams with forestry expertise and localized knowledge of environmental and social issues go into the forest, conduct site inspections, talk to workers and management, and engage with stakeholders to get the full picture.”

Beyond the forest itself, there is still more to the equation. A tree of any of several varieties, dependent on location, could come from anywhere in the world: the Northeastern U.S., South Africa, Papua New Guinea, and its wood could become a desk in a high-rise in New York City. The means of getting there, however, is complex. SCS is there to ensure consistency throughout via companion chain-of-custody certification at every link, all over the world.

Shifting goals in sustainability

SCS’s portfolio of certifications services worldwide is incredibly diverse. The company offers certifications under 75 different standards, pertaining to natural and built environments, climate change protections, food safety and quality claims, agricultural sustainability, ethical manufacturing and sourcing of consumer products, and even certifications to verify responsible and ethical procurement and supply chains for minerals, metals and jewelry.

Growing market momentum and SCS’ own focus on business diversification have kept the company in a pattern of sustained growth. As a mature business, the firm continues to innovate in its efforts to tackle the complex issues of sustainability.

“When the first big wave of ‘green’ product claims hit the marketplace in the late 1980s and early 1990s, our focus was on certifying single-attribute claims like recycled content and biodegradable,” says Nicole Muñoz, operations manager of Environmental Sustainability Certifications for SCS. “But we quickly expanded into a much wider range of certifications, which now address the broader green building sector.”

For instance, Muñoz points out, SCS certifies responsible sourcing and sustainability performance for carpeting, textiles, tile products and furnishing under the NSF/ANSI 332, NSF/ANSI 140, GreenSquared, Facts and BIFMA level standards. SCS was also an early adopter of life cycle assessment (LCA) and the originator of the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) concept, and continues to provide leadership in life cycle impact assessment methods development on the international stage.

Particularly with the growth in consumer product certification services, Muñoz explains that the scope of SCS’ certifications has extended further to address indoor air quality and healthy building standards. “Many of our services focus on the well-being and health of the building occupants — tenants, school children and workers — where there is an increasing demand for transparency through product and material disclosure,” she elaborates. “The goal is to help people make informed decisions that contribute to a healthier environment.” SCS’ Indoor Air Quality certification program, Health Product Declarations and the FloorScore program for flooring products are some examples.

As a neutral third party, the SCS team works diligently to stay abreast of emerging environmental, health and safety issues affecting the built environment, interacting with regulatory bodies, stakeholder organizations, standards developers and industry associations. This engagement helps SCS keeps its staff ahead of the curve.

Setting the bar for climate leadership

While certification served as the foundation for the business’ growth, SCS is also a climate leader, building on decades of experience in LCA methods development and sustainability assessment. Today SCS is not only an accredited CDP consultant, greenhouse gas verification body and offset credit verifier, but is also contributing to the next generation of climate accounting metrics.

These updated climate accounting metrics are arriving at just the right time. COP21, the global climate summit that took place in Paris in December 2015, resulted in an international agreement to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels come 2050. However, even upon signing this landmark agreement, world leaders acknowledged that they still weren’t sure how to meet this goal.

“That’s where the new accounting metrics will be able to play a key role,” says Dr. Rhodes. As a chemist, SCS’ CEO Rhodes is a U.S. expert in life cycle assessment and climate to the international standards process (ISO- 14000), and is working alongside climate scientists and other stakeholders to update the climate metrics.

Stanley Mathuram, SCS vice president of Environmental Certification Services and Corporate Sales, explains the importance of the updated climate metrics by comparing the scenario to a person taking his temperature when sick. “If you measure your temperature with an inaccurate thermometer, maybe it says 99 degrees — that’s not so bad, you can wait, take a pill and feel better,” he elaborates. “But if you use an accurate thermometer and it shows you have a temperature of 104 degrees, it’s very different. You have to go to the hospital. That’s where we are with the climate situation. We are using climate science that is more than 20 years out of date, and as a result, our climate mitigation efforts have been ignoring key climate pollutants and overlooking important opportunities to respond effectively.”

SCS is involved with climate scientists, industry leaders, academics and NGOs to put a more accurate framework into place to measure climate pollution, both on a national level through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process and through ISO. The approach combines the most recent findings and recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with life-cycle impact assessment protocols.

Mathuram points out that climate change is not a slow-leak that calls for gradual implementation of solutions, but rather an imminent crisis that will rapidly impact the earth and all of its inhabitants if not addressed effectively.

“We all spend approximately 75 percent of our time within a built environment,” says Mathuram. “Depending on the material and energy-use choices made in this built environment, we have a unique opportunity to support climate stabilization. The first important step is for companies, facility managers and building owners to calculate their climate footprints based on the updated accounting metrics, which are the most accurate, complete and practical available.”

Problem solvers

Problem-solving is a key motivation behind the company’s ever-expanding set of services, working with a wide range of industries and issues — hence the company’s slogan, “Setting the Standard for Sustainability.”

SCS continues to engage stakeholders, clients, partners and the public in the sustainability paradigm shift. To tackle each environmental and social threat, the company takes a disciplined approach: piece by piece and link by link in the supply chain.

With broad expertise and a comprehensive set of standardized, accredited certification services, all service areas under the company’s umbrella unite to create better metrics for sustainability. For better natural environments, built environments and the earth as a whole, SCS Global Services remains a trusted source of expertise in sustainability.

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