Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sustainability Standards for Household (Refrigeration) Appliances

The following describes a project in sustainability management that may be suitable for graduate student research (MES-SM, MEB, MAES-LED, MDP) or as an undergraduate student group project (ENBUS 402). More information may be provided from me directly if you are in one of our SEED programs. 

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) has created a private standard for sustainability of household appliances, AHAM 7001/CSA SPE-7001/UL 7001, Sustainability Standard for household refrigeration appliances.

The standard is currently being reviewed and re-developed via a multi-stakeholder process performed simultaneously in Canada by CSA Group and in the USA by UL. The intended output will be a public standard consistent with international processes of consensus standards development. Central to the framework is a life cycle approach (based on LCA) that takes “green appliances” beyond simple energy efficiency (Energy Star, etc.). The fuller consideration includes materials, packaging, recycling and a broader set of CSR and environmental categories.

Involved in this effort are industry associations like AHEM and member companies like LG, Whirlpool, and Samsung. The CSA Group and UL standards bodies are now coordinating the consensus standard process. I expect that others who may be interested will included certifiers and auditors, and consultancies in both business management and environmental design and LCA.

As an emerging area, appliances could be compared to LEED and the green buildings movement. The current standard provides an output that provides for the obvious ratings of gold, silver, etc.  How exclusive will the market be -- will this be a niche that truly moves the industry forward? One question is what actually is a "sustainable" appliance, and whether this makes sense. Is "less-bad" really good? How are indicators beyond energy and carbon incorporated? Is there an appropriate and fuller list of categories, how might social sustainability be captured? The value of a LCA approach is important  as a long-living product will have much of its footprint during the use phase, as water, energy and chemicals are consumed  The manufacturer has limited control in their designs, which then are set for ten or twenty years of life. That said, as energy efficiency improves, products like appliances and automobiles are becoming more material intensive in their LCA profiles.

From a business perspective, it'd be good to understand of the drivers and expectations of the manufacturers -- it appears that this sector is getting ahead of the curve, possibly heading of regulation, perhaps anticipating consumer needs. It is especially curious in that it is an USA led effort -- but looks a lot like what happens in the EU: what is the regional comparison? what is the strategic analysis and implications?

This sustainability standards development for appliances is beginning with refrigerators but will grow to include other household appliances.

Related courses:
  • ENBUS 620 – Life Cycle Assessment (Prof. Dias)
  • ENBUS 621 – Enterprise Carbon Management (Prof. Young)
  • ENBUS 308 – Advanced environmental auditing ... including sustainability standards (Prof. Young)
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