Sustainability Glossary of Terms

Operational Practices

  • Green Building Commitment: A public commitment to the United States Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) or another green building standard indicates an organization is looking for ways to reduce the impact of their built environment.
  • Green Distribution/Logistics: Focusing on the reduction of fuel use and packaging in the transportation of goods (or services). Energy conservation could be done though route optimization, the use of alternative fuel or electric vehicles and reduction in packaging (which might allow more efficient loading/shipping).
  • GHG Inventory and Reduction Goals – A published GHG (greenhouse gas) inventory and reduction goals, through the Carbon Disclosure Projects (CDP) or as part of a sustainability report online or in print indicates an organization has taken stock of their environmental impact and is setting proactive targets to mitigate GHG emissions.
  • Environmental Management System – An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework that helps a company achieve its environmental goals through consistent control of operations. An EMS addresses regulatory demands in a systematic and cost-effective manner. This proactive approach can reduce the risk of non-compliance and improve health and safety practices for employees and the public. An EMS can also addresses non-regulated issues, such as energy conservation, and can promote stronger operational control and employee stewardship (ISO 1400).
  • Renewable Energy Use in Operations: Sourcing energy for operations or data centers from renewable sources – wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, etc. indicates a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of a product or process.
  • Supply Chain Sustainability: For many organizations, the impact of their supply chain is significantly larger than the impact from their own operations or distribution. A commitment to assess and reduce energy and fuel use in a suppliers operations and distribution, or to reduce packaging and waste in conjunction with suppliers assures that organizations are focused on sustainability from cradle-to-grave.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing Processes: A manufacturing process which conserves resources – energy, water, raw materials. A commitment to energy or water efficiency meets these criteria, as does a lean manufacturing program.

Product Attributes

  • Cradle to Cradle: A unique certification which assesses the entire lifecycle of a product (including design, manufacturing, use and disposal) for sustainability, reduced toxicity & final disposal/recycling. http://www.mbdc.com/
  • Designed for Recycling EOL (end of life): Products that are designed to be easily dissembled or broken down into key components and then reused or recycled significantly reduce waste to landfills and indicate good design and thought about the entire breadth of a products impacts.
  • Recycled Content: A product with content/materials derived from recycled materials versus virgin materials. Recycled content can be materials from recycling programs ("post-consumer") or waste materials from the production process or an industrial/agricultural source ("pre-consumer" or "post-industrial").
  • Reduced Packaging: Products that are transported or sold with an effort to reduce packaging can increase efficiency of loading/transport and significantly reduce waste after shipping and use.    
  • Reduced Toxicity: Reduction of toxic chemicals in a manufacturing process or working with suppliers to ensure that they are addressing such opportunities at a level that exceeds regulations indicates a commitment to the environment and health of employees and communities.
  • Reduced Waste: Can be applied to a manufacturing process or the product itself.  More efficient processes reduce waste in manufacturing. Light-weighting of a product or minimal material use can also reduce waste at end of life. 

Extended Product Responsibility

  • Responsible Disposal: Ensuring responsibility for the end-of-life of a product to avoid excess waste to landfills and harmful disposal of chemicals or components. This is particularly applicable to E-waste, which is frequently shipped to developing countries for the stripping of valuable metals with health and environmental consequences for residents.
  • Take Back Lease: When a company retains ownership and responsibility of a product throughout its lifecycle, including its take-back and reuse or recycling and disposal, it can more tightly control the impacts at the end-of-life of a product
  • Take Back Packaging: Packaging, either for bulk transport or individual packaging, that is designed to be reused by the organization or logistics companies, can dramatically reduce the waste associated with shipping and transportation. Examples include reusable pallets or crates.