Whereas green certifications looking at the life cycle impacts of production have long been important to end users, sourcing is a topic that has more recently gained steam. The FSC offers chain of custody certification for processing, manufacturing and distribution.

Distributors are no different from retail outlets — including Office Depot, Target and Costco — in that they sell FSC-labeled tissue, toilet paper and office paper. However, if an end user needs third-party verification that a product is FSC certified, the chain of custody (COC) needs to remain intact, says Kahn.

“For example, if the end user is operating a building to LEED Existing Building standards and is getting credit for the use of FSC-labeled products, then the COC needs to be intact,” he says. “If a corporate CSR report includes audited information about percent FSC products used in operations, the same is true. In short, if the claim about FSC needs to be independently verified, then COC is required.”

Kahn adds he is unaware of any major cleaning industry distributors who have achieved COC certification.

Distributors need to be able to provide an education to customers about what each certification or standard means, Schneringer says. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) comprehensive procurement guidelines, for instance, end up satisfying a large segment of customers who are interested in recycled products. Other customers ask for products that have been certified by a third party organization, such as Green Seal or ECOLOGO.

Customers have been showing more interest in the FSC, Schneringer says, thanks to the inclusion of FSC-certified wood in the new LEED rating system.
“It’s interesting that even facilities that might not be pursuing LEED certification are still adopting requirements of LEED in their purchasing standards,” he says.

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