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Archive for December, 2010

PROSOCO’s Regulatory Affairs Director, Dwayne Fuhlhage, provides this valuable, personal insight into the Federal Trade Commission’s regulation of “green” marketing.

The FTC’s Green Guides and the Future of Eco Logos
by Dwayne Fuhlhage, CHMM; Regulatory Affairs Director
dwayne.fuhlhage@prosoco.com

It’s not often that I have an opportunity to dine with an enforcement official from a regulatory agency. I’m happy to report that this can actually be a pleasant and informative experience.


In mid-December, the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) hosted a number of prominent speakers at the association’s annual meeting and Sustainability Summit. The head of enforcement for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spent quality time with the Environmental Marketing and Claims Committee (EMCC) in a lively discussion on the FTC Green Guides update and what it means for the formulated products industry.

By pure chance, several outspoken members of the EMCC, myself included, had the opportunity to continue in an informal discussion with him at the closing dinner.

We had a golden opportunity to continue our discussion on the future of the FTC Green Guides and what it means for the formulated products industry.

The FTC Green Guides (common name for Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims) provide a roadmap for what is and is not a legitimate environmental marketing claim. While technically not part of a regulatory program with enforcement, the Green Guides serve as the de facto basis of legal enforcement under other statutory programs.

After a two-year stakeholder dialogue, the FTC published a draft Green Guides revision for public comment. Expect final version publication around June, 2011.

The FTC/EMCC dialogue was constructive.

What became evident to EMCC members is that the FTC did not really understand how our established environmental logo programs work. Third-party eco logo programs and environmental marketing claims for cleaners and coatings generally have a basis in recognized governmental and quasi-governmental (ASTM, ANSI, ISO) standards.

For example, PROSOCO utilizes Scientific Certification Systems to verify indoor environmental quality performance based on testing using a California state standard practice and displays the Indoor Advantage Gold logo in the context of certified products.

The FTC is very concerned about environmental logos and claims that may have no substantiation, or by virtue of irrelevance may be misleading to the average “reasonable consumer.” They recently brought suit against paper plate marketers for misleading biodegradability claims.

While the plates conformed to ASTM biodegradability standards, the FTC asserted that they did not in fact biodegrade in typical landfill conditions. From the FTC’s perspective, conformance with quasi-governmental standards is not a safe harbor and marketing communications must be context sensitive and presented in a manner understandable to a reasonable consumer.

The cleaning products industry uses a variety of ASTM and ISO standards defining the biodegradability of individual ingredients and whole formulations. Through our dialogue, I think the FTC has a better understanding of how standards can play into legitimate marketing claims. Also, I believe they now get the concept that our industry talks to various markets with varying degrees of sophistication and knowledge on eco logos.

An architect or institutional specifier has a different understanding of certain claims than would a general retail consumer.

The FTC made has made clear their expectation that eco logos be qualified and relevant. This should not prove to be a major challenge for third-party and second-party (e.g. trade group) logos. However, logos generated by individual companies will most likely be subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny.

From my perspective, that’s a good thing. Generic logos claiming “green,” “sustainable,” “zero-VOC,” “low-VOC” and “zero VOC” sometimes have a basis in fact; sometimes they are based on unclear, subjective criteria.

Use of self-generated logos dilutes the efficacy of substantive and costly third-party logos.

Self-generated logos can be used in a meaningful way in the future. I welcome an era where the substantiation is included as a statement with the logo.

If you have any doubt that the FTC is serious about logos, watch your favorite environmental e-mail subscriptions for news on probable enforcement action on green logo “mills” – organizations that hand out logos simply by receipt of payment. If the past is any indication of the future, their first enforcement action will be a prelude to a general initiative.

The fallout from the Green Guides revision will take some time to work through the system. It’s clear to me that legitimate third-party logo programs will float to the top in environmental marketing messaging. To date, that’s been the purview of first wave, entrepreneurial for profit and non-profit organizations.

Like everything else in green and sustainable product messaging trends, that market is still sorting itself out. As an example, UL Environment was the 800-pound gorilla in the room at the Sustainability Summit.

They’re already a major presence simply based on the strength of the UL brand even though many of their standards are still in development.

Environmental marketing will evolve rapidly over the next few years. I’m looking forward to seeing who climbs to the top of the heap.

Be careful. Less than reputable "green" claims will sneak up and bite you, says sustainable storyteller Park Howell. Click on the image to visit his post on the 6 deadly sins of Greenwashing.

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Brag alert!

A worker waterproofs a rough opening with PROSOCO R-GUARD FastFlash. Architectural Record Magazine has selected FastFlash as a "best product" for 2010. photo courtesy BEI

Architectural Record magazine, of which I’m a big fan, has picked PROSOCO R-GUARD® FastFlash as one of the best new products of 2010.

What a thrill for yours truly!

Here’s my press release crowing about the recognition.

gary

Architectural Record names FastFlash a “best new product” for 2010

PROSOCO R-GUARD® FastFlash liquid-applied flashing membrane has been chosen as a “best new product” of 2010 by an independent panel of product experts in Architectural Record magazine’s 38th annual Product Reports edition.

FastFlash is a “gun-grade” adhesive and detailing compound for waterproofing rough openings in structural walls. Suitable for all climates, FastFlash bonds directly to damp or dry building materials, and cures under a variety of weather conditions.

In their written opinion, the jury stated that they “liked the flexibility of R-GUARD FastFlash, which can stop water penetration of transition points, door and window assemblies, and paneling joints.”

The jury cited the product’s ability to withstand severe weather, including high-intensity coastal, Mid-Western and mountain storms as a selection factor. They also noted that FastFlash can be exposed to weather for up to six months, in case of construction delays.

The nine-member jury, all based in New York City, consisted of architectural firm principals; design consultants; product designers; and a resource librarian. Four of the panel members were LEED Accredited Professionals.

They chose FastFlash as one of five top products out of about 35 entries in the “Thermal & Moisture Protection category. The group reviewed about 500 entries overall in 11 categories, according to Architectural Record Products Editor Rita Catinella Orrell.

Over a century old, Architectural Record magazine is an award-winning reporter and commentator on construction issues, news and trends in design, building science, business strategies, computer-aided practice, and new products.

PROSOCO, Lawrence, Kan., is a national manufacturer of products for cleaning, protecting and maintaining concrete, brick and stone architecture.
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For more information, call Gary Henry at 785-830-7343, or e-mail gary.henry@prosoco.com

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PROSOCO’s Regulatory Affairs Director Dwayne Fuhlhage offers this look into the indoor air quality certification process for some of our most important products for finished concrete flooring.

Consolideck LS (lithium-silicate) Hardner/Densifier and LSGuard micro-thin protective coating are among PROSOCO's finished concrete flooring products recertified for indoor air quality for 2011. photo (and floor) by Tom Boyda, TJB Industries

by Dwayne Fuhlhage, CHMM
Regulatory Affairs Director

It’s always nice to get some end of the year tasks completed.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) just issued our 2011 certificate for indoor air quality covering finished concrete flooring products Consolideck LS, LS/CS, LS Guard, GemTone Stain and ColorHard.

SCS is a major, independent third-party certification organization with a suite of programs including Home Depot’s Eco Options review.

The Indoor Advantage Gold certification validates emissions testing under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Specification 01350 small chamber standard method. Testing qualifies products for contribution towards California Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) and LEED for Schools EQ credit.

PROSOCO takes it another step farther by paying SCS to help assure specifiers that our testing is accurate and we’re putting the same products out into the marketplace. We have to inform SCS anytime we have formulation changes or substantial raw material substitutions in addition to having an auditor visit our manufacturing facility in Lawrence on a regular basis.

PROSOCO utilizes an independent laboratory, Berkeley Analytical Associates, for emissions testing services. Berkeley is a great organization to work with. They know the protocols inside and out; in fact, their staff played a leadership role in creation of the original CDPH standard practice.

For our annual retest, we submitted a concrete sample prepped for Consolideck ColorHard application along with containers of Consolideck LS and enough ColorHard pigment blend to replicate field dilution ratios. Most importantly, we maxed out each pigment in the system to replicate a worst-case emissions scenario that covers any standard color. Most coatings are tested as tint bases without added colorants.

ColorHard passed with no surprises.

We had a low ppb (parts per billion) reading for ethylene glycol used by one of our suppliers to keep their pigment dispersions from freezing during transport. I am encouraged by the fact that nothing else showed up in testing. Our suppliers have been accurate in their ingredient disclosures to us.

The Indoor Advantage Gold certification validates emissions testing under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Specification 01350 small chamber standard method.

So, what’s next for our SCS certification program?

That’s driven by a couple of factors. As much as we would like to have every interior-use product tested, the costs are significant and have to be supported by individual product sales volume. Essentially, success in the marketplace allows us to make the investment.

We also have to be sure the product functions well in the field and that we’re ahead of the curve on AIM VOC regulatory system developments. We always try to get it right the first time, but we learn a lot as contractors apply products to large floors and adjust formulations to make sure we’re actually making products that contribute to the longevity of the substrate.

PROSOCO was the first company to invest in emissions testing for concrete finish products. I’ve been encouraged that specifiers are educating themselves about testing and certification programs. I think this approach represents a significant part of the coatings industries’ future.
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Here’s a really cool story I’m working on.

This gleaming concrete floor at the Erie Art Museum, Erie, Pa., was created by Cori Sutton, Diamond Designer Concrete, Inc. Cori had no experience with concrete grinding and polishing before tackling this high-profile project. photo by Chris Keyes, Niagara Machines.

When the floor polishing sub-contractor had to leave unexpectedly, Cori Sutton, 27, daughter of the project’s concrete contractor Tom Maya, Maya Brothers, Inc., Erie, Pa., jumped in to save the day.

One slight problem — she knew little about polishing concrete beyond some hand polishing of concrete countertops.

The job was an expansion of the Erie Art Museum. The photo above shows the floor in what later became the museum’s “New Wave Cafe” coffee shop.

Maya Brothers poured all the concrete, but when the floor polishing sub departed, the concrete contractor and his family decided it might be simpler to create their own new company, headed by daughter Cori, than try to find another qualified sub on super-short notice.

After all, she’d been around concrete all her life.

The result — a new company, Diamond Designer Concrete, Inc., Cori Sutton, president.

It helped that Niagara Machine Inc, a supplier of top-line concrete grinding and polishing equipment was just down the street from the musuem. Along with supplying Cori with the gear she needed (including PROSOCO products, natch), Niagara Machines rep Chris Keyes went to the job site and provided the on-the-job training and expertise Cori and her 5-man crew, which included her brother Matt Maya, needed at every step.

Cori Sutton drives a 900-pound, 30-inch Husqvarna planetary grinder at the Erie Art Museum. The floor had some work done previously, but Cori and Niagara Machines rep Chris Keyes thought it best to start from scratch. Photo courtesy Diamond Designer Concrete Inc.

It also helped that Cori was a great student.

“Cori jumped in with both feet,” Chris said. “She was attentive, asked questions and did the work. You can’t do something like this unless you’ve got the heart for it. I never doubted for a minute that Cori could handle it.”

“I found the whole process — turning an ordinary gray concrete floor into something beautiful and unique — fascinating,” Cori said. “I didn’t do all the grinding and polishing, though. My brother Matt provided a lot of the muscle.”

The “beautiful and unique” floors also helped the museum capture a 2010 GreenSite project of the year award for sustainable building practices. The award cited the polished floor for “enhancing the project’s sustainable platform” by “eliminating carpet and mastic floor covering, eliminating the slab sawcutting process, and using all local materials and products.”

The GreenSite Award project is a joint venture of Concrete Construction and Concrete Producer magazines.

This is just a quick preview of the story. More details coming up!

–Gary

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