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Will the Buy Clean Initiative Revolutionize Manufacturing in North America?

Unlocking the future: How to use EPDs to comply with Buy Clean Regulations

by | Jul 7, 2023

In today’s evolving construction industry, environmental factors have become more important than ever. One rapidly growing environmental movement in North America is the Buy Clean initiative, which uses infrastructure dollars to prioritize low-carbon construction materials. This article will delve into the Buy Clean Act and the importance of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for manufacturers. We’ll explore how investing in EPDs now can give manufacturers a competitive edge and how One Click LCA can simplify the process through software that makes EPD creation fast and easy.

What is Buy Clean?

Buy Clean Initiatives are policy-driven regulations that require Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs, for specific products sold to state or local governments. The requirements vary on a state/provincial level and are likely to change fairly frequently, but currently may include products like concrete, cement, CMUs, asphalt, steel, insulation, glass, and engineered wood products. It’s safe to assume that this list will continue to grow as these programs develop.

Another key element of Buy Clean policies in some jurisdictions is limiting carbon emissions on products listed. Generally, these limits are determined by analyzing the regional industry average and setting the cap based on that average. Policymakers are ultimately attempting to reduce the limit of emissions for certain products, and most legislation is written to disallow raising the limit in any circumstance, even if the average goes up.

Understanding Buy Clean and its Potential Impact

Adoption of Buy Clean policies will be a game-changer for low-carbon construction purchasing. By implementing a procurement policy that prioritizes greener products, governments are utilizing their massive purchasing power ($650 billion in the US alone) to move the needle on construction carbon emission reductions. Currently, government procurement is responsible for 15% of global carbon emissions. Mobilizing this purchasing power could cut annual emissions by hundreds of millions of tons, even if restricted to a handful of carbon-intensive materials such as steel and concrete.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States allocates nearly $10 billion in funding to reduce embodied carbon impacts through low-carbon specification and decision-making.

To illustrate, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States allocates nearly $10 billion in funding to reduce embodied carbon impacts through low-carbon specification and decision-making. Additionally, the IRA plans to advance the market by investing $250 million to set up an EPD Assistance Program. EPDs measure and document multiple environmental impacts of a product, including greenhouse gases (GHGs) at all stages of production. EPDs are similar to nutrition labels on a food product but focus on a material’s environmental footprint.

At present, the US manufacturing sector contributes nearly one-third of the country’s GHG emissions, with steel, concrete, asphalt, and flat glass production accounting for almost half of all manufacturing-related emissions. Initiatives like the Buy Clean Act aim to tackle embodied carbon emissions through identified lower-carbon materials. By adhering to policies like the Buy Clean initiative and investing in lower-carbon construction materials, we’re on our way to reducing 11% of global GHG emissions from embodied carbon alone.

Where EPDs and Buy Clean Initiatives Meet

EPDs are proof that purchasers (be it government procurement departments, architects, engineers or developers) need in order to confirm the environmental impact of a specific product. By mandating EPDs for certain products and setting limits on emissions of those products, government bodies are sending a strong message that this is an important factor moving forward in our refinement of smart product selection and the overall fight against climate change.

Why Manufacturers Should Invest in EPDs

Environmental considerations are taking center stage in the manufacturing landscape, with projects increasingly required to meet sustainability requirements. In response to the growing demand for greener products, policies like the Buy Clean Act are spreading rapidly, requiring manufacturers to invest in EPDs. Manufacturers are now under greater demand to produce lower-carbon products, and architects and engineers must consider this when designing buildings. By investing in EPDs, manufacturers can:

Stay Competitive:

Harnessing Buy Clean Laws and EPDs earns manufacturers a serious competitive edge in the market. The number of clients looking for lower-impact options is increasing, and manufacturers who prioritize sustainability have the opportunity to see an increase in revenue. Feedback from customers here at One Click LCA is that this edge has allowed our clients to double or even triple their revenue.

Receive Financial Incentives:

Financial incentives, varying at the state/province and federal levels, are emerging to support cleaner manufacturing processes. The Buy Clean Act creates a market demand for cleaner materials, providing a major incentive for manufacturers to invest in sustainable production. By embracing EPDs, manufacturers can leverage these incentives, enhancing their bottom line while contributing to a more sustainable economy.

Win Business and Differentiate:

EPDs can be the deciding factor in securing large-scale projects. Having an EPD ensures that your product features in EPD databases used in the construction sector. By investing in an EPD, manufacturers communicate their commitment to measuring and reporting their environmental impact. The benchmarking offered by an EPD empowers manufacturers to showcase areas where their product excels in reduced environmental impacts, meet market demands for sustainability, and ultimately win business by differentiating themselves from competitors.

76% of construction product clients want manufacturers to provide them with sustainable or green products.

72% of construction product clients want suppliers to be transparent about environmental impacts of their products.

Measure and Reduce Environmental Impact:

EPDs provide valuable data that enables manufacturers to understand the whole-life impacts of their products. By analyzing this data, manufacturers can identify areas for optimization in their manufacturing processes, thereby improving the sustainability and transparency of the entire value chain. Communicating a product’s environmental performance through verified data also enhances stakeholder trust. Comparing environmental performance with competitors allows manufacturers to identify areas of excellence and areas for improvement – ultimately aligning their products with evolving market demands for sustainability.

For example, the implementation of “Low” level Buy Clean laws sets a requirement for public construction products to be 10% less carbon intensive than the current industry average. By adhering to this standard, the potential reduction in annual emissions from cement and steel production is estimated to be around 3.6 and 2 million tons of carbon, respectively. Taking it a step further, the “Transformative” level assumes a remarkable 50% decrease in allowable carbon intensity, resulting in a significant cut in annual emissions of approximately 18 and 10 million tons from cement and steel production, respectively. To provide context, this reduction is equivalent to the carbon emissions of approximately 6.1 million cars annually. The implications are profound: opting for cleaner materials results in higher quality products, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also supports environmentally responsible manufacturing businesses and generates employment opportunities aligned with our commitment to the planet.

Garner Domestic Rewards:

A Buy Clean initiative rewards U.S. and Canadian manufacturers for their competitive advantage in producing cleaner materials compared to foreign competitors. Investing in the right policies and making strategic investments can contribute to job creation and economic growth. For example, Canadian industries are known for producing lower-carbon goods, largely due to the country’s electricity grid, which is 83% emission-free. Notably, Canadian steel and aluminum are already recognized as some of the cleanest in the world, but with the implementation of appropriate policies and investments, they have the potential to become even cleaner. As the global economy transitions toward achieving net-zero emissions, the demand for these environmentally friendly products is steadily increasing, presenting a significant opportunity for local manufacturers to thrive.

Future-Proof Product Development & Display Leadership:

Led by California starting in 2017, at least 18 U.S. states and local governments have developed policies or legislation to address the embodied carbon emissions of materials. These policies are expected to spread; similar to how LEED was first largely adopted federally before it made its way to the private sector, and we see the same thing likely to happen with the Buy Clean Act and EPDs. As life-cycle carbon limits become mandatory for new buildings across North America, clients will prioritize suppliers capable of disclosing the environmental footprint of their materials through EPDs. By investing in EPDs now, manufacturers can demonstrate their readiness to meet evolving sustainability requirements. This commitment will position them at the forefront of research, development, and innovation, where low-carbon and eco-design principles are key.

Cut Costs by Cutting Carbon:

Typically, where there is carbon there is cost. Despite any financial roadblocks, embracing EPDs may lead to cost savings. By conducting inventory of all components used in their products, manufacturers can identify choices that optimize resource use. This information streamlines communication within the business and supply chain, fostering cost-effective decision-making while minimizing environmental impact.

Investing in EPDs may no longer be an option but a necessity for manufacturers looking to thrive in today’s changing construction industry

The Rise and Spread of the Buy Clean Initiative:

Buy Clean laws are gaining some serious momentum across North America. Examples include federal policies like the Clean Futures Act and state-level legislation in California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, and Colorado, with future commitments or consideration of Buy Clean programs in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey. We can clearly count on the future ubiquity of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) – the time to start creating EPDs is now!

Accelerated and Cost-Effective EPDs with One Click LCA

Implementing EPDs may seem daunting for manufacturers due to time and cost considerations. One Click LCA streamlines the EPD process and simplifies LCA calculations. With its Pre-Verified EPD Generator, One Click LCA offers manufacturers an automated and affordable solution. The platform provides tailored templates, generates customizable EPD and background report documents, facilitates verification and publication processes and all the supporting documents needed to complete your EPD. By leveraging One Click LCA, manufacturers can efficiently meet Buy Clean laws and benefit from accurate, standardized EPDs. If you’d like to learn more, book a demo with one of our Carbon Experts.

In a Nutshell:

Investing in EPDs may no longer be an option but a necessity for manufacturers looking to thrive in today’s changing construction industry. The rise of the Buy Clean initiative and the demand for sustainable materials from clients emphasize the need for manufacturers to embrace environmental transparency. One Click LCA’s user-friendly platform helps manufacturers produce EPDs at a fraction of the cost and stay ahead of the competition. By embracing EPDs and preparing for current and future regulations, manufacturers can unlock new opportunities, enhance their market presence, and contribute to a greener future.

Want to learn more about complying with Buy Clean Policies?

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