Published on February 25th, 2010 | by Guest Contributor


What Does “Green” Mean? An Interview with Chris Nelson of UL Environment (Part 1 of 2)

Companies and products are tossing around terms like “green,” “sustainable,” or “eco-friendly,” but as a consumer it’s hard to know what those words mean on products or whether they can be trusted. A year ago, UL Environment began offering Environmental Claims Validation or Sustainable Products Verification programs for products making “green” claims. Why trust them? Because they are part of Underwriters Laboratories (UL)- the people who have been vouching for the safety of the electronics in your home for 115 years. Look on your TV or your router- you’ll see a UL logo.

Now, UL Environment is doing the same for green products. As they say on their About page: “UL Environment helps support the growth and development of sustainable products, services and organizations in the global marketplace through standards development, educational services, and independent third party assessment and certification.”

ULE's Mission: To encourage respect for and stewardship of our environment

ULE's Mission: To encourage respect for and stewardship of our environment

I had the chance to talk with Chris Nelson, the Global Commercial Development Director at UL Environment, last week about their programs, public reception to what they’re doing and their goals.

Nelson says that about 2 years ago UL started evaluating how to provide value and market transformation. Following a year of research and development, their standards validation and claims verification programs have been up and running for a year and they are continuing to invest in its growth. UL Environment is working with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and others to establish their standards and welcomes anyone to participate. Chris asked me to invite anyone reading this interview who is involved in the environmental products industry to get involved- Start with a visit to

Interview with Chris Nelson, Global Commercial Development Director at UL Environment

Scott James (SJ): “It’s time to raise the standards in sustainability” is your slogan. Why did you select this? Why “raise” rather than “standardize”?

Chris Nelson (CN): When we look at what has been done, there’s a lot of good things. There are instances of good standards, programs people understand. When you look at providing market transformation, we went with “raise” because if we weren’t doing it to raise the standards then we weren’t doing it for the right reasons. People have latched onto the investment in the growth of the business and see us being able to help provide the market transformation that is needed.”

SJ: Why will ULE claims validation and standards become the go-to third party credibility source? What makes you stand out?

CN: First- We bring a strong level of brand recognition and trust with both consumers and business.

Second- Global capability and reach. 7,000 global employees, over 100 countries. Our global network has developed over 1200 standards for products and we’re leveraging that experience.

Third- Our ability as thought leader to establish global standards that are well recognized and respected.

SJ: Have you felt embraced by green industries? Where has there been pushback?

CN: We’ve absolutely been embraced. When we launched people didn’t know where we were headed, and we didn’t want to be eco-label 301. We have invested in standards development to help defined “greener” products and provide that market transformation.  There has been a strong level of excitement and engagement from everyone we’ve been speaking to. The type of credibility we can bring can accelerate the transparency and standards.

Part 2 of this interview on program specifics and goals will be published tomorrow.

For more information, visit the UL Environment website or follow them on Twitter at ulenvironment.

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