Standards and Sustainability

At the Intersection of Standards and Sustainability

Introducing a New Column

A sustainable ecosystem is a delicate arrangement of relationships, thriving on intertwined elements like biodiversity, a balanced food chain and the cycling of nutrients. The loss of one species or a change in soil chemistry can render the entire system unstable.

The modern concept of sustainable development echoes this interdependence. Increasingly, success in both public and private sector institutions is measured across social, economic and environmental spheres. As in the natural environment, imbalances can lead to business processes that cannot be sustained over the long run.

To take this idea just one step further, modern development — manufacturing, infrastructure projects, building construction and so on — takes place in a vast and interconnected world of systems. Global supply chains, regional regulatory schemes and the emergence of integrated systems like intelligent highways and buildings mean that most materials are produced within overlapping economic, social, regulatory, environmental and material requirements.

And it is at this intersection that standards and sustainability meet.

As documents that specify the performance and properties of processes and materials, standards can promote and encourage sustainable practices. But while the strength of many standards is their specificity, they are written for materials that co-exist with countless others in the man-made world around us. Effectively introducing sustainable practices into standards requires cross-pollination among technical committees and access to helpful resources.

With GreenScene, SN’s newest column, we aim to provide readers with a forum on issues that impact sustainability and standardization. What resources are available to help technical committee members consider their work in a broader context? How can ASTM International Committee E60 on Sustainability, a group created in part to support and serve as a resource to other committees, help with your latest sustainability standard? How do sustainable procurement policies impact standardization? How is sustainability being incorporated into material science?

With the assistance of a small advisory committee of ASTM International members, we’ll be exploring these and other questions in upcoming editions of GreenScene. We also want to hear from our readers. As your company or technical committee embarks on or builds its commitment to sustainable practices, what challenges are you encountering? Feel free to contact me at 610-832-9606 with questions or content suggestions. Together, ASTM technical committee members can create their own interconnected system of support that will benefit the standards they develop, their businesses and the planet we share.

Maryann Gorman is editor in chief of ASTM Standardization News.

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.