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ULE 880: Introducing Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations -- Your Feedback Needed!
Amanda Reed, 4 Aug 10

Worldchanging contributor Joel Makower has announced an exciting new project: ULE 880 - Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations, a new sustainability rating standard for companies, developed in partnership between UL Environment, a division of Underwriters Laboratories, and Joel's colleagues at

He describes the rating system:

ULE 880 covers five domains of sustainability:
  • Sustainability Governance: how an organization leads and manages itself in relation to its stakeholders, including its employees, investors, regulatory authorities, customers, and the communities in which it operates
  • Environment: an organization's environmental footprint across its policies, operations, products and services, including its resource use and emissions
  • Workplace: issues related to employee working conditions, organization culture, and effectiveness
  • Customers and Suppliers: issues related to an organization's policies and practices on product safety, quality, pricing, and marketing as well as its supply chain policies and practices
  • Social and Community Engagement: an organization's impacts on its community in the areas of social equity, ethical conduct, and human rights

All told, there are 102 questions (or "indicators") in ULE 880, including 18 in Governance, 45 in Environment, 15 in Workforce, 15 in Customers and Suppliers, and 9 in Social and Community Engagement. The number of indicators doesn't reflect the weight each of these categories holds in the overall standard, however. Environment covers 80 points, Governance and Customers/Suppliers 40 each, and Workplace and Social/Community 20 each. There are also 18 "Innovation Points" — 3 points each for 6 different indicators — that reward companies for going above and beyond the standard.


We set out to create a standard that is comprehensible, consistently applied, credible, measurable, relevant, and for which data is obtainable.

Currently, ULE 880 is in a public comment period, and the authors would very much like your review and detailed feedback:

The stakeholder feedback period launched on Monday — ending September 14 — is free and open to all. To participate, you must register, after which you'll receive a link to ULE's Collaborative Standards Development System, or CSDS, an online tool Underwrites Laboratories uses to develop its standards. Already, more than 100 companies and thought leaders have registered to review and comment.

In the CSDS, you'll be able to download ULE 880 or read an online version, the latter of which enables you to enter comments. You'll be able to read others' comments, and others will be able to read yours — an open and transparent process. Comments can be as broad or as specific as you wish.

"There's really no comment of a constructive nature that isn't potentially valuable," Daniel P. Ryan, Standards Technical Panel Chair at UL Environment, told me recently. Ryan — who's been with UL for 27 years, most of it in the standard-development process — continued:

"We want the standard to be clear and concise in language so that manufacturers can read a clause and understand what it means, clearly and without ambiguity. Similarly, we want auditors who might be assessing manufacturers to that standard to have the same understanding. So, even if we get comments from someone who is confused, that's really valuable input because it points us to something we thought was clear but obviously needs work."

This is just the beginning of the review process. "After the comment period closes, we'll sort through all of the input, break it down by topic and try to see the different facets of an issue various stakeholders are arguing," explains Ryan. "And then engage a smaller team of sustainability experts of diverse interests that will help guide the standard forward — how we should address the input we received."

The plan is to announce the first pilot companies for ULE 880 later this fall.

If you are affected by, or interested in, ULE 880, are a manufacturer, or in assessment or standards groups, a regulator, policy maker, procurement officer, sustainability professional, a member of the socially responsible investing community, or part of a nonprofit sustainability interest group, please weigh in and help make ULE 880 a better program!

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