GREEN GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL

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The Green Good Housekeeping Seal (GGHS), developed in conjunction with Good Housekeeping magazine and the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (which tests and evaluates products for the magazine and for the original Good Housekeeping Seal), is a multi-attribute approach to defining a green product. Brown and Wilmanns Environmental created a broad set of criteria for the GGHS that includes life-cycle aspects of the product, environmental performance in manufacturing, and corporate social responsibility performance for the brand.

Criteria are customized for individual product categories to account for category-specific life-cycle aspects of product environmental performance. Thus, durable goods such as appliances would include energy performance in use and end-of-life considerations, while single-use products such as cleaners focus on toxicity characteristics and biodegradability. In addition to working with Good Housekeeping staff, we collaborated with environmental experts in industry, NGOs, academia, and trade associations to fine tune the criteria for each product category.

The structure of the GGHS application uses a zero to100-point scale, with individual sections (energy, water, waste, toxicity, CSR, etc.) weighted for relative environmental importance within the particular product category. Good Housekeeping chose to set a single minimum threshold for which they will award a GGHS. The design is flexible such that Good Housekeeping could, at some future time, create differentiated levels of the GGHS based on multiple thresholds—for example, award one leaf for 60 points on the scale, two leaves for 70 points, and three leaves for 80 points. We carefully structured the application to require that a product perform reasonable well on nearly all aspect of the criteria. A product that is strong in a single area, but does not perform well in a number of other areas, isn’t likely to earn the GGHS.

In an effort to increase efficiency, we helped Good Housekeeping design an online application process whereby the applicant provides all required information for the product they wish to submit for the GGHS. The applicant responds to each question by either clicking a box or entering a number, and then uploads information that Good Housekeeping staff use to validate the responses. Once the response is validated, a specified number of points is automatically assigned for that question and is then added to the overall score. The system eliminates manual-calculation errors, identifies for the applicant and for the Good Housekeeping staff which questions remain unanswered, and allows the applicant to see exactly where the product does well and where it needs improvement. In addition, the system includes pop-up instructions for each section as well as supplementary background information for the applicant.

Brand applicants typically form cross-functional teams to gather the required information, conduct requested analyses (e.g., energy usage trends and safety and health performance), and prepare the validation submittals. While fairly time intensive, the application process often becomes a learning opportunity for brands, where information is shared internally and where opportunities to improve environmental and social responsibility performance are identified.

As of 2012, categories for the GGHS include cleaning products, beauty products, paints and coatings, appliances and electronics, paper goods, and food and beverages. Building materials, textiles, and several other categories are in preparation or planning stages. 

For more information about Brown and Wilmanns Environmental’s work with Good Housekeeping, please contact us at info@bw-environmental.com.

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