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CASE STUDY 2

A Comparative Case Study of How to Engage Supply Chains in Transparency

Creating HPDs for manufacturers requires critical supply chains cooperation

By Lisa Britton, Director of Sales & Marketing, Sustainability Champion, Industrial Louvers, Inc.

Building an accurate Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a challenging exercise for any organization. Lisa Britton has led the process with two organizations: Alpar Architectural Products, LLC, a company she founded, and Industrial Louvers, Inc. where she is Director of Sales & Marketing. Although each company has different products and unique challenges, the shared component of success was engaged and informed suppliers.

Britton brings a unique and personal perspective to two distinct efforts to guide companies to use more healthful alternatives through the HPD.

HPD 1: deTerra biobased polymer as Alpar Architectural Products, LLC

Britton founded Alpar Architectural Products, LLC, in 2009. Her mission was to provide a more healthful alternative to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) wall protection. Alpar teamed with Interfacial Solutions IP, LLC (IFS), to develop deTerra®, the industry’s first fire-rated, biobased polymer, for which Alpar has exclusive license in the construction industry. Alpar’s ability to create a fully disclosed HPD began in the very early stages of product development, before the Health Product Declaration Collaborative was established.

The official HPD journey started in 2010, when Alpar was one of 29 manufacturers that participated in the HPD pilot. Because Alpar’s competitive advantage was based on providing material without known toxicants, the HPD was an important development that allowed us to lend credibility to our claims. The team at IFS understood this, and rather than resisting disclosure, they worked closely with Alpar to report chemical information completely and correctly. By the time they published an HPD under version 1.0, they also had the support of Natureworks, LLC, supplier of polylactic acid (PLA), the primary ingredient in deTerra biobased polymer.

Key Strategies for Success

#1: Having simple product formulations also helped Alpar to complete HPDs with limited resources. The deTerra material, a cross- linked PLA, has only two ingredients in its untinted form.

#2: One of ILI’s major paint suppliers, brought on a toxicologist who worked with other experts to disclose all the known chemical hazards in the products it uses

As A Result 

Its unusually engaged and educated supply chain allowed ILI to assemble meaningful information, and now ILI expects to be the first in its product sector to publish HPDs under version 2.0.

Pawling realized that because deTerra’s competitive advantage was based on its nontoxic formulation, the reward for disclosure outweighed the risk of revealing what most companies would consider trade secrets.

Key Strategy for Success: Start with simple formulations

Having simple product formulations also helped Alpar to complete HPDs with limited resources. The deTerra material, a cross- linked PLA, has only two ingredients in its untinted form. Extruded and molded parts are either affixed to the wall with adhesive or combined with aluminum extrusions. Their first HPDs were based on assemblies with untinted material, our most popular option. Building HPDs that included pigments proved more challenging because colorant suppliers were resistant to sharing information, but eventually they allowed us to share known hazards without disclosing chemical names.

In 2012 Alpar was acquired by the Pawling Corporation, which continued to support disclosure efforts. Pawling realized that because deTerra’s competitive advantage was based on its nontoxic formulation, the reward for disclosure outweighed the risk of revealing what most companies would consider trade secrets.

HPD 2: Aluminum extrusions with a Kynar® finish for Industrial Louvers, Inc.

ILI’s products posed a different set of opportunities and new challenges for creating HPDs. Unlike Alpar, which developed products with the understanding that disclosure was eminent, ILI had to persuade legacy suppliers to support disclosure. (Challenge)

ILI is a manufacturer of custom architectural metal products, most of which are installed on building exteriors; louvers, sunshades, and equipment screens constitute most of our business. Most products are made from aluminum extrusions that are mechanically fastened together and then finished in-house with a Kynar® finish.

Its products, particularly sunshades, are used as part of green building strategies, and the sustainable building market is central to its business. Commitment to reducing our environmental impact is engrained in the culture and operations, so attention to chemical safety in our plant is paramount. Despite this, awareness of potential human health hazards of chemicals in the company’s finished products is new, primarily because market drivers, including the LEED rating system, have until now virtually ignored exterior products. (new challenge)

Although committed to HPDs, initially ILI was not optimistic about being able to publish meaningful data. Its products are rarely used without finishes, which commonly contain health hazards.

Key Strategy for Success: Engage experts to help disclose known chemicals

Paint companies are notorious for protecting their color formulations, considered trade secrets. One of ILI’s major paint suppliers, Valspar, brought on a toxicologist with experience in creating and verifying HPDs. The toxicologist worked with other experts within her company and with ILI staff to disclose all the known chemical hazards in the products it uses. (problem and solution)

Its unusually engaged and educated supply chain allowed ILI to assemble meaningful information, and now ILI expects to be the first in its product sector to publish HPDs under version 2.0.

Both Alpar and ILI had limited resources to devote to creating HPDs, so having relatively simple product formulations enabled both companies to be early adopters. HPD version 2.0 incorporates improved tools, but complex assemblies and products will still pose challenges.

Whatever new tools are available, manufacturers can produce accurate HPDs only with cooperation from their supply chains. Market demand for transparency and tools for educating the supply chain will be critical.