Bill Walsh | July 18, 2013
Last week, Skanska, one of the world's largest construction companies, resigned from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest the Chamber's backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for government buildings. Skanska's public opposition to the self-serving campaign by the chemical and plastics industry raises an obvious question: where do other USGBC member companies stand?
A 2012 review by HBN researchers found that scores of USGBC member companies are represented by the 27 trade associations that are attacking LEED in Congress. Some companies are members of more than one. Eighteen USGBC member companies are also members of the American Chemistry Council, which is leading the attack (see list below).
In a clearly reasoned Washington Post commentary, Skanska USA president and chief executive Mike McNally laid out the damning business case against "a few single-minded businesses... putting their bottom lines first and social responsibility second" in an effort that will devalue the billions of dollars invested by the building industry in LEED certified buildings and LEED certified professionals. He called out the "chemical companies — principally in the booming plastics business — ... trying, unsuccessfully, to gut progressive green chemistry provisions of... LEED v4" by "creating a false debate."
That debate ostensibly involves the US Green Building Council's failure to employ consensus process, a claim McNally dismissed as "nonsense" in an interview with BuildingGreen: "They hide behind words like 'consensus,' which is nonsense," he said. "They know better." McNally adds, "How could you ever have a standard like this and have 100% yesses? If you wind back the clock, we'd still have lead paint—because God forbid we push the lead-paint people out and not get consensus!"
What you can do
In his Washington Post commentary McNally summed things up this way: "Our clients will not accept unknown and untested chemicals in their buildings or their potential health impact. They demand better, and, together as an industry, we can deliver." Let's prove him right. The cheers on social media are deserved, but the seriousness of the issue demands more than 140 ephemeral characters and a hashtag. The next time a product rep visits your company, or sponsors your local USGBC event, or is given a brand-burnishing platform before an audience of LEED APs, ask them:
Does your company support full disclosure of chemicals of concern to customers?
Does your company support the lobbying efforts of trade associations against LEED and the USGBC, or has it issued a statement rejecting this effort?
Urban Green's Russell Unger got it right: "Some of you — our members and readers — work for firms that are members of the Chamber of Commerce. And the rest of you regularly hear from manufacturers touting their green credentials with the hope you will buy or spec their products for LEED projects. Now's a good time to put those green claims to a real test: ask them as environmental leaders whether they are going to follow Skanska's suit."
Tack så mycket, Skanska!
USGBC Members of the American Chemistry Council
The American Chemistry Council is leading the attack on the USGBC.
Aristech Acrylics LLC
Daikin America, Inc.
Eastman Chemical Company
Holland & Knight LLP
Milliken & Company
HBN writes about this topic in more technical depth here.