The Vinyl Sustainability Council has updated its verification program for companies participating in the +Vantage Vinyl initiative, which aims to demonstrate manufacturers' progress toward addressing environmental issues.
Created in 2016, the VSC is a partner of the Washington-based Vinyl Institute trade group. The council oversees the +Vantage Vinyl effort to meet customer demand for responsibly sourced products and industry goals to reduce environmental footprints.
About 70 percent of PVC resin goes into the built world so VSC members include roofing, decking, siding, window, fencing and pipe extruders in addition to producers of resins and additives.
VSC members are committed to making U.S. PVC production more sustainable as well as providing transparency and credentialing required to strengthen consumer faith in vinyl products, according to VSC Executive Director Jay Thomas.
Starting in January 2022, companies going through the +Vantage Vinyl verification process will have to demonstrate compliance with 27 guiding principles that align with environmental, social and governance pillars, Thomas said in an email.
The principles set the direction for what companies should strive to achieve, guiding them to, among other things, document their sourcing procurement policy; use sustainability as a criteria when evaluating research and development projects or capital projects; disclose information on additives used in PVC products to stakeholders upon request; and reduce end-product embodied carbon.
Thomas said the list of guiding principles positions the VSC to build on its progress. He has two decades of experience in the vinyl industry, including as a Green Building Initiative board member.
"2021 was a seminal year for the program," Thomas said. "The updated +Vantage Vinyl verification scheme sets the groundwork for measuring, reporting and improving in a transparent way. This is a big step forward and very important to the future success of the program."
The council also continues to chip away at an industry goal to increase post-consumer PVC recycling by 10 percent by 2025, which is an increase of about 16 million pounds over a 2016 baseline, Thomas said.
"However, the real strategy for driving progress isn't through setting industry goals as much as driving improvement at the company level by measuring current performance and driving improvements year after year," Thomas explained.
Overall, the council's mission remains the same: connecting the vinyl value chain to continuously improve the sustainability of the industry.
"But our vision is evolving with societal demands," Thomas said. "We are looking past individual company verification to supply chain verification and evolving to offer customers a way to verify the sustainability of the entire supply chain of a product."
Member organizations that meet the published standards for the +Vantage Vinyl program can use a trademark and brand to show their verification of the sustainability of the entire value chain.
The initiative picked up seven new members in 2021, bringing total membership to 51, with the addition of CertainTeed Corp., Barrette Outdoor Living, Duro-Last Inc., Construction & Demolition Recycling Association, Lakeland Polymers LLC, Lastique International and Resin Technology LLC.
Thomas said other companies need to "join us for the journey" to maintain momentum and have a more significant impact.
He compares the +Vantage Vinyl effort to an organic food label providing the consumer with a certain level of assurance that the food was produced according to a set of healthy growing practices. +Vantage Vinyl verification aims to accomplish the same objective.
"It is helpful to provide a differentiator between product certifications, which most people are familiar with, and verifying the sustainable operations of a company, which is the role of +Vantage Vinyl," Thomas said.
There is a renewed sense of urgency to bring the entire industry along the continuous improvement journey and to share successes, he added.
"The PVC industry is one of the most heavily regulated and scrutinized. As a result, its improvement in environmental performance is impressive," Thomas said. "However, we have done a poor job telling our story. +Vantage Vinyl provides us with the platform to communicate our sustainability program in a transparent way to gain credibility and build a brand that stands for sustainable performance."
The new verification period begins in January 2022.