The New Anti-LEED?
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has opened a new front in its battle with LEED and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)—one with similarities to greenwash tactics we’ve seen before.
ACC has formed a group dubbed the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC), joining 25 other industry groups representing building materials and products interests. The coalition includes names like the Vinyl Institute, the Vinyl Siding Institute, the Windows & Door Manufacturers Association, the Treated Wood Council, and the Adhesives and Sealants Council, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As we’ve reported (see Chemical Industry Attacks LEED: BuildingGreen Checks the Facts), chemical and plastics trade groups have been making a recent pastime of claiming the federal government should stop using LEED and have been exerting their deep ties on Capitol Hill to pressure influential government groups like the General Services Administration (GSA) to stop using LEED.
The groups are apparently incensed over “arbitrary chemical restrictions” they perceive in LEED v4, the version of LEED currently under development, and are worried that LEED is “becoming a tool to punish chemical companies.”
According to its website, AHPBC:
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"… is composed of leading organizations representing a range of products and materials relevant to the building and construction industry who are committed to promoting performance-based energy efficiency and sustainable building standards. We support the development of green building standards through consensus-based processes derived from data and performance-driven criteria."
Calling Ronald Reagan—come in, Reagan
In a statement on the development, USGBC said, “We welcome the announcement of the formation [of AHPBC], but as Ronald Reagan once said, we will ‘trust but verify.’”
USGBC’s policy strategy director Lane Burt explained to me, “The impact of LEED v4 is going to be positive on any of the individual sub-industries within the green building world, and that includes product manufacturers of all types.”
Burt ticked off numerous product areas—energy-efficient mechanical systems, green cleaning products, low-VOC paints, efficient water fixtures—where “over and over LEED has supported new markets and new products and brought innovation to the forefront.”
He claimed, “There has not at any time been a negative impact on any industry that has been touched by LEED,” and he notes that many chemical and building industry companies, along with the ACC, are USGBC members who have votes in its policy development and organizational direction.
About the ACC and its members and coalition partners, Burt acknowledged that “these are significant actors within D.C.” and he decried the “politicization of the development process” of green building standards. Burt noted that USGBC is “not going be able to do these very D.C. lobbying things,” and that in response to ACC’s efforts, it would focus on “be[ing] a conduit for the voices of the companies and the individuals that are doing this work, about what is and isn't true.”
The ACC has not responded to my request for comment, but ACC vice president Steve Russell was quoted in the National Journal as saying, “We're going to continue to work with policy makers, lawmakers and green building system purveyors to make sure they understand the opportunities that the materials and innovations in our industry provide.”
The 7th deadly sin of greenwashing
If the formation of an apparent competitor to a grassroots green group sounds familiar, we’ve noted this trend before as the 7th of nine types of greenwash: “Rallying Behind a Lower Standard.” In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was the “wood wars,” with forest products industry that has supported groups competing with more established environmental advocates.
What’s next, the Leadership in Energy and Chemical-Healthy Environmental Responsibility (LECHER) rating system? Or will AHPBC throw its support behind the Green Globes rating system? Perhaps AHPBC’s true color is green, adding itself to the ranks of industry groups (like the Regenerative Network, along with USGBC), that do forward-looking, transformative work. Stay tuned.