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Advancing Lab Sustainability through Certification and Verification

Learn how third-party certification is reshaping lab sustainability efforts worldwide with insights from My Green Lab CEO, James Connelly

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Improving lab sustainability is important to lab managers, lab scientists, and the organizations they work for, but learning how to make the lab greener has been a challenge. My Green Lab has been the leader in advancing lab sustainability since its founding in 2013 through its certification program, ACT label, and other initiatives. In the next phase of My Green Lab’s evolution, the non-profit has launched Impact Laboratories, a subsidiary that will provide third-party verification of the My Green Lab certification program. 

Here, James Connelly, CEO of My Green Lab, answered our questions about Impact Laboratories and the importance of third-party certifications and verifications.

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Q: Why is third-party certification so important?

A: Third-party certification is crucial because it provides an unbiased assessment of sustainability efforts. This independent verification adds credibility and trust to certification programs, ensuring that environmental claims are backed by a clear standard and rigorous evaluation and verification process. It helps stakeholders set clear standards and ensure their partners are meeting their expectations. It also helps senior leadership in an organization align performance across their scientific operations and drive savings, efficiency, and cultural change 

Q: What are the major trends driving the growth of green lab certification?

A: The growth of green lab certification is driven by several trends, including increasing awareness of environmental issues, regulatory requirements mandating sustainability practices, corporate and institutional sustainability goals, consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services, and technological advancements enabling more efficient and sustainable laboratory practices. Over the past three years, growth has started to become exponential, and My Green Lab has certified over 2,500 labs in 45 countries, with more than 30,000 scientists having completed the program.

Q: How does third-party certification help verify and measure environmental impact?

A: Alongside the launch of Impact Laboratories, My Green Lab has been working with our stakeholder groups to develop the next version of our flagship program, My Green Lab Certification 2.0, that is currently under pilot. The new program will critically add an impact estimator feature so each lab can measure the environmental impact of their actions on energy consumption, waste, water, and greenhouse gas emissions verified by a third party. This data-driven approach enables labs to track their progress, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate progress against their goals.

Q: What regulations are driving this evolution, and how does that impact the industry?

A: Regulations such as the US EPA's Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Program and the EU Green Claims Directive are now starting to require third-party certification of sustainability standards with legal separation between standard-setting organizations and certification bodies. These regulations help to combat greenwashing by requiring standards to go through a formal assessment process to ensure transparency and balance in the interest of the development of the standard, documented evidence of environmental impact, and a rigorous and well-documented certification process.

Q: What additional resources and tools do labs need to help make third- party verification easier?

A: Labs need enhanced resources and tools to facilitate third-party verification effectively. This includes access to robust data on the environmental impact of lab equipment and the opportunity for improvement and standards for data collection. My Green Lab is committed to continuously updating the data used in our Impact Estimator in an open, transparent manner to accelerate progress across the global scientific community. My Green Lab Certification 2.0 will also be delivered through an enterprise-scale user-friendly software tool to speed adoption and provide summary-level impact dashboards for labs and organizations. These new resources will make the certification process smoother and more accessible for labs seeking third-party verification and give them the data they need to get buy-in from senior leadership.

Q: What is the value of earning certification?

A: Earning certification provides much more value than just the certification itself. Labs save significant amounts of energy, water, and waste while improving resource efficiency and lowering their carbon footprint. My Green Lab Certification provides a proven framework backed with comprehensive resources to facilitate the behavior and culture change needed to drive impact. Certification awards also create a virtual cycle within an organization, as labs compete to have the best score, and across the industry as organizations work to have the most number of high-scoring labs. The growing green lab movement has helped seed a new community of practice that creates opportunities for partnerships and peer-to-peer learning with like-minded organizations while demonstrating compliance with what is quickly becoming the industry standard.

Q: What is the cost and return on investment?

A: The cost of certification is $4,000 per lab for commercial and $500 for academic with bulk discounting that lowers the cost the greater the number of labs an organization pursues. The return on investment includes improved reduced resource consumption, lower environmental impact, operational efficiency, enhanced reputation, and cost savings. My Green Lab has commercial labs that have seen a 4X ROI and even greater one year alone just through measured energy savings. 

Q: Can you envision a situation where this certification will be required?

A: As regulations evolve and sustainability becomes a more significant focus globally, there is likely to come a time when certification is required by regulatory bodies, industry associations, or stakeholders as a prerequisite for conducting business or receiving funding. In fact, Science Foundation Ireland is in the process of implementing a country-wide pilot program that encourages their grantees to pursue My Green Lab Certification, a world first. Further, five of the largest pharma companies united in a common voice at COP 27 to launch Converge, a My Green Lab supplier initiative to encourage pharma suppliers to reduce their emission by pursuing My Green Lab Certification.

Q: What is the relationship between My Green Labs and Impact Laboratories?

A: Impact Laboratories is a commercial subsidiary of My Green Lab. While My Green Lab remains focused on its charitable mission of promoting sustainability in science and developing certification programs, Impact Laboratories specifically handles third-party verification for My Green Lab Certification and marketing and business development for ACT, the only third-party sustainability certification for lab products and our professional education certificate, the My Green Lab Accredited Professional (AP). This relationship ensures that certification for My Green Lab is conducted independently and with the highest standards of integrity. SMSC will remain the third-party certifier for ACT, but with additional resources, Impact Laboratories will be able to spread the word about our program more effectively and reach a broader audience.