Policies & Regulations

A product's level of sustainability is defined not only by how much water is used to make it, the type of material it is constructed from or its climate impact, but the amount of waste associated with it.

In the United States, the regulatory landscape regarding product sustainability is complex. Federal agencies, such as the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can influence how companies pursue product sustainability claims and initiatives. The FTC Green Guides detail what claims they can make about the environmental performance of their products and how these claims can be communicated. Companies involved in the chemical industry have reported annually to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since the 1970s under the Toxic Substance Control Act and other goverment regulations. As the concept of sustainability has grown, the scope of reporting efforts has as well.

Sustainable products involve more than just regulations mandating certain standards. Firms can, and do, play a major role in advancing sustainability by choosing to innovate their products through collaboration with partners to improve materials and techniques for production. When firms make choices that are more economical and environmentally friendly, they are able to showcase these efforts through sustainability reporting, which is spearheaded by the Global Reporting Initiative.
Research by the Duke Center for Sustainability & Commerce at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions seeks to identify areas of inefficiency in firm operations and help them make changes in their operational procedures. We are currently focused on both government driven initiatives taking place at the state, federal and international levels as well as industry-led initiatives for reporting throughout the supply chain.