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Wal-Mart, Seventh Generation, Tetra Pak Test Drive Earthster LCA Tool

Earthster is collaborating with Wal-Mart, Seventh Generation, and Tetra Pak to create an open, data commons and lifecycle assessment (LCA) tool for product designers, manufacturers, suppliers and sustainability experts looking for information on materials, energy, water, social and climate impacts throughout the product life cycle.

The three sustainability leaders will participate in the Earthster 2 Turbo (E2T) tool pilot program. The E2T tool will help companies understand where their largest environmental impacts are in their product design and manufacturing processes and how to find more sustainable alternatives.

Earthster says it is the first open source platform to measure and manage a product’s social and environmental impacts throughout the supply chain.

The tool features a built-in recommendations engine, drawing on environmental and climate databases, which recommends user-specific options for cost-effective improvements of environmental impacts. Social impacts can be identified using the Social Hotspots Database, a resource currently unique to Earthster, says the company.

Wal-Mart contributed funding to the Earthster project to support a number of pilot LCAs of their private brand products. “As companies focus more on the sustainability of products they buy and sell, it’s important to have tools like Earthster available to help track products over their full life cycle,” said Jeff Rice, Wal-Mart sustainability director, in a statement.

This may help Wal-Mart meet two of its key environmental measures. One calls for the reduction of 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the end of 2015 with help from its suppliers. The other is the retailer’s sustainability index, introduced last year, to grade suppliers and products on a range of environmental and sustainable factors.

“LCA software that creates value and makes measuring practical improves the effectiveness of reporting standards, like those of the Sustainability Consortium and the Global Packaging Project, especially when those tools are integrated with existing industry platforms like GS1,” Rice added.

Seventh Generation has committed to be the first company to use Earthster’s interactive web visualizations to share product sustainability information on its Website for two of its product lines, while Tetra Pak will be importing a complex set of material and impact options for sustainable packaging options.

This appears to be inline with co-founder of Seventh Generation Jeffrey Hollender’s philosophy of radical transparency.

Earthster is seeking additional founding member pilot companies, across a wide range of industries including apparel, food, building materials, and automotive, to collaborate in user-based tool design and as contributors to the data commons.

Earthster’s sustainability data commons is being developed to drive product innovation for sustainability.  The tool operates as a sustainability wiki, with users having the option to contribute data to a data commons that companies build together. This allows the generation of new data on representative production for a given process or product, filling in data gaps in today’s LCA databases, says Earthster.

Another unique feature of E2T is that it integrates both social and environmental impacts. From labor rights to working conditions and local community impacts, the social dimension of producing goods and services in global supply chains is layered into E2T analysis and visualizations, says Earthster. Users can refine their social risk assessment through a supplier self-assessment questionnaire integrated into Earthster, and aligned with the Global Social Compliance Programme.

Earthster is a project of New Earth, a 501.c.3 charitable organization based in Maine.

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