We define prosperity as a thriving, abundant future for all. The role we play in helping secure this possibility is critical to our world and directly linked to our founding legacy to “do something for humanity” by helping create safer living and working environments for people everywhere.3
Our everyday work finds UL employees engaging their expertise across a wide range of industries, helping to ensure the safety, security and sustainability of the products and processes we evaluate, test and certify. Scientific rigor and the pursuit of truth are hallmarks of the UL engineer. To know by test and “state the facts” was the oft-stated principle of William H. Merrill, Jr., the founder of Underwriters Laboratories.4 We apply his maxim to every test we undertake so that we may help guide societal progress in a responsible and honest manner.
As a global safety science leader servicing the industries that define the world around us, we are able to meaningfully impact the United Nations’ SDGs through both our internal initiatives and our services. While we have aligned our corporate sustainability strategy to three goals — SDGs Nos. 3, 11 and 12 — our products and services enable our customers to impact additional SDGs.
Our sustainability reporting and supply chain management tools provide our customers line of sight into their operations and help them report on their own sustainability journey. (Goal Nos. 9, 10, 11,12 and 17)
Our work in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), circular economy, waste diversion, labor and human rights issues, performance testing, environmental air quality and emissions, and the broad range of environmental, social and governance issues of concern to investors, directly progresses many of the SDGs. (Goal Nos. 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15)
Our experience with product development and chemicals of concern, renewable energy and battery technologies, refurbished and remanufactured products is vital to protecting the health of the planet and its resources. (Goal Nos. 3, 7, 9, 11 and 12)
At the same time, our digitization efforts, software systems and implementation services play an enabling role in advancing the SDGs alongside our customers. (Goal No. 17)
All of these capabilities and services help our customers enhance their sustainability efforts, multiplying our impact as we work together to safely progress society.
3 Merrill, W.H. (1913, May). Underwriters Laboratories Inc., The Spectator
4 Small, A.R. (1913). Underwriters Laboratories Work in Waste Prevention, The Spectator, p. 46
Partnering to progress the SDGs
As a company founded on sharing our scientific research and discoveries to make the world a safer place, our environmental and sustainability experts today participate in and lead the important global dialogues surrounding sustainability. SDG No. 17 reveals the need for cross-industry, public, private and civil society partnerships to accomplish sustainability goals. We embrace this SDG through participating in collaborative research and demonstration projects and working directly with partners across the circularity value chain. In 2019, UL sustainability experts contributed to the following organizations to share insights, progress innovations and collaborate on advancing the SDGs:
Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit — For the past two years, UL has been actively supporting the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summits. In 2019, we shared how emerging technologies are driving sustainable action and measuring success. Key takeaways from the 2018 summit were captured here.
CE100 — UL became a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation CE100 in 2019, collaborating with industry leaders to advance circularity. One of the first projects UL worked on was a mass-balance approach to calculating recycled input generated through a chemical recycling process.
GreenBiz — UL co-hosted GreenBiz’s inaugural circularity-themed conference, Circularity19. Circularity offers innovative ways to operationalize sustainability into business. To learn more, listen to this GreenBiz podcast episode 177: “Sounding off at Circularity19.”
Global Cities, Inc. — UL is a longtime partner of the annual Pritzker Forum on Global Cities. This event brings together mayors, academics, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and industry stakeholders from around the world to share knowledge and practices to address the challenges facing cities today. This year’s forum focused on sustainable growth.
Sharing research and scientific expertise
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research — In January 2019, UL completed work on two DOE three-year research grants to further understand the life of photovoltaic (PV) modules in collaboration with team members from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), academia and industry. These projects will inform the PV industry about the best ways to design and develop materials and PV modules, promoting more durable PV systems that exceed the current performance and financial aspects of solar power. In 2019, we were awarded another DOE three-year research grant to extend our work analyzing the condition of fielded PV modules installed and operating in different environmental conditions around the U.S., and ultimately the world.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and UL workshop — In December 2019, UL co-hosted the first NIST/UL Workshop on PV Materials Durability at NIST’s campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This conference brings together leading scientific experts in solar power from around the world to address cutting edge ways to promote the best design, development, assessment and usage of solar power technologies.
Energy Storage System (ESS) Safety — UL extended our thought leadership in energy storage system safety by developing key new requirements for safety. ESS supports renewables by capturing the energy from solar and wind, allowing it to be accessed when needed, even if the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. In late 2018, UL issued UL 1974, the U.S. and Canadian national safety Standard for Evaluation for Repurposing Batteries. This Standard promotes the safe reuse of EV batteries in the energy storage infrastructure, which helps extend resources, reduce waste and promote renewables. We followed our publication of the world’s first electrical energy storage (EES) safety Standard, UL 9540, the Standard for Energy Storage Systems and Equipment, with additional published requirements to address the fire safety of these systems. UL’s ESS and fire experts worked to issue new testing protocols that are being used by regulators around the country to help install ESS with confidence.
Biofuel research and requirements — UL worked with U.S. National Laboratories, automakers, the agricultural sector and industry stakeholders to proactively research, develop and publish requirements for new biofuels. Our work to establish requirements for mid-level ethanol fuel blends will lay the foundation for safety of fueling stations, support more rapid implementation of infrastructure and accelerate the ability to use more biofuels that burn cleaner than gasoline and produce lower levels of nitrous oxide (NOx) and other air pollutants.
EV Charging — UL has been advancing requirements for EV fast charging technologies as well as EV wireless charging. Both of these technologies offer easier and safer EV charging, which supports broader uptake of EVs and other zero-emission vehicles by the public. As we see increased deployment of renewables, this allows for clean electricity to increasingly charge zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and reduces emissions from fossil fuels. Through summits, technical analysis, modeling and collaboration with key stakeholders, UL has been highly active in advancing safe, sustainable and practical ZEV tech.
PV Rapid Shutdown/Hazard Control — As rooftop solar PV power becomes increasingly popular across the U.S. and the world, it presents challenges for the first responder community in carrying out their tactics in a building with rooftop PV. PV panels continue to generate electricity when exposed to light — whether sunlight or even the artificial lighting used by fire departments at night — that can generate enough electricity to injure or kill first responders if they come into contact. The presence of water in firefighting operations elevates the risk. UL has been working with the first responder community, the solar industry, the U.S. National Laboratories and others to help ensure the safety of new technologies that allow first responders to rapidly shut down the distribution of electricity from a rooftop PV array, keeping them safe as they carry out their critical missions. We conducted essential work with Sandia National Laboratories to assess the electric shock hazards for firefighters and are using that research to drive the optimal requirements for the use of that technology. This effort helps promote rooftop solar use while also protecting the lives of the firefighters.
First hydrogen fuel station certification — In 2018, UL issued the world’s first certification of the safety of a hydrogen fuel station. These stations are used to fuel hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) like the Toyota Mirai. HFCVs are extremely clean, as their byproduct is water. In 2019, these stations began being installed in the U.S., in southern California, to promote safe and clean transport in a region challenged by air pollution from vehicles using internal combustion and diesel engines.
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Renewable Energy Scheme (IECRE) First Solar Certificate — The IECRE is a new conformity assessment scheme to promote easier global deployment of large scale wind, solar and marine power plants. UL has been deeply engaged in setting up the scheme since its inception, in all three sectors. In 2019, UL issued the first certificate under the solar sector for First Solar, a leading global manufacturer of innovative solar systems.
Empowering our customers’ impact
Testing, inspection, certification
UL GREENGUARD — According to the latest Global Burden of Disease study, 1.6 million people died prematurely in 2017 as a result of indoor air pollution. Healthy indoor air is critical to safe living and working environments. UL GREENGUARD Certification helps manufacturers make and market products that have low chemical emissions and contribute to healthier indoor air. The emissions criteria for GREENGUARD Certification are among the most stringent in the world, recognized by more than 400 building programs, standards and specifications globally. Customers, such as Pottery Barn, have adopted UL GREENGUARD Gold Certification for baby and child furniture, recognizing that health and safety are tied to sustainability.
Responsible sourcing for supply chains — Responsible sourcing services help our customers analyze risks and prioritize interventions through supply chain mapping, field research tools and risk indices.
Healthy buildings — Our audit and building commissioning services to support healthy buildings extend to asbestos, lead surveying, energy benchmarking and more.
Renewables technical advisory services — Our comprehensive portfolio helps companies plan, design, finance, build, invest, operate, maintain and manage wind and solar. UL is leading the digitization of the renewables industry. Learn about Renewable Asset Monitoring Platform (RAMP) to see how we are helping our customers access and understand the data from their wind and solar plants to identify where they are gaining and losing energy.
Our software and services for regulatory compliance enable companies around the world to secure their supply chains and responsibly steward products with product intelligence to reduce risk, reach chemical compliance and promote materials. Chemical regulatory advisors, with a combined fluency in more than 30 languages, help companies meet changing regulations and increasingly robust product requirements.
UL acquired HOMER Energy in 2019 expanding our portfolio of services across the renewable energy value chain. This acquisition enables UL to grow advisory and digital services in microgrids, energy storage, hybrid energy systems, smart buildings and cities, and related domains. It expands our digital service offering by combining UL’s experience and recognized thought leadership in solar, wind and battery technology with HOMER Energy’s system design capabilities and distributed energy project database.
UL’s digital applications help customers see the big picture, drill down to essential details and capture critical information across their organization and value chain, simplifying sustainability-related processes and decision making.
Turbo Carbon™ — Reporting carbon emissions is a growing imperative, driven by new regulatory requirements, pronounced business benefits and increased societal expectations for managing carbon emissions. UL’s Turbo Carbon solution makes carbon reporting simple, fast and affordable for brand owners and their supply chain.
UL | 360 — This award-winning platform enables brands to manage their GHG and other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data for internal decision making and external stakeholders. UL utilizes this platform to glean insights into our own global facilities and laboratories in order to discover efficiencies and enact improvements.
UL SPOT® is a UL product database that helps architects and designers, manufacturers, purchasers and retailers find sustainable products to meet green building requirements, purchasing guidelines and customer demands. This database raises awareness, encouraging the adoption of safer, greener and healthier products.
Education and training
Drawing on UL’s expertise, UL’s training and professional development solutions include instructor-led sessions, custom workshops and content development, on-demand e-learning courses and live webinars across a range of subjects:
UL’s PV System Installation Certification online program was designed to meet and exceed existing industry requirements through a working cooperation with leading PV industry stakeholders, NGOs and professional associations. This program satisfies a need to improve the safety and performance of PV systems through a more qualified workforce.
U.S. Product Safety System: CPSC v. OSHA — This program was developed to help compliance staff, product designers, engineers and other professionals learn about the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC) and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations affecting everyday products and their safe distribution in global marketplaces.
A sustainable future
Each of these services and offerings help us and our customers progress the SDGs. As we advance our own sustainability initiatives, we also proliferate our customers’ contributions to the UN SDGs every day through the work we do. We are committed to sharing our journey through continuous reporting, as we embed sustainable strategies across our business to increase our impact.