SMaRT Certification Explained: Why It’s Important

By September 6, 2017 No Comments
The materials ramp leading to our facility. We specialize in many things, including sewer pipe installation.

There’s a growing trend among businesses everywhere to become as environmentally friendly as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but more and more consumers are wanting to buy and use products that are both sustainable and ethically sourced.

Because of this, there seems to be an ever-expanding amount of endorsements and certifications across our industry. However, as more certifications become available, requirements to meet higher standards become more and more difficult.  This all adds up to safer, greener building materials.

Today, architects are specifying the products they use, suppliers are marketing their products globally, and occupants and building owners can feel safe knowing they’re in a healthy and sustainable building. One of these certifications that’s elevating the safety standard is the SMaRT Certification.

SMaRT Certified InfographicWhat is SMaRT Certification?

Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SMaRT) is the highest standard for development and manufacturing. Adopted under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system in 2007, SMaRT is a building certifications that signifies the highest standards around.

One of the biggest differentiating factors from other certifications is that, unlike other standards, SMaRT is not just about the product; it also examines the process in which it was produced.

It begins with an environmental product declaration (EPD), which reports the impact of the manufacturing process. It takes various key factors into account, like production, packaging, raw material extraction, even transportation and disposal. This document, however, doesn’t address a product’s impact on humans directly; that document would be called health product declaration (HPD), which reports on chemicals that could be toxic or harmful to the public.

SMaRT is one of the few standards that accounts for both of these – impact on the environment as well as impact on the human. It’s different from most other EPD/HPDs in that it requires massive pollution reductions as well as identifying many more aspects of climate change and toxicity issues.

Does SMaRT Certification actually signify something?

In the past, there’s been a frequent problem in sustainable manufacturing called ‘greenwashing’, which is when a company embellishes or exaggerates how environmentally friendly their products are.


As you might imagine, greenwashing is an issue that’s difficult to catch and harder  to regulate. In an attempt to combat greenwashing, stronger oversight has become more common in the last few years. Organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission, the State Attorney and the EPA became more aggressive in pursuing companies that deceived consumers on how environmentally-friendly their products were. Stronger certifications like SMaRT are a result of these efforts to protect consumers.

SMaRT requires its applicants to sign a legally-binding agreement, enforced by the FTC, to ensure all information is accurate. It’s a consensus based standard that’s the culmination of 15 years of approvals. This way, people buying SMaRT certified products know that they’re actually getting a green product as well as what exactly goes into that final product.

What it Takes to Get SMaRT

gavel from a judgeWe’ll be honest with you: It’s incredibly difficult to get SMaRT certified. The standards are so rigorous that it often takes years to meet each requirement.

After all, the main purpose of SMaRT certification is to acknowledge and reward manufacturers who not only create products that aren’t harmful, but which actually enhance the public health and environment.

It’s scope of examination is much wider than that of other certifications, as it incorporates almost 50 individual standards. To qualify , a company must score a minimum of 28 points (out of a potential 157) in the following stages of production:

  • Safety for public health and environment
  • Renewable energy and energy reduction
  • Materials that are bio-based or recycled
  • Company/facility requirements (including social equity)
  • Reclamation or Sustainable reuse

To obtain certification, a manufacturer must go through the following steps:

  • Submit a fully completed application
  • Pass a data audit by the MTS (The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability)
  • Sign a legally-binding agreement that all information and data are accurate and not embellished or misleading
  • Pass a third-party audit from Ernst & Young’s Global Sustainable Auditing Group or Redstone Global Auditing
  • Renew the SMaRT certification every three years

If your facility passes, you will receive certification that has varying levels: sustainable, sustainable silver, sustainable gold, or sustainable platinum. The level you receive depends upon the amount of points you ‘earn’ during the certification process.

The encouraging thing in all this is, if you see a facility has been SMaRT certified and has undergone all of these tests and changes in process, it’s a clear indicator of their commitment to sustainability.

The Benefits to Being SMaRT Certified

The emphasis on transparency and sustainability is only growing. SMaRT certification is becoming a leading hallmark on sustainability, and is recognized not just nationally, but also by manufacturers and builders all over the world.

Within the US, it’s been adopted and recognized by the American Institute of Architects, the US Green Building Council and Wall Street Capital Market Partnerships, to name a few. SMaRT and LEED had increased cash flow and value, and is preferred by investors in Wall Street.

Even Google has gotten into the game. They recently partnered with Healthy Business Network to produce Portico, an online database that helps select healthy building products and materials. It allows architects to find healthy products in order to obtain LEED certification or to work with organizations who’ve undergone SMaRT certification.

How do you Become SMaRT Certified?

The certification is issued through The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS). You can visit their main website, or contact them at to start your certification process.

SMaRT Certified Products in the Pacific Northwest

At Columbia Precast Products, becoming SMaRT certified has been one of our greatest achievements, especially considering we were the first precast concrete plant in the buried infrastructure industry to earn this.

Our products are made with natural materials that do not emit any volatile organic compounds (VOC). They are designed with strength, durability and resilience in mind, all while using sustainable materials and practices. We are dedicated to a greener, safer environment while creating durable quality products. Contact us today with any questions or find out more about our SMaRT certification.