Harvard has received an Outstanding Case Study Award from the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council for its work to phase out harmful chemical flame retardants in the furniture it purchases. The awards recognize organizations for documenting their sustainable purchasing efforts in detailed case studies enable others to follow their lead.

As part of an initiative to target chemicals of concern on campus, Harvard’s Office for Sustainability (OFS) collaborated with faculty and researchers to educate students and staff about the six classes of chemicals of concern, and are partnering with Harvard Strategic Procurement to survey vendors and identify opportunities to purchase and procure healthier materials and products for interior building spaces.

The University’s Sustainability Plan includes a specific commitment to partner with researchers in order to identify and target harmful chemicals on campus. University-wide Green Building Standards, updated in 2014, include healthy material declaration requirements (aligned with LEED v4) for the disclosure of the health and environmental impact of products that are used on campus.

Recent changes to California and Massachusetts fire safety code (TB117-2013) make it possible for institutional purchasers like Harvard to choose furniture that passes all fire safety requirements free of chemical flame retardants. In November 2015, Harvard became the first university to sign a national pledge stating a preference for purchasing flame retardant-free furniture. Other signatories to the pledge include Kaiser Permanente, Facebook, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, Genetech and Autodesk.

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