Anthony Ruffine, GAF vice president of sustainability and strategic marketing
Anthony Ruffine, GAF vice president of sustainability and strategic marketing

While many product manufacturers wait for investors to push them into bleeding-edge sustainability efforts, roofing products manufacturer GAF has already positioned itself smack dab in the middle of some of the industry’s most forward-thinking projects: The company has provided data for the Pharos Project, is one of 30 manufacturers involved in the Health Product Declaration (HPD) pilot, and was the first company to sign up as a Vision 2020 sponsor.

“It’s a trend of where the market is going, and if we are not participating ... then it will happen to us,” says Anthony Ruffine, vice president of sustainability and strategic marketing. “It’s really about trying to do the things that our customers need to survive long term—and trying to do the things we need to survive long term.”

According to Ruffine, participating in the HPD pilot was especially attractive, as he feels product transparency and health are the next frontiers for building product manufacturers. “A lot of the standard sustainability measures really are looking at carbon first—energy use first—and it was nice to jump in with a group that’s really ahead of the curve and thinking about the product more holistically,” he says. “We are anticipating what customers are going to be looking for. This will help us in framing the ultimate product.”

Martin Grohman, GAF’s director of sustainability, says that part of the company’s product transparency efforts stem from customers’ push for more product openness, but it is more about helping customers “future proof”—a service he feels any good product manufacturer should offer. “We do very clearly see this coming down the road, and we want to be part of it—out ahead of it—so we can bring it to our contractors and not have them be surprised by it,” Grohman says.

GAF also doesn’t want to be surprised, another reason why it always tries to be part of the dialogue. In the HPD pilot, for example, Grohman says GAF has been able to provide feedback, as have other manufacturers, which will only help the project move forward at a quicker pace. “I think there’s been a good give-and-take of what is needed in there as far as the HPD, what level of detail to get the information that is needed versus what you can comfortably disclose to the marketplace,” Grohman says. “They are being very pragmatic.”

Grohman admits that stringent initiatives like the HPD and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) are no doubt challenging and time consuming, but in the end, it will be well worth the effort. “It’s what we tell our contractors, ‘Don’t be threatened, be part of this discussion. It’s not a threat to you, it’s an opportunity.’”

Ruffine believes this type leadership is the only way for stakeholders—especially product manufacturers—to stay viable in today’s competitive market. “I think that you have to start looking broader at how you are using resources, making your products, and treating your customers,” he says. “Vision 2020 and the HPD give us a lot of good tools to help the industry stay strong.”