A Response to Public Concerns
In 2010, the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) launched the Environmental & Safety Program (ESP). The goal of this program was not to enforce certain ecological and safety features and qualifications for specialty sleep mattress, but transparency in claims made in these areas, in other words, “truth in marketing.” This program was supplanted by the Bedfax program in 2016.
What Did ESP Do?
The Specialty Sleep Association is an organization of manufacturers of specialty sleep mattresses (those using support other than innersprings). It began as an association of waterbed manufacturers, but expanded to include makers of adjustable air beds and foam mattresses.
SSA conducted consumer research resulting in the Environmental Claims Report in January 2010. This report showed almost half of consumers were concerned about mattress safety (in fires), about one in seven wanted a mattress without emissions, and more than three quarters would buy a mattress with an understandable and trustable claim of being environmentally friendly. In other words, there was a market demand for safe, healthful, and green.
The Environmental & Safety Program was second party certification. The certification and seals were available to member firms, some only specialty sleep producers, such as Boyd Specialty Sleep (the first company to be certified), and others who also produce innerspring beds, such as Naturepedic.
The ESP process was called “self-certification.” The manufacturer had to first join the program. When that manufacturer applied to use the SSA Green Seal on a mattress, it first filled out a content disclosure form. Mattresses in stores could be taken at random to verify that they consisted of what was listed on the foam.
Then a Consumer Disclosure Label (CDL) was produced. This was printed on the BedFax label.
The Green Seals
There were four levels of compliance. The first three are described as follows.
To display the Level I seal, a manufacturer must:
• Disclose materials used in construction and percentages of natural/bio-based and/or recycled content if applicable
• Achieve a minimum of 20% of natural/bio-based or pre-consumer recycled content in component categories of fabric and quilt
• Participate in an annual survey to identify carbon footprint issues and commit to continuous improvement
• Meet all federal safety flammability requirements
• Meet all safety requirements for children’s products if applicable
• Provide a warranty for the product
For the Level II seal, a manufacturer must meet all the requirements of the first threshold and in addition, the products must:
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 20% of natural/bio-based and/or recycled content material in each component category: fabric, quilt, and core
• Certify that the top fabric (closest to consumer during sleep) contains no harmful substances through either Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
• Polyurethane foam products much achieve CertiPUR®-US certification
• Latex foam products must achieve Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certification.
The Level III seal is the highest that can be achieved. To meet the Level III requirements, a manufacturer must comply with the previous two levels’ requirements and:
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 70% of natural/biobased material in component categories of fabric and quilt
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 50% natural/biobased, pre-consumer recycled and/or recycled steel for core
• Certify that the final mattress contains no harmful substances as certified by Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard
• Test the mattress for VOCs emissions
Level IV includes meeting additional requirements and using the BedFax CDL.
As can be seen, Level II and Level III required additional third-party certifications in applicable areas. These are already reviewed here: Oeko-Tex® Standard 100, GOTS, CertiPur-US. Level IV and GOLS were introduced after the news release. The inclusion of another second party certification and two or more third party certifications gives the SSA Green Seals a higher level of confidence than merely second party status.
Life-Cycle of the SSA Environmental & Safety Program
At the time of its introduction, SSA President Dale Read said the seals of the Environmental & Safety Program would “provide an industry standard for what is green, sustainable and natural.” In 2016, the SSA Environmental & Safety Program was ended as SSA’s program of transparency continued with BedFax.
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