Standards Spur Sustainable Development

Emerging Regions, United Nations Goals, and the ASTM International MOU Program

ASTM International’s Memorandum of Understanding program has helped emerging countries and regions access up-to-date and market-relevant standards, boosting U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Adopted in 2016, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals distill a 15-year objective to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change while ensuring that no one is left behind. The goals were arrived at through a transparent, collaborative, public-private process. (For more information: about the U.N. and sustainable development, click here.)

ASTM International’s standards are developed in a similar process that transcends economic and geo-political borders. They support many of the U.N. goals by contributing to infrastructure, the environment, health and safety, innovation, and sustainability.

Industry: Home Cooking Safety
Region: All Emerging Nations
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals:
#3 Good Health and Well-Being
#7 Affordable and Clean Energy

The home use of polluting cooking fuels such as wood or charcoal causes widespread illness and death in emerging countries. In response, ASTM International’s committee on bioenergy and industrial chemicals from biomass (E48) developed a standard to support the introduction of ethanol as a cooking fuel.

Each year, millions of people get sick or die due to household air pollution from cooking with traditional fuels such as wood or charcoal. In addition, overreliance on these fuels can add to global deforestation.
Using fuels such as ethanol can reduce or eliminate such problems.

An ASTM International specification for using denatured ethanol as a cooking and appliance fuel (E3050) will help support the buying, selling, and transporting of ethanol around the world. It will also act as a benchmark for further quality control in countries where ethanol is being used.

Specifically, this performance-based standard will:

  • Help with regulatory issues in international transactions by clarifying and classifying the properties of the fuel;
  • Clear up confusion between denatured ethanol for cooking fuel versus beverage-grade ethanol;
  • Expedite the customs approval process;
  • Help procure quality fuel by buyers; and
  • Create a benchmark that will help consumers know they are buying a quality product.

Industry: Traditional Building Materials
Region: All Emerging Nations
U.N. Sustainable Development Goal:
#11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

When earthquakes and other disasters strike emerging nations, it is crucial that rebuilt structures be more likely to withstand future disasters. An ASTM standard that recognizes earth as a measurable building material gives organizations concerned with rebuilding a way to share standards and best practices with
local builders.

After the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the nation was tasked with rebuilding hundreds of thousands of residences and commercial buildings. In a country where traditional building materials such as earth are often more practical than materials like concrete, rebuilding safe homes is a challenge.

In response to this concern, the committee on sustainability (E60) revised its standard guide for the design of earthen wall building systems (E2392) to recognize earth as a measurable building material. With a number of engineers having worked out how to build seismically safe earthen buildings, the Ecological Building Network requested that ASTM disseminate this knowledge through the standard.

A technical working group of UN-HABITAT, informally calling itself the Co-laboratory, designed a project using the ASTM standard to adapt traditional architectural styles to modern solutions, improve the durability of traditional structures made from local materials, and benefit local economies.
(To learn about how one ASTM member has helped improve construction techniques in Haiti, see Spotlight.)

Industry: Healthcare and Medical Devices
Region: Middle East/Israel
U.N. Sustainable Development Goal:
#3 Good Health and Well-Being

The Standards Institution of Israel recently discussed and revised the Israeli standards on condoms. Since Israel prefers to offer manufacturers a choice of adopted standards whenever possible, the committee approved this revision with more than one option for compliance: either the ASTM standards, specification for rubber contraceptives (male condoms) (D3492), and test method for male condoms made from polyurethane (D6324), or an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.

The two ASTM standards were transferred to the Ministry of the Economy of Israel and became law. Since condoms are considered a medical device in Israel, the adopted standards have become mandatory in the country.

Industry: Biofuels
Region: Africa/Zimbabwe
U.N. Sustainable Development Goal:
#7 Affordable and Clean Energy

Zimbabwe currently imports more energy than it produces, but applying a biofuel standard to the indigenous Jatropha plant can help reverse that, giving a boost to the economy along the way.

An ASTM International performance-based biofuel standard (the specification for biodiesel fuel blend stock (B100) for middle distillate fuels, D6751) was designed for soybean-based biofuels, but the Standards Association of Zimbabwe is adapting it for the Jatropha plant. Jatropha is drought-resistant and grows well even in difficult environments that aren’t suitable for farming. In short, it is ideal as a sustainable feedstock for producing biodiesel. After a local college saw the potential for the plant, SAZ members from industry, manufacturing, unions, government, and academia came together and analyzed D6751. Through a memorandum of understanding agreement with ASTM International, they are able to repurpose the standard for use with Jatropha.

At the same time, government and nongovernmental agencies throughout Africa are encouraging the growth of the plant, helping spur entrepreneurship and economic development in the agricultural industry. Already, this has helped reduce poverty, improve rural employment, and create thousands of jobs.

More broadly, this new application of the standard to Jatropha is helping Zimbabwe meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol) as well as advance Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Clean Energy.

Industry: Hydropower
Region: Asia/Bhutan
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals:
#7 Affordable and Clean Energy
#9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Several countries have pledged carbon neutrality — achieving net zero carbon emissions — but Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. And ASTM standards are part of Bhutan’s success in sustainability.

Being high in the pristine Himalayan Mountains, with four major rivers fed by glaciers, the country has great potential in hydropower plants. At present, their renewable energy plants generate around 1,500 megawatts, which is the top revenue source and a job creator for the country. Bhutan is building dams and aspires to harness 10,000 megawatts by 2020.

To achieve its goals, Bhutan Hydropower Services Ltd. services hydropower plants and manufactures components. As part of its formula for success, BHSL uses five ASTM standards:

  • C633 and E3 for adhesion and metallographic tests, to set proper quality assurance of the hard coating process; and
  • A370, E23, and E290, mechanical tests for bending, hardness, and impact for qualification of welding procedures, to standardize and assure quality.

ASTM standards empower BHSL to provide world class hydropower plants and personnel, helping the country achieve its distinction as a carbon negative nation.

Industry: Steel Structures, Outdoor Fitness Equipment
Region: South America/Ecuador
U.N. Sustainable  Development Goal:
#9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Ecuador enjoys a mild climate, and outdoor activities are popular year-round. Steel Inc. is an Ecuadoran company that manufactures quality outdoor play and fitness equipment to the requirements of the ASTM specification for fitness equipment (F2276).

Steel Inc.’s high quality and innovative products have made them a recipient of 12 “Quality INEN” stamps, guaranteeing security and confidence to their customers. (INEN is the Ecuadoran national standards body, Instituto Ecuatoriano de Normalización.) INEN stamps are awarded to Ecuadoran companies whose products meet INEN or ASTM standards. 

Standards help Steel Inc. embody the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 9 for Innovative Industry. Meanwhile, Ecuadoran users of this safe equipment reap the common benefits of outdoor activity, including physical fitness, stress management, and psychological health. 

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