The CertiPUR-US® Program Celebrates 15 Years
How a nonprofit organization transformed an industry by setting rigorous standards and earning the public’s trust
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Everyone has heard of watchdog organizations and individuals that monitor the activities of various entities on behalf of the public interest — but how often does an industry take the initiative to police itself and fully embrace strict, ongoing oversight? That is the remarkable success story behind the CertiPUR-US® program, the organization that has safeguarded the integrity of flexible polyurethane foam used in bedding and upholstered furniture for the past 15 years.
How It All Began: In 2006, evidence emerged that some foams produced outside the U.S. and shipped to this country may have contained certain chemicals identified on some watch groups’ lists as potentially causing cancer, genetic defects or damage to the unborn child. This imported foam included some chemicals that were banned in the U.S., such as PBDEs. An initiative by the U.S. foam industry through their national trade group, the Polyurethane Foam Association, addressed the issue head-on. These visionary foam producers recognized that consumers had no way of protecting themselves from substandard foam or of knowing how to differentiate substandard from acceptable foam in their home products.
Laying the Groundwork: Industry leaders enlisted a group of environmentalists, chemists and accredited laboratory research scientists to work with bedding and furniture industry leaders to create a nonprofit entity that would hold producers to the highest standards to ensure consumer protection. An early role model for such an entity was CertiPUR, a similar initiative established by EUROPUR, a European trade association of polyurethane foam manufacturers. The two similarly-named organizations are separate and have different criteria for certification, but they have cooperated greatly over the years.
A Global Program: The CertiPUR-US® program was launched in 2008 following nearly two years of preparation, operating under the nonprofit Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, Inc. Early on, the nonprofit’s Board of Directors determined that the program would be open to foam producers globally. The idea was to level the playing field. Any foam producer that could meet and continue to comply with the rigorous standards of the certification criteria could participate.
Criteria for Certification: The backbone of the CertiPUR-US® foam certification program is a set of Technical Guidelines — one for slabstock and one for molded flexible polyurethane foam. The guidelines are a living document subject to revision based on relevant scientific findings and new health, environmental and safety regulations to keep up with newly determined chemicals of concern. The CertiPUR-US® Technical Guidelines have been updated numerous times during the past 15 years.
Industry Acceptance: In 2008, CertiPUR-US® officially became a wholly independent organization charged with administering its testing program for foam used in bedding and upholstered furniture to ensure that it meets rigorous certification guidelines. A voluntary program, its widespread support by foam producers is a positive reflection on the industry itself. Since the program’s beginning, the number of participating foam producers has grown to more than 90 worldwide, encompassing much of the foam supplied to the U.S. bedding and upholstered furniture markets.
To fully grasp the scope of this industry transformation, here’s a closer look at the program:
Testing and Analysis: CertiPUR-US® certification is tough. Initial certification takes about 60 to 90 days. Certified foams must be recertified after six months and annually thereafter. Currently, only four accredited laboratories worldwide are authorized to conduct the content and emissions testing and analysis required for certification.
Verification Testing: Certified foams are subject to random verification testing. CertiPUR-US® program representatives make virtual and on-site visits to participating foam production plants to obtain samples of certified foam, which are then tested at the program’s expense to confirm compliance.
Transparency: The Technical Guidelines detail criteria for certification. These guidelines and all other elements of the program are readily available on the CertiPUR-US® website. In addition, participating foam producers are given an individual page within the website where their customers as well as consumers can find contact information, a certificate listing the foam families the company certifies, lab report numbers and renewal dates.
Requiring Imported Foam to Comply with U.S. Regulations for Certification: The U.S. government and regulatory agencies do not regulate the flexible polyurethane foam content of bedding and upholstered furniture that is imported into the country, and the standards required by U.S. foam producers are not required abroad. In establishing global standards and requiring participating imported foams to meet or exceed U.S. federal, state or local requirements to be CertiPUR-US® certified, the program gives consumer’s confidence in knowing what is — and isn’t — in the home furnishings products they purchase that contain flexible polyurethane foam.
Remarkable Success: Reimagined in 2023, the CertiPUR-US® program’s online directory of participating bedding and upholstered manufacturers and retailers is now an interactive, searchable directory of close to 1,500 companies and brands — a testament to the program’s success. Today, nearly every U.S. manufacturer of bedding and a significant percentage of upholstered furniture manufacturers use CertiPUR-US® certified foam in their products. An independent consumer survey found CertiPUR-US® name recognition among mattress shoppers to be higher than any other home furnishings certification program. What’s more, consumers expressed a strong desire for certified foam in products they bring into their home and a willingness to pay premium prices to ensure the foam is certified.
A Vision for a More Sustainable Future: Continuing its role as a leading force in the industry, the CertiPUR-US® program has initiated plans for a certified biobased foam family to encourage the production of foams that have a minimum of 25% biobased content.
Consumer Protection Is Paramount: Though industry-established, the CertiPUR-US® program is a consumer-facing organization dedicated to ensuring buyers’ confidence in the foam inside mattresses of all sizes, pillows, sofas and sectionals, upholstered chairs and recliners, youth furniture and play cushions, pet beds and more. Its marketing team actively reaches out to consumers through multiple traditional and social media channels, including the monthly Home Sweet Foam Blog®. Consumers are encouraged to contact CertiPUR-US® staff if they spot inaccurate claims about the certification. The organization responds directly to consumers’ inquiries.