Products that pass the muster of this company get the UL symbol of approval. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is one of the world's leading providers of product safety and certification testing services, performing more than 90,000 evaluations each year. Products that successfully navigate through its stringent tests are registered with the lab and can bear the UL Mark -- a widely trusted symbol for product safety and assurance. Nearly 20 billion products from 72,000 manufacturers bear the UL Mark each year. UL also offers commercial inspection and regulatory training services, as well as consumer safety advice. It serves mainly Asia, North America, and Europe. William Merrill founded the not-for-profit lab in 1894.
Through the use of acquisitions, UL has been enhancing its testing and verification capabilities and entering new markets. In mid-2010, it obtained RFI Global Services Ltd., a testing and consulting firm specializing in data security, cellular, wireless, and smart card technologies. The deal gave UL a leg-up in the growing wireless and data security markets.
Tying into both environmental services and UL's Verification Services unit, in February 2010 UL bought Pennsylvania-based Luminaire Testing Laboratory, which is one of five labs approved by the Department of Energy to test LED products for Energy Star qualification. (Energy Star is an international standard for energy-efficient consumer products.) Luminaire will be part of UL's Verification Services division.
The year before, UL expanded its offerings in the plastics market with the acquisition of Bayer MaterialScience's Thermoplastics Testing Center in Germany. UL will continue to do testing for Bayer MaterialScience at the lab as well as for other companies. The company strengthened its services in the Asia/Pacific region with the 2008 purchase of New Zealand-based Wakefield Laboratories, an electrical testing firm.
In addition to product testing, UL serves as a leader in helping set regulatory and industry standards, promoting conformity among companies and government agencies in establishing safety and performance requirements. The company has been actively expanding its international operations and now has offices and affiliates in about two dozen countries serving customers in nearly 100 different nations. It also represents US companies in gaining acceptance in foreign markets. UL is governed by a board of trustees elected by its corporate members (who are not manufacturers of products subject to UL coverage).
UL restructured in 2009 to accommodate increased global demand as well as ramp up its "green" or environmentally friendly product services. Among the changes are the company's new sustainable products certification service and its environmental claims validation service, which are the backbone of UL's Switzerland-based subsidiary, UL Environment. Another new operating segment is Verification Services that expands the company's performance testing, inspection, and auditing offerings to a wider global audience.