- Both consumers and investors flock to companies that care about the environment. But be on the level, because they’ll also blacklist “greenwashers” who make false claims about their impact on the environment.
- Green business certifications are a stellar way to win the approval of said consumers and investors. However, they’re not all created equal.
- Prove your company’s green cred by choosing the appropriate certification for your industry. Read on for a complete rundown.
Getting a green business certification pays off. Consider that fully 86% of consumers say companies should take a stand on social and environmental issues, according to the Shelton Group’s 2018 Brands & Stands report. Not surprisingly, they take that commitment into consideration when deciding what to purchase.
The growing demand has not gone unnoticed by investors. A green business certification can also help you secure green bonds, which fund projects that benefit the environment across energy, transportation, construction and other sectors. According to analysts, there aren’t enough certified investment opportunities to sustain these bonds’ triple-digit annual growth. Fund managers are actively seeking companies that are looking to keep a healthy balance sheet while helping the environment.
Despite the growing demand from consumers and investors alike, there still isn’t a central governing agency in charge of regulating and certifying the green practices and claims. Although that has left the door open for some companies making false claims — aka greenwashing — we are seeing regulatory movement to discourage false claims. False claims about environmental impact can land any company in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission, not to mention civil litigation from private parties.
If your brand is seeking prove its impact in a legitimate way, respected certifications exist. Before moving forward, heed experts’ considerations and learn how to identify the most reputable green certifications.
What does “green” even mean?
Green business certifications are given to firms that adopt principles, policies and practices that improve quality of life for individuals and benefit the planet. For consumers, they can provide assurance that a company is delivering on its promise of following green business practices and being environmentally and socially responsible. For companies, they can help make a service or product more competitive. However, the lack of oversight from a central governing agency means that companies can create their own definitions to back claims that a product is organic, natural or carbon-neutral.
That opens up a big gray area. For example, the Department of Agriculture defines “organic” and certifies whether a product is compliant. Yet many items regulated by the Food and Drug Administration rather than the USDA, like cleaning and personal care products, make organic claims. Another example are products labeled “cruelty free.” Since there is no legal definition of the term, regardless of the label many could be anything but.
This has led to confusion and distrust, and consumers are pushing back. Market researcher The Hartman Group says four in five people are ambivalent or distrustful of “natural” claims.
An apple, sure. A granola bar with 23 ingredients? Not so much.
👉 Consumers are skeptical of companies that call themselves “natural,” and rightly so: There’s no universal, legal definition of a “natural” or “green” business.
A “green” business is any that uses practices to improve quality of life for individuals and benefit the planet.
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Why you should choose a third-party certification
“In the absence of regulation, we are seeing (green) certifications coming up and filling a void that should be filled by the government,” says Karen Yarussi-King, president of Global Regulatory Associates, an organization dedicated to providing regulatory solutions for small and midsize businesses.
Yarussi-King cautions her clients to tread carefully when it comes to third-party green certifications, which may have little internal oversight.
That’s not to say companies should shy away. Consumers care about sustainability, and they’re choosing with their wallets to trust claims backed by third-party certifications and government agencies.
“Certifications granted by a third-party organization, like a non-profit, government or industry association, ensure there is no financial conflict of interest that could dampen the certification’s credibility,” Yarussi-King says.
Which certification you adopt depends on your product or service, but look for third-party organizations that examine a business’s impact across all critical areas and not in a silo. Granting organizations that offer guidance around implementing green initiatives tied to the certification and give businesses access to a network of specialists they wouldn’t have otherwise set you up for success.
And by getting certified, your business joins a network of like-minded companies. There is power — and market awareness — in numbers.
👉 In the absence of universal “green” standards, seek certification from a respected third-party organization.
Residential LEEDs the way
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely recognized green building rating system in the world, with certifications in 165 countries and territories and more than 90,000 compliant projects as of 2019.
It’s a gold standard for how to build consumer awareness and trust and deliver real cost and environmental benefits.
“In 2018, the residential and commercial sectors accounted for about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption,” says Daniele Horton, founder and president of Verdani Partners, a leading full-service sustainable real estate consulting firm.
Adopting green building strategies can reduce environmental impact and improve performance at any stage of the building lifecycle, from design and construction through operations and renovations, she added.
In addition to providing a globally recognized sustainability achievement, LEED certified buildings deliver substantial cost savings, says Horton. We’re talking reductions of 34% in CO2 emissions, 25% in energy consumption, 11% in water use and diversion of more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills, per a study by the Department of Energy.
Further, according to the 2018 World Green Building Trends Report, certifying projects provides an assurance of quality, lowers operating costs and increases rental and occupancy rates, as well as increased value at point of sale and future-proofing assets. Certified buildings are also healthier for occupants.
👉 LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Other industries, like cosmetics, don’t have such reliable third-party certification systems.
LEED is one of the world’s most reliable, well-known and used green business certifications.
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So how do you choose which certification to pursue?
When choosing a green business certification for your company, Yarussi-King suggests working with an organization that checks off all these boxes:
- Recognizable and relevant to your audience.
- Managed by a third-party organization and avoids financial conflicts of interest; think a non-biased, nonprofit, industry association or government agency.
- Has expert-developed and science-backed standards and guidelines.
- Has a clear and transparent certification process.
- Requires third-party testing or a comprehensive investigation.
- Provides support to certified businesses, including expert guidance during and after the certification process.
Green business certification can offer many benefits; the key is selecting the most reputable certification that aligns with your business’s values and needs. The requirements, application process and costs vary widely. Some organizations certify the entire business operation, while others certify specific products.
For example, a B Corp certification applies to the entire business, and the application fee is calculated based on a business’s annual sales, ranging from $1,000 for companies with annual sales of $150,000 and below, to $50,000 and up for those with sales over $1 billion.
On the other hand, the Rainforest Alliance’s agriculture certification can apply to individual farms and groups of farms, and the costs associated with each are different. For companies that benefit from selling Alliance-certified foods, a royalty-based model applies to various crops, say a fraction of a cent per pound of green coffee or $32 per metric ton of crude coconut oil.
Although each certification has a unique application process (usually outlined on their websites), you will likely need to:
- Submit proof that you meet the issuer’s standards and requirements.
- Undergo third-party testing, verification or inspections (which your company will pay for).
The renewal period also varies. Some recertify yearly (USDA Organic, the Leaping Bunny) while others last longer. (B Corp lasts two years; LEED lasts three years.)
In general, you can find professional help through the certifying body. However, if the process seems confusing, there are consultants who can help assess if a green business certification is the right decision and help manage the process.
👉 Each certification has its own unique application process and renewal schedule. Many of the certifying organizations have consultants on staff who can help you make sense of it all.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most well-respected and popular third-party green certifications, based on insights from Horton and Yarussi-King as well as findings from the Hartman Group report mentioned earlier. You can use them as a starting point for your green certification search.
🏢 General green business certifications
B Corp Certified
What it certifies: Companies commit to balancing profits and purpose and striving to have a positive impact on employees, communities and the environment.
Granting organization: B Lab
Certified businesses: Beautycounter, Patagonia
CarbonFree Certified What it certifies: Low carbon emissions and a commitment to further reduce and offset existing output.
Granting organization: Carbonfund.org Foundation
Cost: Varies based on project
Certified business: Alaska Airlines
What it certifies: Products in 500 categories that meet 27 standards, including Cleaning Products for Household Use, Adhesives for Commercial Use and Restaurants and Food Services.
Granting organization: Green Seal
Certified businesses: Office Depot, 3M
What it certifies: Products, services and buildings meeting energy-efficiency standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Granting organization: United States Environmental Protection Agency
Certified businesses: Bimbo Bakery, General Motors Co.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
What it certifies: Environmental protection and promotion of workers’ rights. The certification applies to products like coffee, chocolate, fruit and paper.
Granting organization: The Rainforest Alliance
Certified businesses: Califia Farms, Tom’s of Maine
SMaRT Consensus Sustainable Product Standards
What it certifies: Compliance of consensus-based sustainable product standards covering about 80% of the world’s products.
Granting organization: The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability
Certified businesses: Philips, UBS Securities
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
What it certifies: The use of fiber from certified forests, certified sourcing and post-consumer recycled material.
Granting organization: Sustainable Forestry Initiative
Certified businesses: National Geographic, Time Inc. (Meredith), McMillan, Pearson
💄 Consumer goods green business certifications
What it certifies: 100% animal-testing-free cosmetics and personal-care products. Everything on the supply chain must comply.
Granting organization: Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments
Certified businesses: Covergirl, Supergoop
NPA Natural Seal
What it certifies: Use of at least 95% natural ingredients approved by the National Products Association, excluding water.
Granting organization: Natural Products Association
Type: Industry association
Certified businesses: Dogswell, U.S. Packaging
Fair Trade Certified
What it certifies: Workers receive fair compensation, safe conditions and environmental protection.
Granting organization: Fair Trade USA
Certified businesses: J.Crew, Larabar
🍏 Green business certifications for food companies
Animal Welfare Approved
What it certifies: Compliance of high-welfare animal farming and humane slaughter practice.
Granting organization: Animal Welfare Institute
Certified businesses: Cow Belle Home Milk Delivery, Athens Bread Company
What it certifies: Vineyards and companies committed to protecting natural and human resources.
Granting organization: Vineyard Team
Certified businesses: La Crema, Laetitia, Justin, Byron, Sutter Home Winery (Los Alamos Vineyard)
Non-GMOWhat it certifies: Products are produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients.
Granting organization: Non-GMO Project
Certified businesses: Ben & Jerry’s, Bob’s Red Mill
What it certifies: That entire farms follow biodynamic farming practices.
Granting organization: Demeter Association
Certified businesses: Guayaki SRP, Holistic Roasters
What it certifies: Compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture organic standards.
Granting organization: USDA, National Organic Standards Board, National Organic Program
Certified businesses: Justin’s, Horizon Organics
🚧 Green certifications for construction and buildings
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
What it certifies: Energy efficient and cost-effective green buildings. It measures building performance in areas such as Energy, Water and Waste Efficiency, Transportation and Site Selection, etc.
Granting organization: U.S. Green Building Council
Certified businesses: Grand Rapids Art Museum, multiple Starbucks locations
What it certifies: Buildings that promote healthier workplace environments and improve occupant wellbeing and productivity.
Granting organization: Center for Active Design
Certified businesses: Bloomberg HQ (NY), Jacobs (Boston)
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)
What it certifies: Environmental assessment of buildings popular with international companies as it “has a more adaptive approach to allow for regional conditions compared with LEED.”
Granting organization: BRE Global
Certified businesses: BMW; University of California, Davis
🌱 The bottom line
This is just a sampling of green certifications available — there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Before pursuing any certification, consider the cost and whether you’re prepared to be transparent and continue renewing year after year. And make sure that your market recognizes the cert.
“Unless they mean something to the consumer and are government-based or managed by credible organizations without vested financial interests, they might not be worth it,” says Yarussi-King.
Which green certification is best? ›
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), issued by U.S. Green Buildings Council, is the most easily recognized sustainable building certification out there. It has nine separate certification programs, including ones for commercial, retail, new construction, existing buildings, and more.How would you classify a company as green? ›
A sustainable business, or a green business, is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact or potentially a positive effect on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy—a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line.Which organization can certify green products? ›
U.S. Green Building Council – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization that certifies cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. The USGBC uses the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system to recognize green building construction and design.Why would a business decide to be a green business? ›
Going green has several benefits for companies. It can cut costs, improve efficiency, and create healthier workplaces. Less tangible benefits include improving brand reputation and customer loyalty, as well as staff morale.How many green certifications are there? ›
There are four green certification levels for homes: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald.What are the characteristics of green business? ›
- An Eco-Friendly Business Should Support Charitable Causes. ...
- Reduce Reliance on Natural Resources. ...
- Use Recycled Products. ...
- Reuse Materials. ...
- Buy Fairtrade Products. ...
- Manufacture Goods in Countries With Stiff Environmental Laws. ...
- Invest in Sustainable Packaging.
Introducing recycling and waste reduction initiatives. Using sustainable supplier and production chains. Increasing your usage of renewable and sustainable energy. Offsetting your carbon footprint with green initiatives, such as rewilding, tree planting programs, or partnerships with environmental charities.What is green business strategy? ›
In the past ten years, a number of high-profile companies have taken substantial steps to clean up their supply chains and develop green business strategies. This process can involve choosing suppliers that use greener products, pollute less, and use less energy in their operations.What are the three types of eco-labels? ›
The ISO has undertaken efforts to attempt to standardise the principles, practices and key characteristics relating to three major voluntary environmental labelling types -- Type I - environmental labelling (i.e. ecolabels), Type II - self-declaration claims and Type III - environmental declarations (e.g. report cards/ ...What is green product certification? ›
GreenPro is a product certification which helps an environmentally conscious customer to make an informed choice to buy eco-friendly products. GreenPro is a mark of guarantee that the product which bears the GreenPro label is environment friendly throughout its life cycle.
What is green certified? ›
Green rating or certification is used to indicate the level of environmental friendliness for real estate properties. In the US, it is a real estate designation for REALTORs approved by the (American) National Association of Realtors (NAR).What is an example of green business? ›
What companies are eco-friendly? Eco-friendly companies may include outdoor apparel brands, businesses that make reusable plastic bottles, eco-friendly cleaning companies, businesses that install solar panels, a local recycling business, and many other potential ventures.Why should we go green Give five reasons? ›
Going green has collective benefits for our health. It reduces dependency on fossil fuels and other depleting resources. Organic farming boosts the economy and means that we can eat local, organic, and seasonal produce which is much better for our health. You can grow your own food even if you live in an apartment.What does LEED certified mean? ›
LEED Certification is the most widely used global standard that recognizes buildings that are efficient, cost-effective, and better for occupants and the environment. LEED certification can be applied to new or existing buildings and homes looking to become sustainable.Why are green building certifications important? ›
It is designed to assess the environmental performance of existing buildings and how well they are managed and leverages ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to help building owners and managers track their energy consumption.What is similar to LEED? ›
Like LEED, Green Globes has four levels of certification. Green Globes can be used in new construction, existing buildings, and commercial interiors. This certification program focuses on energy usage, water, waste management, emissions, indoor environment, and environmental management.Is Green Business Bureau legit? ›
The Green Business Bureau is the trusted authority in green business. Our EcoAssessment™ and EcoPlanner™ tools enable businesses to understand, prioritize, implement and certify green initiatives and sustainable business practices.What is a sustainability certificate? ›
Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary guidelines used by producers, manufacturers, traders, retailers, and service providers to demonstrate their commitment to good environmental, social, ethical, and food safety practices. There are over 400 such standards across the world.What is a business certificate? ›
Business certifications are official documents that prove your knowledge and training in a specific business field. In addition, it demonstrates to prospective recruiters that you have additional experience in your field of study. Different bodies issue business certifications.How do you know if a company is sustainable? ›
- Is the company transparent? ...
- Does the company have a mission or goal? ...
- Does the company have any sustainable or ethical certifications? ...
- Is the company fair trade?
What is ESG business? ›
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing refers to a set of standards for a company's behavior used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change, for example.What is a green product example? ›
Cost-effective products: Green products last longer than conventional products. Moreover, these products consume less energy and other resources thus reducing the bills of the users. For example, Solar speakers can last for 10 hours just by charging with solar energy.How do you make money from sustainability? ›
- Work for a Green Company. ...
- Start a Green Company. ...
- Take Advantage of Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives. ...
- Invest in Green Companies. ...
- Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. ...
- Get Paid To Turn Off Your Lights With OhmConnect. ...
- 12 Top Rated Amazon Items to Keep You Cool Without AC.
- Bring a bag. ...
- Invest in a reusable water bottle. ...
- Bring your own reusable cup. ...
- Refuse single-use items. ...
- Avoid products with microbeads. ...
- Shop in bulk. ...
- Make sure your waste goes to the right place. ...
One of the most popular green marketing techniques is producing sustainable products for consumers to use as alternatives to non-sustainable ones. These products range from shampoos with less harmful ingredients that more easily dissolve in water to reusable straws and water bottles.What are the golden laws of the green marketing? ›
Green Marketing – 5 Important Golden Laws: Customers should be Aware, Reassure the Buyers, Transparency, Consider Pricing and Customer Participation.What is Ecomark certification? ›
Ecomark is a certification mark issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for products which are ecologically safe and adheres to the standards prescribed by the BIS. It was first issued in 1991 by a resolution. It is issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.What is ecolabel certification? ›
Ecolabelling is a voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labelling that is practised around the world. An ecolabel identifies products or services proven to be environmentally preferable within a specific category.What is green Labelling? ›
Definition. Generally, green labeling refers to the accreditation activities of products in line with the specific environmental standards of authority. Green labels are also known as environmental labels or eco-labels.Are green products really green? ›
Touting products like LEDs and recycled plastic packaging as “green” is misleading, because it fails to account for their effects on markets and consumer behavior and for the resulting environmental consequences.
What are the benefits of green products? ›
- reduce your impact on the environment.
- address social issues and improve the livelihoods of individuals and communities.
- improve your business' reputation.
- save money over the life of a product or service.
Reusable Coffee Cups and Lids
Single-use coffee cups, along with their lids, account for a large amount of unnecessary waste. By using reusable, environmentally friendly coffee cups and drink bottles, you can help reduce a signicifcant amount of single use plastic waste.
- Certified (40–49 points)
- Silver (50–59 points)
- Gold (60–79 points)
- Platinum (80+ points)
Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods, which aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.How do I start a green initiative at work? ›
- Install and encourage the use of a recycling bin.
- Only boil as much hot water as you need.
- Switch off the lights or power when not in use.
- Invest in eco friendly bean bag fill.
- Introduce green challenges for employees.
- Choose can instead of glass.
- Energy auditing and green consulting. Work with businesses or individuals to help them implement strategies to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Garden planning. ...
- Environmental law. ...
- Composting business. ...
- Green cleaning. ...
- Air duct cleaning. ...
- Fundraiser or grant writer. ...
- Eco-friendly food supplier.
The green entrepreneur is the one, who cultivates green business with the help of green practices. A green entrepreneur consciously addresses an environmental or social problem/need through the understanding of entrepreneurial ideas. They penetrate the market by swapping conventional or traditional products.How do I start a small sustainable business? ›
- Use biodegradable packaging. ...
- Eliminate paper usage. ...
- Conserve water. ...
- Consider renewable energy. ...
- Invest in green projects. ...
- Develop a recycling program. ...
- Reassess your supply chain. ...
- Educate employees.
Going green has several other benefits for companies. These include tax credits and incentives, improved efficiency, healthier workplaces, and cost savings – for instance by printing less, turning lights off in unused rooms and refilling ink cartridges. Reusing items also reduces waste from plastic packaging.Why is green so important? ›
Going green saves you from toxic products and environmental pollution. This helps you live a healthier lifestyle which eventually increases your productivity both at the workplace and at home.
How is green business important to society? ›
Running an environmentally friendly business helps you reduce your impact on the environment and preserves natural resources. Your business can help the environment in many ways. For example, you can: use products that reduce your reliance on natural resources (e.g. rainwater tanks, solar hot water systems)What is green product certification? ›
GreenPro is a product certification which helps an environmentally conscious customer to make an informed choice to buy eco-friendly products. GreenPro is a mark of guarantee that the product which bears the GreenPro label is environment friendly throughout its life cycle.What is green C certification? ›
The goal of Green C certification is to encourage and recognize green practices among small businesses and organizations operating in the United States, and promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that preserves and enhances our planet.What is green certified? ›
Green rating or certification is used to indicate the level of environmental friendliness for real estate properties. In the US, it is a real estate designation for REALTORs approved by the (American) National Association of Realtors (NAR).What is similar to LEED? ›
Like LEED, Green Globes has four levels of certification. Green Globes can be used in new construction, existing buildings, and commercial interiors. This certification program focuses on energy usage, water, waste management, emissions, indoor environment, and environmental management.How do you identify green products? ›
Green products are usually identified by having two basic goals – reducing waste and maximizing resource efficiency. They are manufactured using toxic-free ingredients and environmentally-friendly procedures and are certified by recognized organizations like Energy star, Forest Stewardship Council, etc.What is a green product example? ›
Also, green products are meant to use the least amount of resources and consume less energy. For instance, solar panels generate power from the sun. They can be used for power generation instead of fossil fuels. Also, solar panels are non-renewable, meaning they don't use fossil fuels, such as gas, oil, or coal.What is IGBC certification? ›
Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)
The Green Business Bureau is the trusted authority in green business. Our EcoAssessment™ and EcoPlanner™ tools enable businesses to understand, prioritize, implement and certify green initiatives and sustainable business practices.What is the difference between Usgbc and GBCI? ›
It was understood that USGBC would continue to support overall growth of green building, while GBCI was formed to support LEED accreditation for professionals and LEED certification for buildings. People commonly confuse the USGBC and GBCI. The two organizations are still very closely related.
What are the 4 levels of LEED certification? ›
- Certified (40–49 points)
- Silver (50–59 points)
- Gold (60–79 points)
- Platinum (80+ points)
Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods, which aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.What is a sustainability certificate? ›
Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary guidelines used by producers, manufacturers, traders, retailers, and service providers to demonstrate their commitment to good environmental, social, ethical, and food safety practices. There are over 400 such standards across the world.What is the difference between LEED and green building? ›
What Is the Difference Between Building “Green” and “LEED Certified?” The simple answer to this question is that holding LEED certification means you've built green, but, you won't be surprised to hear that that is only part of the answer.Which is better green globes vs LEED? ›
However, Green Globes has much higher project fees than LEED. Green Globes is also a much simpler system to use and requires fewer registrations fees than LEED. In terms of sustainability, LEED has more stringent standards than Green Globes.What is the gold standard for green building? ›
The most widely used green building rating system.