Green business certifications are designed to protect our natural resources, but they also build your brand reputation. Earning these credentials can attract new clients, helping to increase your business revenue.
Your company may have already completed eco-friendly projects that can help you earn sustainable business certification. In this guide, I’ll explain what you need to do to make it official.
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What Are Green Business Certifications and Why Do They Matter?
A commitment to sustainability can draw customers who share your environmentally friendly values. Green certification helps position your business as a trustworthy, caring community member. It can also set you apart from competitors and encourage talent to join your team.
Reducing your company's carbon footprint can reduce your expenses, since you'll be spending less on energy and using fewer resources. It can even drive attention from investors who want to fund environmentally conscious companies like yours.
Through sustainable business certification, you may become eligible to issue green bonds, which raise money for climate-focused and eco-friendly projects.
Types of Green Business Certifications
You'll need to find a certification that makes sense for the type and size of your business. These are the most common green business certifications to consider.
LEED Green Building Certification
If your company has physical locations, it could be smart to pursue LEED green building certification. This program offers four levels of certification based on a point system. You can earn points by pursuing projects that meet guidelines for healthier, greener work environments.
LEED divides its certification criteria into several key areas, including projects that support:
- Better quality of life for the community
- Use of regenerative and/or sustainable materials
- Restoration and protection of water resources
- Protection and enhancement of local ecosystems and biodiversity
- Improved health for individuals
- Reduced contribution to climate change
Your company can pursue a few different types of LEED certifications, including:
- Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M)
- Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)
- Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
- Cities and Communities
- Neighborhood Development
This organization has certified thousands of small businesses over its four decades in existence. To qualify, your company must meet the standards Green America has created for more than 40 industries. You'll also have to demonstrate an active culture of environmental responsibility and social change.
Some of the common standards for Green Business Certification include:
- Accurately representing environmental benefits of services and products
- Doing business in a green facility
- Committing to environmental and social values
- Having a transparent refund and return policy
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM)
BREAM was one of the first green certifications for business. The organization has four sets of standards you can strive toward as an eco-friendly company:
- New construction
- Refurbishment and fit-out (renovation)
- In-use, which means green aspects of your business operations
Areas covered under BREEAM certification include biodiversity, health, social impact, whole life performance and net zero carbon.
B Corp Certification
B Corp is a nonprofit organization that measures the environmental and social impact of businesses. Your company must meet three standards to earn certification:
- Transparent environmental and social performance metrics
- Commitment to corporate governance that prioritizes accountability beyond shareholders
- Social and environmental performance score of at least 80
B Corp offers start-up pathways for new and growing small businesses. They've also established guidelines for small to large enterprises based on revenue.
Fair Trade Certification
Fair Trade Certification shows that your company is committed to sustainable pay, environmental protection, community development and employee safety in the geographic areas where you do business. You can seek this credential for a small business in manufacturing, supply chain and related industries.
The organization offers producer, retailer and brand certification depending on the nature of your company. Fair Trade Certification aligns with the sustainable development goals established by the United Nations.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides Safer Choice certification to businesses that use only safe ingredients, without substances that can harm humans or the Earth. It's meant for companies that make cleaning products and other industrial chemicals.
You can apply to use the Safer Choice label on your company's products if they're free of potentially harmful ingredients listed by the EPA.
Climate Neutral Certification
Businesses in any industry can seek this credential from the Climate Neutral organization. You can use the certification seal if you demonstrate that you've analyzed and taken measurable steps to reduce your company's carbon emissions.
Vegan Society Certification
You can use the Vegan Society's trademark on your company's products if they're free of animal-based ingredients. The organization designed this certification in 1990 for use on food, beverage, cosmetics, cleaning, household, skin care and related items.
This certification has demonstrated environmental and health-related leadership for more than three decades. You can apply for the Green Seal if you meet the standards for your industry, with pathways for dozens of products and services from schools and daycare centers to personal care and food packaging.
What Steps Can You Take to Make Your Business More Sustainable?
You might not be as far from green certification as you think. These strategies can accelerate your company's environmental initiatives.
Start with Small, Inexpensive Changes
Taking little steps toward a greener business culture can have a big impact. You can save energy and reduce waste by:
- Setting computer systems to automatic standby
- Limiting direct mail programs
- Removing your business address from direct marketing databases to decrease junk mail
- Selecting cleaning and pest control vendors that use green methods and solutions
- Creating a culture of conservation by encouraging your team to turn off lights and electronics they aren't using
- Switching to a green web hosting company that offers carbon neutral services
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
This old-fashioned slogan still holds true when it comes to the environment. You can limit the impact of your business by encouraging team members to reuse scrap paper and recycle used electronic equipment and ink cartridges. It's also easy and cost-effective to make the switch to recycled paper products in the workplace bathroom and kitchen.
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In fact, you'll likely save money on payment processing as you cut down your company's use of natural resources.
Create a Project Plan for Certification
Achieving certification requires careful planning and execution, since you'll have to document how you meet the certifying organization's standards. You might want to assign a team member to manage the application process, particularly if you want to try for multiple green certifications for business.
The Bottom Line: How Do You Choose the Right Green Certification for Your Business?
Researching the options will help you select a green certification that aligns with your company's goals. Since the government doesn't oversee organizations that offer certifications, you should make sure the provider has internal controls for quality and integrity, such as an independent review board.
It's usually safe to go with a well-known nonprofit, industry association or government agency. You should check for certification standards developed by scientists and backed up with valid research.
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