TYPES OF CERTIFICATIONS
As a conscious consumer, you want to choose a product or brand that makes a positive impact. It can be overwhelming to decipher the acronyms and validity of each claim.
Below is an overview of Certifications and Programs for Green Building and Sustainable Development, Environmental Conservation, Organic and Regenerative Food and Social Impact. Please use it as a jump-off point for further research
Keep in mind, often companies green-wash with easy to obtain seals, while smaller properties might not go through certification processes but do operate in high standards. Educate and ask questions.
Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification meant specifically for buildings. If your business location has a sustainable design or other features, you can earn points to achieve different levels of certification, including Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The WELL certification focuses on building projects and their impact on health, wellness and the environment. There are a few different levels, and each has its own set of preconditions. And pricing varies by project as well.
If your business raises or processes food products, you can apply to a USDA-accredited certifying agent to get your products certified organic. You’ll need to provide information about your growing or production process. Then you can include the USDA Certified Organic seal on your products to appeal to customers that prefer to buy organic.
Note, dozens of organic certifiers exist and each one differs in their requirements. As you can imagine, businesses with more money can and do have the power to obtain USDA Organic seals more often than smaller businesses or farmers, where time (for soil to be tested) and cost (for inspections and testing phases) play a major factor in delaying official certification. If you’re interested in learning more, we encourage you to talk to your local farmers/at the market and ask questions about what kind of pesticides and insecticides they use.
Energy Star is a fairly recognizable certification symbol for appliances, lightbulbs, electronics and other similar products. But you can also earn Energy Star certification for buildings or plants. The EPA has a free online tool that you can use to measure energy use and emissions. Scores are given out between 1 and 100, and those that get a score of over 75 are eligible to apply for certification.
Green Business Bureau
GBB is an online green business certification program. To enroll, you need to complete an initial assessment, make a corporate sustainability vision statement, display an Environmental Compliance Poster, organize an office Green Team and conduct a kick-off meeting to review the GBB Assessment results and recommendations.
The green frog certification seal indicates that a farm, forest, or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Thousands of products bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal are found on shelves, in advertisements, and websites around the world. Click here for information on how to become certified or how to source products from certified farms or forestry operations.
From the Environmental Protection Agency, Safer Choice is a certification and labeling program that shows consumers which products perform well and are safe for human health and the environment. There are various qualifications and labels you can apply for, from fragrance-free products to safe chemical products.
Green C Certification
From the American Consumer Council, the Green C Certification program is for businesses that promote environmentally responsible practices in a variety of different industries. Businesses that operate or do business in the U.S. and have five or more employees are eligible to apply. You must also pay for a site visit, which starts at $2,500.
EDGE, or Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, is a certification aimed at new building projects. So for builders, developers or similar businesses, looking into this certification could be worthwhile. Pricing starts at $2,250 and goes up based on the square footage of the building.
The Institute for Green Business Certification
A Canadian organization, the Institute for Green Business Certification provides certification and promotion for businesses that meet environmental standards, including compliance with environmental regulations and implementation of measures to save energy. Cost varies by year.
Fair Trade USA Certified
Products that are Fair Trade Certified show customers that the company uses equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain, ensuring fair treatment, prices and environmental impact. Certifications are available for a variety of different product categories, and quarterly fees vary based on the type of business.
Note, because it costs money to have a Government Certification like Fair Trade, many small businesses may opt to do “Direct Trade” instead — operating in the same or higher levels of integrity standards, redirecting the fees saved on certification to the farmers themselves.
PEER is a certification program made to measure and improve sustainable power system performance. PEER looks at different factors like efficiency, effectiveness and reliability. The certification can help facility owners ensure power quality to clients or potential customers.
Green Seal is a non-profit organization that certifies and promotes environmentally friendly products and services. The organization has different standards for different industries. You can find your specific application process on the organization’s website.
SITES is a certification system for landscapes, so it could apply to businesses that have a lot of land or outdoor space to work with. Certification is based on a points system and includes a few different levels. Registration starts at $2,500.
Forest Stewardship Council
For forest managers or companies that utilize forest resources, the Forest Stewardship Council offers certification to show which companies responsibly manage their forests and resources. FSC certification can lead to benefits like the ability to access new markets.
GRESB is a certification that assesses the sustainability and ethical impact of real assets, including real estate and infrastructure. The organization provides information about assets and real estate portfolios to investors who want to better understand the impact of their investments.
From the EPA, WasteWise is a certification recognizing businesses, governments and organizations that demonstrate how they’ve reduced waste. Those who join get benefits like discounted waste disposal costs and recognition in the WasteWise publication and on the EPA’s website.
Bay Area Green Business Program
For businesses in the Bay Area of California, the Bay Area Green Business Program partners with local environmental agencies to support businesses that minimize waste and otherwise shrink their carbon footprints. Businesses that meet government regulations and other qualifications can apply for the program online.
Parksmart is a certification that recognizes sustainable practices in parking structure management, programming, design and technology. So for parking management facilities or any business that utilizes parking garages, it could be a program worth looking into. The registration fee is $250 and certification fee is $6,500.
From the United States Department of Agriculture, the BioPreferred Voluntary Labeling Initiative allows companies that make biobased products to show that they meet or exceed the minimum biobased content percentage in their industry. Standards vary by product type.
WaterSense is another EPA program applying to manufacturers, retailers, distributors and more. Partners get accesses to resources and tools specific to their needs. And WaterSense products are independently tested and certified to meet the EPA’s criteria for efficiency and performance.
Animal Welfare Approved
Animals and the environment often go hand in hand. So for businesses that also want to express how they treat animals, there’s the Animal Welfare Approved certification. Farmers, food producers and more can apply for certification online. Animal Welfare Approval varies and ethical values-based consumers will want to look into what that truly means for the animal at hand.
Certified Humane is another certification system for farmers and food producers that can show consumers which food items are humanely created. Specific standards for the care and handling of farm animals vary. The term humane is very broad and vegans will want to check if it is aligned with their ethical values.
Green America is a nationwide organization certifying companies that use business as a tool for positive social change and that employ environmentally responsible processes. Businesses must apply to earn the Green America seal, which comes in two different levels with different standards for business certification.
From the Redwoods Group Foundation, Green Plus offers a third-party certification program for green businesses. To get involved, you need to first take a diagnostic survey. And those that earn a specific score can enjoy benefits like access to branding and marketing strategies for green businesses.
For companies that manufacture and sell electronics, EPEAT is a program of the Green Electronics Council. There are different criteria that businesses must meet depending on what types of products they sell
The ISO 14000 Family of standards provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities. It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements.