Green businesses across all industries are instituting simple changes that make big differences to the environment. Whether by swapping standard light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs, programming thermostats to lower output during off-hours or incentivizing employee carpools, green initiatives are inherently self-perpetuating. They save money while preserving the environment and attracting a quickly growing market for green goods and services.
However, as the market for green products flourishes, “greenwashing,” or implied eco-friendliness that collapses upon closer scrutiny, has become prevalent. Truly green businesses are turning to eco-labels and green certifications as the most reliable indicators of environmental stewardship, and discerning consumers have come to expect them. Certification is typically awarded by independent, third-party experts who conduct a thorough review of a product, service, process or project’s life cycle, from sourcing to manufacturing through distribution and disposal.
Certification has the added benefit of insuring that your business operates at maximum efficiency while establishing the high performance standards perquisite to company longevity. Most certifying bodies provide detailed blueprints to the certification process and offer online support at every stage.
The following are ordered from general to specialized; international certification options appear toward the end.
- Green Business Bureau (GBB) Certification: The Green Business Bureau certifies businesses that meet five criteria, beginning with completion of the rigorous GBB assessment, which credits existing green achievements while initiating an online tracking system that supports the remaining initiatives necessary for certification. Participating businesses will also need to create a corporate sustainability vision statement. Online and on-site support are both available.
- Green Seal: Green Seal certification is one of the oldest and most recognizable indicators of sustainable goods and services in the nation. Green Seal issues certification based on 32 standards that address 375 business categories, from food services to light bulbs. This is done after intensive life cycle analysis exploring all the social and environmental impacts of business processes.
- Energy Star: The EPA awards Energy Stars to commercial businesses and industrial plants operating in buildings that score a 75 or higher on the agency’s 100-point energy efficiency scale, which translates into better performance than 75% of commercial buildings in the U.S. and makes a sizable dent in the $200 billion spent annually on energy nationwide. The EPA promotes Energy Star awardees regularly, regularly drawing media attention to individual buildings and businesses on the forefront of energy efficient design and operations.
- LEED Awards: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification also recognizes energy efficiency in construction and renovation projects, and its governing body, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has certified federal agencies like the Departments of Energy and State and is currently active in 135 countries worldwide. Various ratings systems accommodate a full range of construction projects.
- EU Eco-Labels: The European Union’s Eco-Label program has attracted hundreds of European businesses and conducts a scrupulous life cycle review open to all industries except food and medical, which undergo equally rigorous monitoring and assessment procedures.
- EcoLogos: Created by the Canadian government, the EcoLogo program has extended its influence throughout North America and bills itself as the largest and most respected environmental standard and certification mark. EcoLogo also scrutinizes the entire product life cycle and insures that goods and services perform as well as non-certified alternatives. Program standards are designed to recognize only the top 20% of available products.
Image credit: Ken Teegardin, courtesy flickr