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From carbon-neutral to cruelty-free, small businesses are not only committing to business practices that are sustainable and eco-friendly, they are certifying it. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 84% of consumers look for sustainable products where sustainability practices are transparent. For them, this is the key to establishing brand trust.
Here are some of the certifications green businesses have, what they mean, and how to apply for them if your business qualifies.
Types of sustainable business certifications
If you’d like to make it official and certify your business with a certification, here are some of the certifications you may consider depending on the sustainability focus for your business.
The B Lab is a nonprofit organization that works to change economic systems. Businesses with a B Corp certification are committed to balancing profits and purpose. These companies demonstrate high social and environmental performance; legal commitment to a corporate governance structure that is accountable to all stakeholders, and transparency around their performance against B Lab standards. If your business generates less than $5M USD in annual revenue, you can still qualify. The B Lab certifies small, small-medium, medium, and large businesses.
A carbon-neutral company means that a business must remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as it produces. There are different paths to carbon neutrality. All of them start with measuring the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions your business produces and then finding ways to reduce and offset those emissions. There are several organizations that provide carbon-neutral certifications, such as Carbonfund.org and Climate Neutral.
There are several ways to certify your business as cruelty-free. The Leaping Bunny Program includes eight animal protection groups that banned together to form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). They are an internationally recognized certification for cruelty-free brands. This certification means that your business and business’s supply chain are 100% free of animal testing in cosmetics and personal care products. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) cruelty-free certification program, Global Beauty Without Bunnies, can also certify businesses as cruelty-free. They offer distinct animal-test-free recognition as well as a combined animal-test-free and vegan recognition. Other organizations that certify vegan products include Vegan.org and the Vegan Society.
Forest Stewardship Council certification
A Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is given to businesses with products that come from responsibly managed forests. There are two types of FSC certifications: forest management and chain of custody. The first certification is geared toward forest managers, whereas the second is geared toward a company that manufactures or trades in FSC-certified products. Companies that might look to an FSC chain-of-custody certification include paper merchants, packaging and paper converters, printers, woodworkers, and more.
Global Organic Textile Standard Certification
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a processing standard for textiles made with organic fibers. Prospective businesses looking for a GOTS certification and use of the logo must meet conditions set forth by the organization. All processors, manufacturers, and traders of the textile need to be certified along the supply chain in order to qualify.
Green Seal Certification
A Green Seal Certification is a seal that denotes products or services meet health, environmental, and performance criteria by the Green Seal’s environmental leadership standards. It is certified to a large range of cleaning and facility care products and services, including paints, cleaning products, sanitary products, personal care products, schools, and hotels. Certification indicates to consumers that a product or service meets the Green Seal’s performance, health, and environmental standards.
Fair Trade Certification
Businesses seeking a Fair Trade Certification must meet Fair Trade USA standards, which include safe working conditions, environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods, and community development funds. This certification is a product certification so businesses that receive this seal uphold the standards above when it comes to the supply chain in place for the products it sells.
The National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory program that develops and enforces national standards for organically produced agricultural products in the U.S. Use of the USDA Organic Seal is limited to agricultural products that are processed in accordance with NOP standards. Farms and businesses that wish to be certified organic may apply for certification and work with a certifying agent to verify that they meet requirements.
The SIP Certification applies to vineyards, wineries, and other wine businesses that focus on the three P’s of sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity. Participants must meet requirements and practices to achieve 75% of the available points in order to be SIP certified. These points can be gained through best practices that address habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, pest management, and more.
Rainforest Alliance Certification
The Rainforest Alliance Certification can be applied to individual farms and groups of farms. This certification is granted to farms that meet sustainable environmental, economic, and social well-being standards. This certification applies to products such as coffee, chocolate, and fruit.
Making sustainability a part of your business plans
As you grow your business, consider making sustainable initiatives part of your business plan. Whether your sustainable practices are reflected in the manufacturing of products, the packaging, the products themselves, or the sustainable choices related to the services you offer, planning ahead means that you can better estimate costs associated with those priorities. Keep in mind that some of these sustainable certifications also have renewal periods. Be sure to check with organizations to renew your certifications once you acquire them.
According to recent McKinsey & Company research on the value and performance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG), a quarter of respondents said they would pay a 20-50% premium for a company that prioritizes sustainability. An additional 7% said they would be willing to pay a premium of over 50% for a company with a positive ESG track record.
There are many more certifications you may want to consider for your business beyond those listed here. The Green Business Bureau looks at green certifications in four categories: commercial green building certifications, overall green business certifications, green product certifications, and organic and sustainable food certifications. Regardless of your business industry or size, sustainability certifications can be applied to a range of businesses that qualify.