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The benefits of sustainable business certification go well beyond a seal or certificate of proof.  The process itself becomes a journey to get more sustainable.  The starting point is often a way to do an assessment of how sustainable your business currently is.  The program engages employees and helps create a culture committed to environmentalism and social responsibility.   The final official certification demonstrates your commitment to employees, customers and partners.  This article is an executive briefing for leaders, managers and workers providing insights into the best practices and benefits of sustainability certification, sometimes referred to as green business certification.

Sustainable Business Certification

Businesses today need more than good products and services to succeed – they need purpose. Whether that be the way they are supporting their local community or a larger initiative they are launching to support the world as a whole, smart business leaders understand the importance of making a difference in the world.  One impactful way to do this is to formally commit to sustainability certification for your business.

Why Sustainability Certification for Business Really Matters

Sustainability certification for business is more than just a stamp of approval. It’s a commitment to making business changes that really make an impact. These green programs and social initiatives are not just one-off tactics. They can build upon each other and help to ensure eco-friendly and socially-responsible programs are ingrained into each part of the company. Sustainability certification can also do more than just provide a new talking point for business owners. This focus on going sustainability can save money, increase customers and provide a new way to go up against competition. In fact, 48% of U.S. consumers would change buying habits to reduce environmental impacts and 86% of US consumers expect companies to act on social, environmental issues.

How Sustainability Certification Forces Companies to Improve

A program focused on sustainability may seem overwhelming at times, especially for small business owners or small companies, who are busy running the ins and outs of their companies. Owners might want their companies to become more green, or tell customers that they are already green, but may be unsure of how to effectively accomplish this. That’s where green certification programs can help. These types of programs take the guesswork out of sustainability for businesses and hone in on the specific areas where their companies will be able to not only make a difference to the world, but also save money and earn more customers.

Certification Drives Executive and Employee Involvement and Alignment

Successful sustainability and greening efforts require executive leadership and expert guidance. Across the board, successfully greening companies cite two key factors in driving their success: Executive leadership and utilizing a sound business case framework. According to a recent MIT Innovation Report, companies with C-level executives driving their sustainability efforts are far more likely to profitably implement their efforts, and companies utilizing a clear implementation framework that starts with a business case are three times more likely to report success than those that don’t. A certification program is a great way to engage the executive team and ensure commitment to the process.  In a final report of an eight-year study of how corporations address sustainability from MIT Sloan Management Review, researchers found that 90% of executives see sustainability as important, but only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy and have taken real action beyond a few stand-alone initiatives.

Sustainability Certification Starts With An Assessment

Sustainability certification for business typically involves a sustainability champion or sustainability committee investing in a program that starts with a self-assessment of what’s been done to date. An online assessment is often provided that makes it easy to see where a company’s sustainability efforts stand today and identify areas to focus on in order to become even more green. It also lays out a handful of green initiatives that can be implemented and reviewed for short-term completion.  These can include initiatives that assess and improve upon power and energy use, transportation, recycling and materials reuse, lighting, and even paper use. Depending on the industry there may also be more specific areas that can be analyzed to determine areas of achievement and improvement.

Certification Drives Employee Engagement and Creates a Sustainable Culture

The green certification process for business is an excellent way to engage employees and get more people involved in driving sustainability initiatives.  Third party certification providers like the Green Business Bureau typically provide online applications that are easy, flexible and effective in rallying the workforce.  Companies are often scored on each green activity they complete.  In a way, this almost gamifies the process and helps drive a culture that cares more about the planet, the local community and society.  Certification programs can also provide best practices and step-by-step guidelines to help ensure businesses can actually accomplish the necessary tasks to accomplish a new green program.

Sustainable Business Certification Drives Profit

Starting the certification process early in your sustainable business journey often leads to implementing environmentally sustainable business practices that drive innovation and profitability. There are many tangible business benefits that certification programs uncover. The tremendous upside of greening often offsets the cost of investing in green initiatives.

In a recent Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, 99% of large company CEOs agreed that “sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses”.  Being a sustainable company elevates your brand and appeals to a larger audience including a new audience of buyers who prefer to buy from “good” companies.  Another similar Accenture study of 6000 consumers found that while consumers remain primarily focused on quality and price, 83% believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled.

Executives and managers have also seen significant cost savings and waste reduction from new sustainability initiatives uncovered in the certification process.  Furthermore, despite the commonly held belief that green is solely a long term strategy,  research shows there are tangible and short term improvements in operations and profit.  Oxford University and Arabesque Partners conducted a meta-study entitled ‘From the stockholder to the stakeholder’ based on a detailed analysis of more than 200 different sources and found that 88% of companies with solid sustainability practices had better operational performance.

3rd Party Certifications Provide Credibility

Certification from respected third parties both reinforce and amplify a company’s sustainability efforts. Despite the significant bump in engagement greening efforts can provide any business, consumers are rightfully wary of environmental claims made by companies on their own behalf. And despite the fact that people commonly rely on a mix of social media and customer ratings and reviews, along with traditional media and government information to understand environmental performance, third-party environmental seals and certifications are clearly viewed as the most trustworthy source of green credibility for business. In fact, consumers are more likely to seek well regarded seals and certifications than government sources to validate a company’s green credibility.

Clickable Online Seal and Physical Seals Demonstrate Your Commitment To Sustainability

Companies that become certified are able to display their certification through seals that are awarded once certain requirements are met. Seals can be displayed on company websites, printed on collateral and shared with the community as a way to demonstrate the business’ focus on green business. This can provide another avenue for marketing and promotions, attracting more customers who are interested in sustainability. The best certification programs also offer additional benefits, like marketing support and partnership opportunities. Investing in sustainability certification as a business owner can not only help to prioritize green programs, but can also help owners make the most out of the ones they choose to launch and grow.

Get Started on Your Green Journey

If you’re ready to begin or continue your green journey, we’d love to be your partner along the way. Getting started on green certification with Green Business Bureau is an easy and affordable way to show your customers and community that you care about sustainability.

To learn more or become a member, check out GreenBusinessBureau.com today.

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