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Becoming a Certified Green Business

Congratulations on starting your green business journey and for considering making your organization a green certified one. A verified certification is a major step towards demonstrating your commitment to sustainability to your employees and customers who care about protecting the environment and care about what companies they engage with.

The ROI of Green Business Certification

Becoming a green business delivers a strong  ROI and requires only a handful of green projects to get that return. You may be finding yourself at a stand still worried about the initial cost of investing in this endeavor. No worries! With some purpose-driven employees, dedication and a simple 8-step plan, any organization no matter how big or small can become green certified with little to no initial investment.

STEP 1 – Choose a Green Business Certification Program 

Companies with a declared sustainability ethic and well-defined, properly measured green business practices that are third-party verified see tremendous cost-saving and revenue-generating opportunities as a key foundation to their greening efforts.

There are many types of green certifications you can choose from for your organization such as the one offered by Green Business Bureau. Green Business Bureau provides online solutions to help purpose-driven businesses of all sizes learn, prioritize, manage and certify their sustainability initiatives. Members use the GBB sustainability framework and solutions to engage employees, manage their sustainability programs and strategize continued improvement.

Choosing to implement the Green Business Bureau certification is a great way to make that small investment as the cost of the certification is minimal and comes with an easy to use database with hundreds of green initiatives to choose from at no cost to larger investments.

STEP 2 – Create an internal green team through part-time volunteer positions

Your organization may or may not have the privilege of having a sustainability manager or director on staff. Either way, creating an internal team through employees with a passion for volunteering a little time each week is a cost effective way to get your program up and running.

Once the team has been formed, let them drive the cause. Give them the task of creating goals and a strategic plan, selecting a team lead, and encouraging engagement company-wide. Let them choose the initial project ideas, drive internal marketing on the program, and come up with a mission/vision and team name.

Need ideas on how to get a team up and running? Read “10 Best Ways to Build and Manage a Green Team”.

STEP 3 – Offer staff volunteer hours 

If an employee has a passion for supporting your sustainability pursuits and they volunteer for the project, give them that extra boost by offering a few hours a month of their work time to dedicate to this project. When an employee feels supported and is given the opportunity to work on a project they have passion for, they will put their energy into succeeding. A team at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School has produced evidence of what many people have long suspected – happier employees do a better job!

STEP 4 – Offer volunteer internships

According to a New York Times study, 72 percent of students who completed paid internships with private, for-profit companies received job offers prior to graduation.

If you are a small organization or feel that your team does not have the bandwidth to donate their time to this project, try offering an internship program at your company through your local college or university that offers environmental programs. Many programs require students to volunteer a certain number of hours around their field of study. In addition, students are often looking for hands-on experience. Giving these students an internship will give them invaluable experience and school credit and your company the free/low cost employee power you need to get your sustainability program running.

STEP 5 – Target initiatives of little to no cost

The Green Business Bureau certification and many others offer green activities that cost little to no money to implement into practice. Some examples of projects are:

  • Recycle or sell your used ink cartridges.
  • Place a company employee on the same or another event to achieve maximum involvement and exposure.
  • Choose a pest control or cleaning service that minifies the use of toxic chemicals.
  • Reduce junk mail by removing your business’ name from national direct marketing databases.
  • Eliminate envelopes from marketing materials; use fold and mail when possible
  • Set computer systems to enter standby or hibernate after 30 minutes of inactivity. Set monitors to enter sleep mode after 5-10 minutes of inactivity.
  • Use a green web hosting service for your business’ website. This is typically available at the same price and is completely carbon neutral.
  • Reuse paper waste and have a scratch paper bin which people can use the back of unused printouts for drafts, scratch paper or internal memos, etc.
  • Develop an energy conservation policy and turn lights and appliances off when not in use.
  • Work with food recovery programs to donate surplus meals, stock and other edible food items to reduce waste. GBB partner, Replate, does just this.

STEP 6 – Start the first year of the program by growing your certification with “low hanging fruit” initiatives

Beginning your sustainability program with initiatives that are easy to implement quickly with little investment may spark creative ideas and motivate your team. In addition, these activities may grow the level of your certification from bronze to silver. This growth will give the green team a boost in confidence, a feeling of accomplishment and a continued drive to continue growing the program.

Some easy starter initiatives to consider are:

  • Purchase paper goods made from 35-100% post-consumer recycled materials.
  • Purchase trash bins and liners made from 35-100% post-consumer recycled materials.
  • Offer an office composting program for food waste.
  • Become an annual sponsor of an event promoting sustainability in your area.
  • Replace ‘EXIT’ signs with LED or high-efficiency alternatives.
  • Use natural odor elimination.
  • Minimize air conditioning needs with natural ventilation.
  • Add insulation and a timer to your hot water heater.

Green Business Bureau initiatives filtered by low cost and low effort

STEP 7 – Market your efforts, elevate your brand and educate your customers to drive new sales

Showcasing your efforts around becoming a green certified will be important to many of your customers. Sustainable marketing is a great way to get the word out that will be of little cost.

  • Post your green certification seal on your website for customers to see.
  • Ask each employee to post the certification seal on their email signature line.
  • If your company does not have extensive marketing resources, your green team can utilize free social media creation programs to promote the certification such as Canva.
  • Share your program progress and goal updates routinely across your social media platforms.
  • Create internal education through monthly newsletters.
  • Green Business Bureau provides members with free marketing resources and opportunities. Read “Sustainability Marketing” to learn about the benefits of marketing your sustainability journey.

STEP 8 – Celebrate and share your success!

Even if you don’t have the big budget to make large leaps in sustainability or an entire department dedicated to sustainability, selecting even just one green initiative is the start of your journey and you should be proud!

Sharing your progress and green achievements is another great marketing opportunity to boost employee morale, engage with stakeholders and get the recognition you deserve. Consider holding a company event to celebrate and engage with staff. And don’t forget to share your achievements across social media and in your newsletters. Perhaps offer a limited-time special offer to customers to show your appreciation for supporting your green journey.

Summary Of Green Business Certification Benefits

Pursuing a green business certification doesn’t always require a huge budget. Making low or no-cost improvements across your organization can make a large difference to both your ROI and the planet. Implementing one or all of the 8 steps can bring in cost savings, improve employee morale, increase customer reputation, elevate your brand, drive sales and of course, protect the planet and workers. These 8 steps will get your sustainability program going with minimal upfront costs.

  • Choose a green certification program
  • Create an internal green team
  • Offer staff volunteer hours
  • Offer volunteer internships
  • Target initiatives of little to no cost
  • Start with “low hanging fruit” initiatives
  • Market your efforts
  • Celebrate and share your success

About the Author

Maggie Okponobi

Maggie’s career started in the education sector as a teacher before committing to the Peace Corps and educational development in The Gambia, where she helped establish an Early Childhood Education school that now is serving 265 students in counting. After returning to the U.S., Maggie worked as Funding Coordination Manager at School Specialty, a company that provides necessary educational supplies for schools, and helped transform the company into a successful sustainable organization. Now Maggie runs her own consulting firm to promote “sustainable steps to a better future” and educate organizations on the benefits and savings possible through adoption of green technology. With Maggie’s diverse experience in education, environmental science, and program management, plus exceptional interpersonal skills, she seeks to form lasting relationships with Key Opinion Leaders to make plans into a reality.

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