Small Businesses Need To Be More Sustainable
Facing pressures to be more sustainable from consumers, employees, partners and suppliers, small businesses must respond and become greener. Surveys on average report that 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making an effort to be sustainable. Attracting these customers and employees is more effective when your business is sustainable. But it’s also important to promote and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability so these stakeholders are aware of it. This has to be done the right way so that you don’t come across as greenwashing. This article will discuss some sustainability certifications for small businesses, why these programs matter and the benefits they bring.
Broadly speaking, greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where companies promote their products or services as being eco-friendly without providing actual evidence in order to boost their public image. Greenwashing is one of the most criticized marketing tactics and although some business owners may do it unintentionally, it can have huge repercussions for a company’s reputation. That is why to effectively market their sustainability commitment, a business should rely on a formal verified certification from a trusted 3rd party.
Benefits Of Sustainability Certifications
The benefits of sustainability certification for small businesses go well beyond a sticker, a seal or certificate of proof. The process and program itself becomes a journey to create a green culture where everyone in the business truly cares about being more environmentally and socially responsible and is actively involved. The sustainability certification program becomes a means to the end of becoming a certified green business. At the same time, it engages employees and drives a business-wide commitment and sense of purpose.
Of course, the final official seal and certification is valuable. It not only demonstrates your commitment to employees and partners internally, but it verifies your sustainability to customers and community. Here is an overview of the most common and popular sustainability certifications for small business owners.
Local Municipal Sustainability Certifications
Many towns, cities, counties and states offer a local green certification program. These programs are often delivered via a local chamber of commerce or business association. There are no industry standards and hence these certifications are very proprietary and inconsistent around the country.
The Green Business Partnership of Westchester County is one example. It is a mission-driven nonprofit membership organization, sponsored by the Westchester County Business Council of New York, that awards official green business certification. Businesses and nonprofits join to gain access to their proprietary Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tool and Certification Program. Organizations certified by the GBP receive an official seal to validate and promote their sustainability efforts to the local community.
Local Private Green Certification Programs
Many private sustainability consultancies and certification companies offer local green certification programs. These local programs are typically delivered by a hands-on consultant who completes an audit, creates a custom sustainability plan and helps the business implement the plan. At the completion of the project, a sustainability certification is awarded. In most cases, these programs are very people- and time-intensive and not within the budgets of most small business owners.
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most well-known and prolific green building certification system in the United States. Buildings that are LEED certified have been designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy efficiency, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reductions, improved indoor air quality and resource stewardship.
LEED is an excellent certification for your buildings, but that’s it. It does not cover all the other dimensions of being a sustainable business including waste management, pollution, recycling, reuse, plastics, vehicles, commuting, delivery, manufacturing, etc. In other words, it is useful for ensuring your physical building is environmentally friendly, but misses all the other important elements of being a sustainable business. It can be very difficult to renovate your building to meet LEED requirements.
B Corp Certification is an international certification that verifies companies meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability. The scope includes 5 major areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. Adherence to the requirements are assessed and verified by B Lab, a non-profit corporation that certifies B Corporations.
B Lab certification requires companies to pass an online assessment for social , environmental and governance performance, and integrate B Lab commitments into company policies and documents. Membership is not cheap. Members pay an annual fee ranging from a minimum of $1000 for a business under $150,000 in sales to $50,000 for larger businesses. Unfortunately, not every company has the resources and budget to meet the standards, verify compliance and complete the audits required.
Green Business Bureau
The Green Business Bureau program is a global green certification program for helping companies become more sustainable. It is online and initiative-based and includes an online EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner tool to complete the certification and manage planned initiatives. The GBB program is for both companies starting their green journey as well as companies who are well on their way. It includes over 400 green initiatives and EcoPlans to choose from.
GBB’s certification process is based on completing very specific initiatives. A company will receive points for each and every activity it has completed. Initiatives are very granular and well-defined and the library is designed to capture your completed initiatives and give you full credit for all your accomplishments. Simple initiatives like using silverware instead of plasticware, eliminating plastic bags and bottles, adding timers to lights, are worth a few Ecopoints. Larger initiatives requiring more investment like solar energy, LED lighting, electric delivery vehicles, are worth more Ecopoints. As initiatives are fulfilled over time, the GBB EcoScore increases and grants members the opportunity to reach Gold and Platinum certification levels.
The Green Business Bureau has been around since 2008 and their seal is well-recognized so member businesses get the positive recognition of their commitment to sustainability and the environment. GBB provides a collection of tools and opportunities for member companies to share, differentiate and be recognized for their greening achievements with customers, prospects, partners, regulators and communities alike. A ‘clickable’ web seal takes customers and employees to a personal sustainability webpage that shows a business’s certification level, total points, sustainability mission and accomplishments.
Why Sustainability Certifications for Business Really Matters
Small businesses today need to keep up with competitors. They need more than good products and services to succeed – they need purpose and commitment to being eco friendly. Whether that be by supporting the local community or launching a larger initiative to support the world as a whole, smart business leaders understand the importance of making a difference, big and small.
Sustainability certifications not only improve a business reputation and elevate your brand, they can drive more sustainable practices which 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.
Sustainability Certifications Drive Employee Engagement and Helps With Millennial Hiring
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.
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 a sustainability 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.