Environmental concerns may be a personal value or even a core part of your green business. Discover how to obtain green certification through a federal agency or an independent program for your particular industry.
Environmental consciousness is not only a way to distinguish your company; it’s also part of being a generally responsible corporate citizen. Read on to discover how going green may also present a business opportunity.
Depending on the industry, there are different standards to qualify as a green business. In some industries, there is little or no government regulation about claims a company can make. In areas where this is the case, it can be helpful to get independent certification. This could help you to market your company as green and sell to consumers who are looking to do business with green firms. Certification from an independent, third-party would allow you to use their logo or “ecolabel” on your product’s label and other marketing materials.
In the absence of cohesive federal certification for green businesses, private certification organizations have flourished. But be sure to understand the standards they’re using to ensure their certification is meaningful.
Independent organizations offer certification programs to help consumers make informed choices when they’re looking for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Green Seal is a non-profit that has been doing such certification for thirty years. It covers over 500 different products and industries. The organization’s fees can be costly, though, so be sure to analyze how that fits into your budget and what kind of return you’d need to get to make it worthwhile.
Green Certification by Industry
Even though the general concept of being green is pretty universal, certain specific considerations might apply depending on individual business categories.
In the food industry, “green” includes food that is organically grown, food that is grown or raised using sustainable practices, and food that doesn’t contain genetically-modified ingredients. The U.S. government has strict standards for organic food and a list of Accredited Certifying Agents. Other green claims must also be substantiated, including “natural” and “humane.”
If you are marketing a food product and make any specific claims about its ingredients, you need to have a certified analysis done to prove them. The FDA has published data dashboards that contain details about private laboratories that are certified to test food to meet FDA standards.
Restaurants that want to be green can consult the Green Restaurant Association.
Green building practices include structures that are energy-efficient and/or use renewable energy. The construction itself cuts down on the amount of wasted products and environmental toxins. It concentrates on smart growth and sustainable development, making the most of the resources available.
The Environmental Protection Agency lists some of the codes and options available for green construction firms, with links to the certifying organizations.
LEED Certification is well-known and widely respected in the green building industry. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council. A project will be certified at the basic, silver, gold or platinum level depending on how strictly it adheres to certain standards. Considered categories include water and energy efficiency, use of sustainable building materials, and carbon footprint.
Cleaning Services and Dry Cleaners
From dry cleaners to residential and industrial cleaning products, green cleaning has become a big business as many consumers. This is especially true for parents of young children looking to reduce their exposure to toxins.
Unfortunately, there is no government standard for what makes a dry cleaner green, although the EPA has rules about Perchloroethylene, a chemical of concern to some people. The Green Business Bureau is a third-party certification organization with guidelines for dry cleaners.
Your business can also promote its use of cleaning and other products approved by the EPA’s Safer Choice program. These products have been identified as performing well and being safer for human health and the environment.
Underwriters Laboratories, familiar to many of us for their safety certification of electrical products, also has a division that certifies products for their sustainability and environmental responsibility. Its SPOT program covers products and materials that have chemical emissions, like carpeting, paint, building materials and bedding.
The landscaping industry has a set of standards similar to what LEED does for the building industry. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a program called the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), and recently announced a collaboration with the Green Building Certification Institute, the same organization that oversees LEED, to help it become the landscape industry standard.
General Green Business Certification
If we didn’t cover your business in this list, take a look at the Greener Products page on the EPA’s website. You can get specific information based on the industry you’re interested in and the particular products or services you might want to offer. Green may just turn out to be a good color for your business.