With increasing consumer interest in supporting green companies, it can be difficult for environmentally conscious customers to identify sustainable products and services in a cluttered marketplace. Thankfully, third-party authenticated seals offer busy customers an easy way to find products and services that best align with their values. By commissioning a third party to authenticate a company’s claims, seals clearly communicate key attributes that customers care most about – like whether or not a product contains recycled materials or is produced using green energy sources. While some seals can be a costly investment for businesses, they can also benefit a business’s bottom-line by endorsing eco-friendly product attributes to an increasingly environmentally-focused audience. Among the dozens of certifications available, here is a list of common seals consumers are looking for in the aisles.
Seals That Certify Products
For companies to claim their products are organic or sustainable, they need a third-party authenticator such as Green Seal, Biodegradable Products Institute or EcoLogo. These seals show customers that the products themselves meet specific environmental criteria. Major certifications in this category include:
A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal proves that a farm or handling facility complies with the USDA organic regulations, and products are thus able to be sold and labeled as organic. The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products: crops, livestock, processed products (such as soup) and wild crops. Until this certification is granted, companies may not sell, label or represent any food product as “organic.”
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offers Forest Management Certification, which confirms that a specific area of a forest is being managed in line with FSC principles and criteria. FSC-certified paper has taken off over the past few years and is now considered an industry standard. In order for printed products to feature the FSC seal, they need to go through the FSC Chain of Custody from the FSC-certified forest, to a paper manufacturer, merchant, and finally to a printer that has FSC Chain-of-Custody certification.
Seals that Certify Buildings
In addition to product certifications, people are starting to pay attention to how buildings are constructed, designed and maintained. In fact, FSC certified wood is increasingly being purposed for green buildings. There are a few additional certifications to keep in mind when moving into or building a new office space.
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a “green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.” To become certified, building projects must meet specific prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification—certified, silver, gold and platinum. The higher you go up in the scale, the more difficult the certification is to achieve and the more a building demonstrates its commitment to preserving the environment. This certification ensures that building operators are saving money, conserving energy, reducing water consumption, improving indoor air quality and making better building material choices.
Green America certifies businesses that are committed to social change and sustainable purchasing. There are three levels—bronze, silver and gold. These different levels range from businesses just starting their path to sustainability to those showing leadership in their industry. The certification also allows businesses and consumers committed to that common goal to connect in the marketplace. Businesses displaying this seal have completed Green America’s screening process and have been approved to be listed as “green” businesses in the National Green Pages.
Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that guarantees businesses and individuals with energy efficient products. These products are independently certified to save energy, which in turn helps individuals save money on bills while protecting the environment.
No matter what seals you’re considering for your business, it’s always good to start with an honest inventory of your business’s current environmental footprint and determining where improvement is needed. By starting with small changes and working their way up, businesses can realize the value of meeting the requirements of rigorous certification standards, ultimately showing they care about the environment as much as their customers.