What are the common areas for certification?
Certifications can cover areas such as your business’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the environmental impact of your operations and the energy efficiency of your building. You can also get food-related certifications for handling food waste and sourcing organic ingredients. Finally, broad certifications like B Corp cover several areas at once to provide an evaluation of your overall sustainability efforts.
The benefits of certification
Getting certified helps you stand out from your competition. It adds credibility to your actions and shows your customers, employees, investors, suppliers and partners that you are serious about the environment. Internally, the certification process helps your company establish action plans and metrics to keep you accountable to your sustainability goals.
Roadmap to getting a certification
Identify your goals
It’s hard to pick a certification if you don’t know what your company is trying to achieve, and why. So, before you pick the badge you like best, outline SMART environmental goals—ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Maybe you want to cut your emissions by a certain percentage, or use more recycled materials in your products? No matter the goal, the important part is to have a target.
A well-selected certification should help you plot your path towards a given goal. It should also fit with your existing priorities. Once you are certified, you can use it to drive genuine progress on your company’s green ambitions.
Assess your opportunities
Certifications can set your business apart from the competition by identifying market opportunities. To get a sense of the type of certification that will appeal to your target audiences, survey your stakeholders—staff, customers, investors and even your community—to identify areas where your business can make the changes that your stakeholders are looking for. Look at your close competitors to see what certifications they have as well.
Select your certifications
Some certifications are broad and fold environmental initiatives into more fulsome evaluations of your company’s sustainability.
- B Corp
There are also certifications focused only on environmental issues, like emissions and waste.
- Single-Use Plastic Free Certification
- ISO 14001
Others are product- or even sector-specific, offering validation for food or tourism industry businesses, for example.
- Feast On (Ontario only)
- Sustainable Tourism Certification for Businesses
- Rainforest Alliance Certification
- Canadian Organic Standards
- ENERGY STAR Canada
Credible certifications demand effort and clear evidence of progress from their applicants, while less rigorous options lack credibility and may open your company up to accusations of greenwashing. The right certification choice will drive progress on your company’s green goals and address your stakeholders’ primary expectations.
To help ensure a successful certification process, task a team member or a green committee with overseeing your company’s progress. That way you can keep track of your developments and stay accountable to your action plan.
If you’re struggling with where to start, look to BDC or other consultant services for help. They can help you decide the best certifications for your business, and then establish a baseline and plot a path to success.
By not making an informed choice on a certification, businesses leave themselves open to accusations of greenwashing by consumers who are increasingly savvy about companies and certifiers that can’t back up their claims.
Some rules of good practice include
- Use certifications that have been verified by an independent third party.
- Do not create your own certification to affix to your products.
- Do not use vague terms such as "eco-responsible" or "green" with no direct reference to the company's actions.
Find the right grant for your climate action
Discover our list of over 60 governmental active grants, tax credits and loan programs to support the environmental initiatives of Canadian businesses.
The content of this webpage is provided for information purposes only, and the reader is responsible for any decisions resulting from its use. The results of applying the content are not guaranteed by BDC and may vary depending on the context, market, sector, financial situation and size of the company. Content originating from a source outside of BDC is the sole responsibility of the author of that source.