Four women stand in front of the IREX step and repeat after a talk on ESG certifications.

Last month I spoke at the Global Good Fund’s Program for Young Leaders of the Americas (YLAI)  participants about how they can start to measure their social and environmental impact with ESG certifications.  We did a run-down of different certifications and what they mean. The participants came from all over Latin America and I was pleased to see they all really wanted to know about  B Corp certification.

Where does supplier diversity fit in?

A few weeks ago,  I attended the WBENC webinar on how WBEs can create supplier diversity programs. 12PointFive has a supplier diversity program embedded in our sustainability program.  In fact, it’s one of the key reasons I decided to pursue B Corp certification, because that certification values social and community impact along with environmental.  WBENC’s webinar opened  with why supplier diversity programs are integral to ESG programs including Eco Vadis and others.

How to make the decision making process easier?

Most recently,  I spoke to a business owner who was overwhelmed by different options for certification and I realized that it would be helpful to lay out a bunch of these certifications so people know what’s available.

Enter – A handy guide

For an entrepreneur the rule of thirds is that the third time you find yourself explaining something, then it might be time to develop an explainer on it!  If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably seen my pop up which will give you an e-book on diverse business certifications, how to get them and which one is right for you. (If you missed the pop up, just get in touch and I’ll get it to you.)

I didn’t have an ebook on these certifications. I am also constantly learning about new ones. Below I list several sustainability certifications that I know of. The list is inclusive but not comprehensive.  Think of it as a place to start rather than an end all be all.

Think Locally

In addition to these certifications are local certifications as well.  I recently attended the re-launch of Bethesda Green which will be administering the Green Business certification for Montgomery County, MD where I live. Check with your city, county, and State for certifications they may offer as well.

A journey not a checklist

The WBENC sign with Mary Fehlig and Liz Whitehead posing in front of it

One thing before we get into these is that before going for certification, it’s crucial to get an assessment of where you are, what your clients are looking for, and then go from there. I have recently partnered with Mary Fehlig of  The Fehlig Group and I really respect her approach which is that whatever ESG initiatives you take on, you need to start with your values.

So start with where you are, what you want to achieve, and how you want to get there, then see which certification may be right for you. I’ve found that for most small businesses, they are already doing something. How can you build on those strengths? What certifications can help illuminate the gaps and show you where to go next?

Why do I need to prove my impact? Why certifications at all?

Sustainability has become a key focus for businesses worldwide as they aim to minimize their environmental impact while maximizing social and economic benefits. One of the ways companies showcase their commitment to sustainability is through ESG certifications that validate their efforts and progress.

For me the B Corp certification can be a convenient shorthand to promote my values among those in the know. For those that aren’t, it’s a conversation starter.  This handy list will provide a few sentences on each of the big certifications and why they may (or may not) be important to your business.

Here are 11 prominent sustainability/ ESG certifications and the benefits they offer:

The B Corp Logo which says Certified B Corporation.

Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) Certifications

  1. B Corp Certification: B Corp certification is awarded to companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. It signifies a commitment to using business as a force for good, fostering a positive impact on workers, communities, and the environment.
    Benefits: Enhanced brand reputation, access to a community of like-minded businesses, and differentiation in the market as a socially responsible company. You can also start the B Lab assessment for free.
  2. EcoVadis Certification: EcoVadis assesses companies’ sustainability performance across various criteria, including environment, labor practices, fair business ethics, and supply chain management. It provides a holistic view of a company’s sustainability efforts.
    Benefits: Benchmarking against industry peers, supply chain risk mitigation, and improved supplier relationships through sustainability collaboration.

Primarily Environmental

  1. CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project): CDP provides a platform for companies to measure, disclose, manage, and share vital environmental information. It focuses on areas such as climate change, water security, and deforestation, helping businesses understand and address their environmental risks and opportunities.
    Benefits: Improved understanding of environmental risks, enhanced investor and stakeholder confidence, and opportunities for cost savings through resource efficiency.
  2. 1% for the Planet: 1% for the Planet is a global network with thousands of businesses and environmental organizations working together to support people and the planet. Certified members pledge to donate 1% of profits to vetted environmental groups then certify their giving through the organization. Benefits: Brand leadership in environmental action, accountability, global recognition.

Industry Specific

  1. Fair Trade Certification: Fair Trade certification ensures that products are sourced ethically and that producers receive fair wages and working conditions. It promotes sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers in developing countries.
    Benefits: Supports fair labor practices, fosters community development, and appeals to consumers looking for ethically produced goods.
  2. WELL Certification: WELL certification focuses on the health and well-being of building occupants by addressing factors such as air quality, water quality, lighting, and comfort. It ensures that spaces promote human health and productivity.
    Benefits: Enhances employee well-being and productivity, attracts tenants and customers who prioritize health, and reduces absenteeism and healthcare costs.
  3. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): LEED certification is a globally recognized standard for sustainable building design, construction, and operation. It promotes energy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainable materials use.
    Benefits: Lower operating costs, increased property value, and reduced environmental impact through green building practices.
  4. EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies): EDGE certification is for buildings that demonstrate resource efficiency across energy, water, and materials. It encourages sustainable construction practices and green building design.
    Benefits: Lower operating costs, reduced environmental footprint, and healthier indoor environments for occupants.
  5. EDGE Certification : Not to be confused with the EDGE certification for buildings above, this certification provides a global standard for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), centered on a workplace gender and intersectional equity approach. The Standards – EDGE (gender-binary) and EDGEplus (gender and intersectionality) – offer a holistic framework against which organizations can measure where they stand in terms of gender and intersectional equity.

Governance and Accountability

  1. ISO 14001 Certification: ISO 14001 is an international standard for environmental management systems (EMS), helping companies identify, manage, monitor, and improve their environmental performance.
    Benefits: Enhanced environmental performance, compliance with regulations, and cost savings through resource efficiency and waste reduction.
  2. SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board): SASB standards provide guidance on disclosing financially material sustainability information to investors. They focus on industry-specific metrics that are essential for evaluating long-term value creation.
    Benefits: Improved transparency and comparability of sustainability performance, better risk management, and enhanced investor confidence.

This list is not meant to overwhelm but to edify. There are a lot of ESG certifications out there and I’m happy to connect and help guide you the right one or toward a first step that might lead to certification down the road!