10 Green Business Certifications to Consider

Paige Smith

On the path to building a more sustainable business, many business owners are pursuing green business certifications—and for good reason. Obtaining the right business sustainability certification can have a positive effect on your entire operation. 

But which green certifications are worth the work? And how do you choose the best one for your business? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What is a green business certification?

A green business certification, or business sustainability certification, is a recognition from a third-party source that your business meets certain eco-friendly or environmentally sustainable standards of operating. 

There are a multitude of different types of certifications and ways to qualify. Some green certifications apply to your workplace, backend operations, or products and packaging, while others apply to all areas of your operation. 

There’s no universal standard for what qualifies as a green-certified business, let alone a universal definition of “green.” In general, operating in a green way means using eco-friendly products and processes to reduce environmental harm. Operating sustainably means focusing on managing natural resources responsibly and creating positive environmental, social, and economic impacts. 

When it comes to green certification and sustainability certification, many countries and governments have their own standards and metrics. To make matters more complicated, those standards are subject to change as global environmental threats—including climate change and deforestation—become increasingly severe. 

That’s where thirty-party certification sources come in. Many companies look to objective third-party certifiers to set appropriate sustainability standards and enforce rules they can follow. These third parties tend to be reputable nonprofit organizations, industry associations, or government agencies. 

Who can apply for green business certifications?

Green certifications are available to anyone who meets the qualifying criteria of the certifier. Many green business certifications cater to specific industries (like construction), companies that offer certain types of products (like consumer retail), and manufacturers and distributors. 

However, there are sustainability certifications available to businesses of all sizes and sectors. 

How do you get certified as a green business? 

The process to become green-certified is different for every certification. In general, though, you’ll have to:

  1. Make eco-friendly or sustainable changes to your operation. 
  2. Research green certifiers, choose the right one for your business goals, and check to make sure you qualify. 
  3. Apply for certification. 
  4. Receive approval. 

Applying for green business certifications can be an intensive process. In addition to filling out paperwork that shares your basic business information, you may have to submit a business plan or sustainability plan, upload recent financial statements, share internal data (including customer data, operational data, product data, and supply chain data), and provide copies of permits and licenses. 

Some certifiers also conduct interviews and audits, or visit your workplace for onsite inspections to determine whether you qualify. The steps for every application and approval will be different, but the entire process could take anywhere from a week to a year. 

Keep in mind that many certifications don’t renew automatically. Depending on the certifier, you may have to reapply for certification every few years or comply with annual business audits. 

How much does it cost to get green-certified?

Some green certifiers have an application fee, which can be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Some also have annual certification fees that you’re required to pay to maintain your certification; these tend to vary depending on your business’s annual revenue. 

However, the main cost of getting green-certified comes from your own investment in sustainability initiatives. In addition to the cost of your time as a business owner, you may also have to pay for:

  • New or updated energy-efficient appliances and equipment
  • Business software that tracks your environmental impact 
  • Renewable raw materials 
  • Research and development work to explore eco-friendly product or packaging options
  • Hiring 
  • New marketing materials to promote your eco-friendly products or services 

9 reasons to get a green business certification 

Here are some of the unique benefits of becoming green-certified: 

  1. Smaller carbon footprint: To qualify for a green certification, you need to adopt (and maintain) sustainable practices that support and protect the environment, all of which help reduce your carbon footprint as a business
  2. Lower compliance risk: Depending on your industry, getting a green certification can minimize your compliance risk, giving you a structure for adhering to key business operating standards. 
  3. Competitive advantage: Having an eco-friendly or sustainable business certification can help you stand out against your competition, and give you a new marketing angle. 
  4. Greater customer appeal: As environmental concerns grow, more and more customers are prioritizing sustainable businesses and eco-friendly products when spending. Half of the consumers surveyed in Bain & Company’s 2023 report said sustainability is one of their top four criteria when purchasing products and services. 
  5. Improved brand reputation and trust: A recognizable green certification gives your business more credibility and helps foster trust with customers. According to PDI Technologies’ 2023 Business of Sustainability Index, 79% of consumers want an easier way to identify environmentally-friendly companies; of those respondents, 40% said they want to see certification or validation from a reputable third party. 
  6. More business opportunities: Federal, state, and local governments all have quotas to meet for hiring green-certified businesses. Becoming green-certified can help you score more project contracts. 
  7. Price justification: Almost three-quarters (68%) of the consumers surveyed in PDI Technologies’ report said they would pay more for sustainable products. If you have to raise your prices, having a green certification helps justify the higher cost. 
  8. Greater cost savings: Being a green-certified business is better for your bottom line. Using energy-efficient appliances and equipment, for example, can cut utilities costs, while offering eco-friendly products can increase your sales. 
  9. Business longevity: Investing in sustainability gives your business a stronger foundation for long-term success. 

See even more benefits of being a sustainable business

10 notable green business certifications to consider 

There are dozens of different business sustainability certifications out there. The one you should apply for depends on your industry, business model, products and services, customer demographic, sustainability initiatives, environmental impact, and business goals. 

Here are some popular options to consider: 

1. ISO 14001

If your business is committed to incorporating sustainability measures into every aspect of your operation, ISO 14001 can help. Created by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 14001 is the internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems (EMS). 

It’s important to note that ISO 14001 isn’t a certification—it’s a tool. ISO 14001 gives businesses a framework for designing an EMS, then implementing and monitoring sustainability initiatives—from responsible waste management to supply chain sourcing. Because ISO 14001 is a holistic framework, it addresses all the unique considerations that come with prioritizing sustainability while still accounting for business growth. 

Benefits: Helps ensure regulatory compliance, earns stakeholder trust, supports operational excellence

Best for: Companies of all sizes and in all sectors that want a structured way to prioritize sustainability, including: 

  • Manufacturing, production, and process industries
  • Energy, utilities, and extractives sectors
  • Agriculture, fishing, forestry, and food producers 
  • Construction and building firms
  • Transport, distribution, and logistic services
  • Healthcare, hospitality, and recreation industries 

2. Green Business Certification Inc.

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) is a globally recognized independent organization dedicated to awarding excellence in green business industry performance. They offer a variety of green certifications, including: 

  • LEED, the gold standard for green building ratings
  • TRUE, the zero waste certification
  • SITES, for sustainable landscape development
  • WELL, for improving the effects of buildings on human health
  • PEER, for sustainable power systems
  • ICP, for measuring efficiency retrofits in certain buildings
  • Parksmart, for sustainable parking structure design
  • EDGE, for enhancing resource efficiency in buildings  

Benefits: Increases credibility and cost savings, helps ensure operational efficiency, reduces carbon footprint

Best for: Businesses specializing in construction, renovation, landscaping, land development, interior fit-outs, and building maintenance

How to apply: Check out this guide to LEED certification or browse other GBCI certifications here.

3. B corp

If you want to improve your company’s environmental and social impact, B Corp certification is a fantastic goal. Issued by B Lab—a nonprofit formed to help companies balance purpose with profit—B Corp certification is a designation awarded to businesses that meet high standards of sustainability, transparency, charitable giving, and social change. 

To qualify for B corp certification, businesses need to get a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or higher on five areas of impact: governance, community, workers, environment, and customers. Those areas account for everything from the environmental impact of a company’s products and supply chain to their hiring practices and customer service policies. 

Benefits: Builds trust with consumers and suppliers, gives your business name more credibility, attracts employees who want purpose-driven work 

Best for: Any business ready to commit to holistic change and take the steps necessary to qualify

How to apply: The process of getting certified depends on the size and annual revenue of your business. There are different certification guides for small, medium, and large enterprises. See the guides here or check out the B Lab’s FAQs

4. Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny certification is the corporate standard of compassion for animals. Created and administered by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), Leaping Bunny is a set of criteria companies can follow to clear their production of any animal testing. 

Unlike the “cruelty-free” label, which only refers to a finished product, the Leaping Bunny Standard ensures that cosmetic, personal, and household products don’t require animal testing at any stage in product development. 

To meet the Leaping Bunny Standard, a company’s ingredient suppliers and manufacturers also need to meet the criteria and make the pledge against animal testing. 

Benefits: Protects animals from harmful testing practices, fosters trust with consumers, appeals to specific customer demographics

Best for: Businesses that sell cosmetic, personal, or household products and want to take a stand against animal testing

How to apply: Check that you meet Leaping Bunny’s qualifying criteria, then register your business to get started on the certification process. 

5. Cradle to Cradle

If you want to commit to making sustainable products, Cradle to Cradle certification is an excellent goal to aim for. Cradle to Cradle Certified is the global leading standard assessing how safe, circular, and responsibly made a product is. 

The Cradle to Cradle Certified standard focuses on five key areas: material health, product circularity, social fairness, water and soil stewardship, and clean air and climate protection. They offer certification for a variety of product categories, including building materials, interior finishes, furniture, household products, consumer electronics, textiles and apparel, cosmetics and personal care, cleaning products, and paper and packaging. 

Benefits: Reduces your carbon footprint, builds brand authority, gets global recognition from customers 

Best for: Companies that manufacture or sell products made in an environmentally responsible and ethical way

How to apply: To get your product certified, you’ll first have to check if it meets the eligibility criteria. From there, you need to work with one of the Cradle to Cradle Certified independent assessing bodies to evaluate your product, then fill out an application form. Kickstart the process by filling out a web form here

6. Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offers a handful of different certifications that award responsible forestry practices. Those practices aim to prevent deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and protect human rights. 

Manufacturers that use forest-based materials and practice sustainable sourcing can apply for the FSC’s chain of custody certification. Architects, builders, artists, and other types of project developers can apply for the FSC project certification if they’re committed to ensuring all their forest-based materials meet FSC standards. 

If your business falls outside those categories, you can apply to obtain FSC’s promotional license. The promotional license is for companies that aren’t FSC-certified, but either sell or use FSC-certified finished and labeled goods. 

Benefits: Ensures you’re selling sustainable products, appeals widely to customers because of its recognizable logo, helps increase sales

Best for: Any business that wants to manufacture, design, or sell products that are FSC-certified

How to apply: Contact your local FSC team to get started obtaining a promotional license. You’ll have to fill out an application and submit supporting documentation. 

7. Green Seal

One of the most commonly recognized and longstanding green business certifications is from Green Seal. A Green Seal Certification attests that your products or services meet the Green Seal standards for performance, safety, and health. 

Green Seal’s criteria cover four key sustainability goals: protect human health, preserve the climate, minimize waste, and ensure clean water. You can get certification for the following products and services: 

  • Paints, coatings, and adhesives
  • Floor care products
  • Cleaning products
  • Laundry care products
  • Sanitary paper products 
  • Personal care products
  • Printing and writing paper
  • Plastic trash bags and can liners
  • Healthy green hotels
  • Commercial cleaning services
  • Healthy green schools and colleges

Benefits: Appeals to eco-conscious consumers, ensures eco-friendly products, comes with complimentary marketing tools

Best for: Businesses that make products in the above categories and want greater marketing appeal for eco-conscious consumers 

How to apply: After you fill out an application, a Green Seal representative will conduct a site visit to evaluate your practices. Get started here.

8. Organic Certification

If you run a farm or food processing company, you might want to consider Organic Certification. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets the standards for organic certification, which ensures that each product is produced without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, and that it’s GMO-free. 

To certify your products as organic, you need to first develop an organic system plan explaining how you’ll comply with USDA standards. After you implement the plan, you need to get it reviewed by an accredited certifying agent, undergo an inspection, and have the inspection report reviewed by a certifying agent as well. 

Benefits: Justifies higher product prices, appeals to eco-conscious customers, can help increase sales

Best for: Farmers or food processors committed to the organic standards

How to apply: Review the certification steps or reach out to one of the Rodale Institute’s Organic Consultants for expert guidance.  

9. Green Business Benchmark

Green Business Benchmark (GBB), formerly known as Green Business Bureau, provides a roadmap for businesses looking to get started with sustainability or improve their current sustainability practices. 

BGG’s software helps you build a sustainability plan tailored to your unique goals and business needs. From there, you’ll explore sustainability initiatives—from water use and energy management to workplace and culture changes—set realistic benchmarks, and execute your plan. 

You’ll earn points for completing certain initiatives and adhering to specific metrics; those points then help you reach certain certification levels. Achieving the GBB certifications can give you a foundation on which to apply for other green business certifications specific to your industry or products. 

Benefits: Gives you a clear, customizable way to incorporate sustainability into your operation, helps you narrow your focus to the most impactful areas

Best for: Businesses that need extra support and guidance implementing sustainability initiatives

How to get started: Book a demo here.

10. Fair Trade Certification

Products that are Fair Trade Certified are held to rigorous trade standards, all of which are designed to create safe working conditions, promote sustainable livelihoods, strengthen supply chains, and protect the environment. 

Fair Trade Certification happens at the production level. That means if you’re a retail business or brand looking to sell Fair Trade Certified products, you can’t apply for certification; you need to apply for licensing. 

Benefits: Builds consumer trust, ensures ethical sourcing, improves your business’s social impact

Best for: Manufacturing companies that want to get certified or retail businesses looking to license Fair Trade Certified products 

How to apply: To become a Fair Trade business partner, you need to complete an intake form, submit an application, sign a licensing agreement, abide by the Trade standard, and register your products. Get started here.

How to choose the right sustainability certification

Once you start implementing sustainable practices into your operation, there’s a good chance you’ll meet the criteria for more than one green business certification. However, just because you can apply for several certifications doesn’t mean you need to. 

Pick one or two sustainability certifications that align with your business values, customer preferences, and sustainability goals. The right green business certification for your operation will support you in achieving your internal sustainability goals, while being both recognizable and relevant to your target market. 

Before you pick a certification to pursue, do your due diligence by considering: 

  • The certification source: Make sure the third party setting the sustainability standards or issuing the certification is credible. Their standards should be developed by experts and backed by the latest science. 
  • The certification process: Make sure the third party has a clearly outlined certification or licensing process, which includes an evaluation or investigation by a separate accredited entity. 
  • The support provided: The most helpful certifiers offer complimentary business support, including online resources, peer networks, certification consultants, and access to mentors. 
Paige Smith Paige is a content marketing writer specializing in business, finance, and tech. She regularly writes for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies and small business lenders. See more of her work here:
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