Shopper exploring label on organic body care goods at an open-air market with zero waste concept
Becoming a certified sustainable business not only helps the environment and attracts like-minded customers, but it can also help you save money. — Getty Images/ArtMarie

Socially and environmentally conscious consumers value businesses that hold the same values. By becoming a certified sustainable business, you can attract those customers and keep their loyalty through your shared values. Not only that, but by embracing sustainable, “green” strategies, you can also save money to invest in other areas of your business. Here’s how to become a certified sustainable business and some top certifications to consider for your business.

[Read: 3 Startups Bet on Experiential E-Commerce and Sustainability Trends to Drive Holiday Sales]

What is a certified sustainable business?

Becoming a certified sustainable business means taking steps to ensure your operations are environmentally friendly. You can be certified as “green” in different ways with either green building certifications or green product labeling certifications. A sustainable certification typically involves a business owner investing in a program that lays out a handful of green initiatives to be completed or added to a project launch. Some examples include initiatives that assess energy efficiency, transportation, recycling, reusing materials, lighting, and even paper usage.

Why should a business become certified sustainable?

Becoming a certified sustainable business has a wide range of benefits. Focusing on “going green” can save money, increase your customer base, and provide talking points for your business.

A survey by Futerra found that 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly in their everyday life. Research from IBM also found that 84% of consumers who are seeking sustainable products believe that brand trust, established through verifiable, transparent sustainability practices, is important.

Green programs can also build upon each other and ensure that eco-programs are ingrained into the company.

[Read: Five Small Business Owners On Practicing Sustainability]

Top certified sustainable business certifications across industries

ISO 14001

The ISO 14001 certification is a well recognized and respected program for companies or organizations that follow the correct framework for setting up an effective environmental management system. An organization in any sector can earn this certification to ensure an independent certification body is continuously measuring and improving the organization’s environmental impact.

With over 300,000 certifications in 171 countries around the world, ISO 14001 offers an array of benefits, including helping business owners demonstrate compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, increasing leadership involvement and employee engagement, improving company reputation and stakeholder confidence through strategic communication, providing a competitive and financial advantage, and encouraging better environmental performance from suppliers.

While this certification is not required, it helps owners and stakeholders stay on top of their environmental efforts by having an independent certification body audit their practices against the set standards.


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely recognized green building rating system in the world. There are 90,000 LEED-certified projects as of 2019 and certifications in 165 countries. It’s a gold standard for building customer awareness and delivering real cost and environmental benefits. LEED-certified buildings offer substantial savings, including reductions of 34% in CO2 emissions, 25% in energy consumption, and 11% in water use. These buildings also divert more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills.

Research from IBM also found that 84% of consumers who are seeking sustainable products believe that brand trust, established through verifiable, transparent sustainability practices, is important.


B-corp certifications are for companies that are committed to balancing profits and purpose. These companies also strive to positively impact employees, communities, and the environment. Granted by B Lab, it is a nonprofit, general green business certification. Recipients of B-corp certifications also have to have verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. Two examples of B-corp-certified businesses include Patagonia and Beautycounter.

Energy Star

Energy Star certifications ensure that products, services and buildings meet energy-efficiency standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy efficiency has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to fight climate change, as it is one of the easiest ways to eliminate energy waste and lower energy costs. This certification is government-granted by the EPA and is a general green business certification. Two examples of Energy Star certified businesses are Bimbo Bakery and General Motors Co.

Leaping Bunny

A Leaping Bunny certification is a nonprofit, consumer goods green business certification. It certifies that cosmetics and personal care products are 100% free of animal testing. In order to get this certification, everything on the supply chain must comply with the guidelines. Leaping Bunny’s definition of animal testing excludes in vitro tests and any tests with human volunteers. The granting organization for this certification is the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments. Two examples of Leaping Bunny-certified businesses are Covergirl and Supergoop.


A Fitwel certification is a nonprofit, green certification for construction and buildings. It certifies buildings that promote healthier workplace environments and improve occupants’ well-being and productivity. The granting organization for Fitwel certifications is the Center for Active Design. The Fitwel certification is another one of the world’s leading certification systems, with over 1,000 projects that are certified or pending certification in over 40 countries. Two examples of Fitwel certified businesses are Bloomberg HQ (NY) and Jacobs (Boston).

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