Green certifications: which ones and how do you communicate them?

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This post is divided into 2 parts:

  1. what green certifications are there?
  2. how do you communicate the certification?

Let’s start by looking at what certifications are available. Of course, not all are included here, but some of the most common and important are. Before we continue, let’s look at what green certifications actually mean in the green marketing world.

Watch the full series video with LETZ Sushi now, where we look at how they used certification in their communication and sustainability work. See the full episode on grønmarketing.dk in chapter 06

What are green certificates?

In general, there are 3 different types of certifications:

First-party certification, which means that the individual company or organisation providing a product or service guarantees that certain requirements will be met. That means you control yourself.

Second party certifications, are a verification of the company or organization. It may be that you carry out a check on your supplier, certification of construction or similar.

Finally, third-party certifications are when an independent third party checks your company against a given standard and issues a certificate if the standard is met. For example, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, which provides food certification.

Unlike first and second party certifications, an objective third party, typically consisting of a board of experts, has performed the verification. Something that of course increases credibility considerably. DGNB certification is worth mentioning here, as it adds credibility to your company’s building. It’s a 360-degree certification that shows your building is sustainable.

A jungle of certifications exists. That’s why it’s important to choose the right one. Otherwise, credibility is lost.

We recommend that you start with sustainable transition yourself first, and then dive deeper by including certification. In addition, it is important to stress that 100% sustainability does not exist yet, although you can call yourself sustainable if you achieve certain certifications.

credibility of certifications
Anders Barsøe, former Adm. Managing Director of LETZ Sushi, commenting on the certification. Excerpt from green marketing video series. Watch the full episode on grønmarketing.dk under kap

Is certification necessary?

Yes and no.

Below you will read more about certification in general and its importance. Conversely, we would stress that the main selling point is that without certification you simply won’t be considered in many tenders. In addition, there will only be more demands from customers and suppliers in the future, so it is a good way to future-proof the company.

Conversely, if you are a small startup or company about to embark on sustainability, there may be other areas where resources could be better spent. In other words, the answer depends very much on your industry. In addition, if you remember the principles of green washing, it should go without certification.

What green certifications are there?

In general, we look at the following:

  • FSC Certifications
  • Certification of construction
  • Certification of social and environmental conditions
  • Certification of CO2 performance
  • Ecocert certification

Let’s take a closer look at the different certifications.

FSC Certifications

In wood, there is the FSC certification, which ensures responsible forestry through environmental, social and economic responsibility.

Environmental responsibility is about:

  • An FSC-labelled forest must be managed sustainably. No more trees may be felled than the forest can reproduce, while rare plants, springs and watercourses are protected to maintain biodiversity.
  • Wood is still one of the most CO2-neutral materials we have, so it makes sense to use it – it just has to be used wisely (i.e. FSC-labelled)
  • An FSC-labelled forest also protects animals, especially endangered species, as the areas they live in are protected.

Social responsibility is about:

  • The people who live in the world’s forests are also cared for. FSC certification protects indigenous and local people, who must continue to be able to use the forest for what they have always done.
  • In addition, local workers are employed to earn an income from the forest and to train in sustainable forest management.
  • Last but not least, a percentage of the total revenue goes to support the local population – this could be schools or infrastructure.

Financial accountability is about:

  • FSC-certified goods are traded under normal market conditions without government subsidies or similar. This ensures that forest owners get a “fair” price for their wood and don’t just cut down or burn the forest for short-term gain. The whole essence of the FSC is to ensure that the forest can also generate income in the future.

You can have multiple certifications – one does not exclude the other. Most certifications actually complement each other. For example, it is often seen that wood is FSC-labelled at the same time as it is PEFC-labelled. There are also care products that are Swan-labelled and have the Blue Wreath.

Certification of construction

DGNB is the sustainable certification of buildings. The scheme gives equal weight to environmental, economic and social concerns.

DGNB measures, among other things, the life cycle of building materials, transport, energy and water consumption during and after construction, durability, accessibility and indoor climate.

Green Building Council Denmark (DK-GBC) is responsible for DGNB certification in Denmark. Below you can see the breakdown.

Environment:

  • Life cycle assessment of construction materials.
  • The impact of materials on the immediate environment.
  • Energy consumption in the building.
  • Water consumption.
  • Recycling.

Economy:

  • Construction costs and operation.
  • Maintenance costs.
  • Flexibility for 3rd party users.
  • The value of the building.

Social conditions:

  • Air quality.
  • Acoustics.
  • Visual comfort.
  • User involvement.
  • Building structure and outdoor areas.
  • Access conditions.
  • Architecture and art.

Points are awarded in each category and the total number of points determines the grade from bronze to platinum. Kolding Municipality is about to build Marina South, which is about to get a floor rating, which is in the absolute top class.

Certification of social and environmental conditions

The B Corp certification is leading the global movement for an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy. This certification has this ability to measure the social and environmental impact of the whole company.

B Corp certification is a designation that a company meets high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency in relation to factors from employee benefits to green contributions to the supply chain. To obtain the certification, a company must:

  1. Demonstrate high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above and passing a risk review. Multinational companies must also meet the standard requirements.
  1. Make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure so that they are accountable to all stakeholders.
  1. Demonstrate transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Labs standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on the B Labs website.

Certification of CO2 performance

Certification of the CO2 performance ladder. It sounds fancy, but in the Netherlands they have made it more simple. They have created the Carbon Performance Ladder, which is a measurement tool to map and reduce the carbon footprint of an organisation. The ladder consists of five steps: the higher you climb, the more you do to reduce CO2.

  • The first three steps focus on CO2 emissions in your own organisation.
  • The top two steps are wider:
    They focus on collaborations with suppliers, customers and other partners. It’s about looking at the chain as a whole, of which the organisation is a part.

The carbon performance ladder helps organisations gain insight into their carbon footprint and reduce it. It is the Climate Friendly Fund Bidding and Entrepreneurship(SKAO, Dutch organisation) that manages the CO2 performance ladder.

Since its inception, the ladder has continued to evolve. There have been developments in relation to the latest insights into sustainability, CO2 reduction and energy saving, as well as requirements and checklists.

SKAO found that the Corona crisis had an important effect on the carbon footprint. It was mainly home working and significantly fewer business trips that ensured that CO₂ emissions temporarily fell by no less than 51% compared to 2019. So, if your company manages to use homeworking and digital business travel, this will lead to a significant reduction in CO2.

Thus, this type of certification is different from so many others, as you actually have to do less to get the certification.

Ecocert certification
Ecocert certification is a certification by an independent and impartial certification body that assesses whether a product, service or system complies with the environmental and social requirements of a specified standard. At the end of the certification process, Ecocert issues a written assurance called a certificate, as well as the right to use certain marks in the communication of your company.

There is a document showing all the criteria to be implemented, as well as the control procedures to obtain the certification and the corresponding labels. All standards are selected by Ecocert and promote a positive impact on the environment and society.

Ecocert in steps:

  1. Request: the Ecocert team will advise you on the labels best suited to your needs
  2. Contract: An agreement is concluded with Ecocert
  3. Check: Ecocert’s auditors will visit your company to check that your systems, practices and products comply with the corresponding standards and agreements you have signed.
  4. Award of labels: the Ecocert certification staff reviews the conclusions of the audit report to decide whether the labels can be awarded.
  5. Use of labels: The Ecocert team issues your certificate. Now you can display the logo associated with the standard on your labels with transparent communication.

Communication of green certifications

Our clear recommendation is very simple:

Avoid over-communicating, but be very strategic in your use of labels. A really good example could be if you get a vegan certification. Instead of pasting the whole product, choose a strategic placement on both the front and the back to avoid scaring away non-vegans. Plant growth is really good at informing and advising companies about vegan products, so they can sell as many vegan products as possible and make food that tastes good.

On websites, we often see people choose to dedicate a whole page in the main menu to all the certifications they have. An understandable choice, especially if it is some necessary brands for the industry. If you want to keep the page with all the labels, you can add some text to each label. Here you can explain their importance and go into detail about why you have chosen them.

However, we further recommend that you use the tags separately and include them on pages where it can support your services. In addition, remember the principles of green fatique so you avoid green exhaustion in yourself, your employees and customers.

Learn even more about how to communicate your certificates with LETZ Sushi

On our Green Marketing online video course platform you will find even more knowledge and not least case examples. Chapters 6 and 7 are particularly relevant for certification.

Register now on grønmarketing.dk, where the first 200 can register for free (worth 9,500).

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