British Columbia has long attracted organizations that care deeply about sustainability. And in a time where environmental concerns are a constant topic in the broad cultural conversation, creating a positive impact on the planet is more important than it’s ever been.
Sustainable businesses exist in virtually every industry, from manufacturing to retail, professional service, transportation, real estate, agriculture, energy, construction, and beyond.
And doing so requires a significant commitment.
That’s why third-party sustainability certifications exist: to authenticate and validate the efforts of these organizations.
In this article, you’ll learn why attaining sustainability certifications can benefit your organization as well as 17 options that are available to businesses in British Columbia.
The Benefits of Sustainability Certifications for Your Business
Third-party sustainability certifications are more than just an accolade you can put on your website. In order to attain them, you need to prove that your organization is making a significant investment in operating in an environmentally-conscious way.
That’s why these certifications benefit businesses by:
- Increasing credibility and trust: Third-party certifications verify sustainable initiatives for consumers, which builds a strong company-client relationship.
- Meeting consumer demand: Customers are more sustainability-focused than ever before, and relevant certifications can help consumers choose companies that align with their values.
- Improving operational efficiency: Achieving a sustainable certificate requires rigorous standards to be upheld. This requires companies to evaluate and optimize their operational efficiency.
- Attracting and retaining talent: Just as consumers are more interested in sustainability than ever before, so too are employees. A sustainability certification may attract top talent to your company and help with retention efforts.
- Opening new market and customer opportunities: Once you’ve achieved a sustainability certification, you may be able to access new customers and markets who view sustainability as a top requirement.
17 Sustainability Certifications for BC-Based Businesses
In British Columbia, there are a number of sustainability certifications available. Each has its own unique eligibility criteria and application processes.
Here are 17 options you can consider.
BC Green Business empowers companies and businesses around the province to “raise the bar” for what it means to be environmentally and socially responsible. For over 10 years, they’ve worked one-on-one to identify practical and affordable solutions for environmental impact.
Eligibility: Any small-to-medium-sized business in BC that is interested and willing to take action towards increased sustainability.
Certification process: After getting in touch with BCGB, a Verifier will complete a 1-2.5 hour site visit. They will provide you with suggested actions to improve your performance. After taking action to make changes, your Verifier will issue a certification accounting for the positive changes you made. There are multiple certification levels available.
BC wineries create some of the best wines in the world. And, many of them are doing it with the planet in mind. The SWBC certification is a voluntary scheme for winemakers in the province. It’s based on leading practices for the people, planet, and prosperity and is tailored directly to the wine industry in BC.
Eligibility: Vineyards and wineries in BC that meet the standards.
Certification process: SWBC has stringent standards for everything from soil samples to pesticide application to pest management. Their guidance materials lay out the expected standards for vineyards and wineries to follow to receive and maintain certification. Annual audits ensure standards continue to be met.
Ocean Wise is an initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium conservation program. It was created to help businesses and customers identify and purchase sustainable seafood. The Ocean Wise symbol lets consumers know they are purchasing the best option to support the health of our ocean.
Eligibility: Restaurants, suppliers, retailers, or producers of seafood products that are committed to sustainability.
Certification process: After being accepted as a partner, Ocean Wise assigns a dedicated account representative to support your business through the partnership. There is an interactive program portal to view recommendations and access educational resources.
4. ACS Canada
ACS Canada is a certification and regulatory body for a variety of industries, including energy environment safety, food and agriculture, oil and gas, and cosmetics. They also have a variety of sustainability awards such as the Green Industry Certification, Eco-Friendly Certification, and Green Restaurant Certification.
Eligibility: Headquartered in BC, these certifications are open to all Canadian businesses.
Certification process: Each certification has its own requirements and processes. All businesses can choose the appropriate certification for their industry and take necessary action steps to achieve the standards.
Built Green Canada supports builders and others in the industry to become leaders in sustainability. Through education and certification, members of the construction sector can foster goodwill and expand their reach in the marketplace by focusing on sustainable building practices.
Eligibility: There are different tears of members based on years of experience and the quantity of buildings built in a year.
Certification process: Members must be approved by Built Green Canada and adhere to the organization’s professional code of ethics. All members are required to take specific training in relation to sustainability and sustainable best practices.
Available for companies and businesses in the tourism industry, the Biosphere Sustainable Lifestyle offers comprehensive and personalized services to maximize sustainable practices. It is a subscription-based service that offers tutorials, software for corporate sustainability management, and third-party auditing, among other benefits.
Eligibility: Businesses associated with Northern BC Tourism.
Certification process: This is a membership and subscription-based program for companies within the NBC destination. Companies sign up for a one-year subscription, renewable annually.
7. Better Table
Better Table is a Vancouver-based company helping BC hotels control the costs of food and increase sustainability. Membership provides access to evaluation of your current sustainability practices, Food Waste Prevention Online Course + Certificate, a Food Waste Audit, and third-party sustainable certifications.
Eligibility: BC-based hotels.
Certification process: Any BC-based hotel can sign up for a membership and access all courses, audits, certifications, and resources provided by Better Table.
GreenStep is a Kelowna-based organization that supports businesses that want to make significant sustainability improvements. They offer a single-use plastic free certification for those committed to removing these items from their operations.
Eligibility: BC-based businesses that typically use single-use plastics (i.e., restaurants, food establishments).
Certification process: The two-phase process includes an initial assessment, on-site walkthroughs, and verification of actions taken to remove single-use plastics.
LEED is a globally recognized certification for green building. There are multiple levels for businesses seeking green building strategies and applies to building design, construction, operation, and maintenance. And-Co is proud to operate in a LEED-certified building.
Eligibility: Businesses, companies, and landlords operating in green buildings (i.e., eco-friendly building and materials, energy-efficient design, water savings, sustainable operations).
Certification: Businesses self-identify what LEED rating system they’re eligible for and then register online and pay a registration fee. Projects are then reviewed and certified.
While not strictly a sustainability certification, certified B Corporations meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The goal of the BCorp certification is to identify companies and businesses that prioritize people and the planet in addition to profit.
Eligibility: Businesses must be in operation for at least 12 months to be eligible for BCorp status. Small and mid-size companies have a different route to certification than large multinationals.
Certification: The process to certify takes at least 12 months. It begins with the B Impact Assessment which reviews your social and environmental performance. After you submit it for verification, your company will be reviewed and certified if it meets the standards.
The Green Seal is a global nonprofit organization that offers a highly respected certification to ensure products or services meet rigorous performance, health, and environmental criteria. This ensures business offerings meet rigorous, science-based environmental leadership standards.
Eligibility: There are multiple business categories eligible for certification, including paints and coatings, floor care, cleaning products, and more.
Certification: Businesses start with a pre-screen and application before being reviewed and visited on-site. Afterward, you are awarded with a Green Seal certification and monitored periodically for compliance.
Fairtrade is one of the most recognizable and trusted sustainability certifications in the world. It’s a global organization with over 1.8 million members operating under the label. Fairtrade recognizes businesses that adhere to ethical and sustainable practices in sourcing goods, particularly from developing countries.
Eligibility: Producers and businesses of all sizes, from small cooperative farms to large plantations or organizations.
Certification process: Fairtrade will do a physical inspection and audit of a business; if successful, businesses are certified for a three-year cycle. There are also renewal and unannounced audits throughout the course of certification under Fairtrade.
Carbon neutral certifications are provided by various organizations such as Carbonzero or the Carbon Trust. This certification indicates that a company has measured, reduced, and offset its carbon emissions to net zero, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to sustainability.
Eligibility: Varies based on the certifying body.
Certification process: Varies based on the certifying body, but includes a measurable and demonstrable commitment to carbon measuring, reduction, and offsets.
GreenStep offers Canadian businesses in the tourism industry an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through a rigorous certification process.
Eligibility: Canadian tourism businesses.
Certification process: The process begins with a self-assessment, followed by a one-on-one assessment and follow-up before getting certified.
The GLES is a performance-based, international sustainability certification and ecolabel for products, services, corporations, and individuals. They offer a series of modules specifically designed to help businesses achieve an “eco standard” that promotes the environment alongside a company’s bottom line.
Certification process: Organizations undergo a consultation, audit, and verification process to achieve the GLES certification.
Farms and food producers in BC can become certified organic through either the BC Certified Organic Program or the Canada Organic Regime. Both options show a demonstration of sustainable and strict organic practices.
Eligibility: Open to businesses operating and marketing their food products in BC.
Certification process: Varies based on the certifying body, but includes an initial assessment and ongoing monitoring to ensure producers are following the strict organic guidelines.
While not a third-party certification option like the others, it’s important to note that the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is responsible for approving major projects in the province. They ensure that any potential environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health effects that occur throughout the project are thoroughly assessed and accounted for.
Certification process: The EAO has an eight-phase process to propose major projects in BC. Read more details here.
British Columbia is a hub for sustainability-focused organizations in virtually any industry. And whether you’re already taking significant actions toward sustainability or new to your journey, pursuing third-party certifications may be the right next step for you.
Sustainability certifications help demonstrate your commitment to the environment, open new doors for business, and attract and retain top talent. If you’re interested in putting sustainability first, consider checking out one of these nine sustainability certification options for BC-based businesses today.
And if you’re looking for a professional workspace that is equally committed to sustainability, contact us today and book a tour of And-Co.