While almost everyone wants to do the right thing for the planet, a variety of factors can hold businesses back from taking the sustainability plunge. One of them is uncertainty about what going green really means. When the definition of green is in the eye of the beholder, it can mean just about anything and sometimes has, like businesses claiming that disposable water bottles are green if they use somewhat less plastic. Green Irene and the Green Business Bureau are working together to clarify what makes a business green with a nationwide network that delivers solid green business certification, particularly for small- and mid-sized businesses.
Business sustainability has a wide range of benefits, including saving energy, saving resources, and saving money. Going green gets employees excited about what they’re doing and more engaged about their work, and attracts and retains the best talent. Green brands have proven more valuable on store shelves and on the stock market. Ultimately, green business is just plain good business, which explains the growing number of businesses making the commitment to sustainability.
Still, the confusion about what green means can be a significant deterrent. Communicating your green efforts is important, but the lack of clear definitions can inhibit the urge to talk. Even well-intentioned businesses can be afraid to talk about their sustainability efforts for fear of being accused of greenwashing.
The solution for this problem is clarity of definition and transparency in communication, both of which Green Irene and the Green Business Bureau deliver through their partnership.
The Green Business Bureau has established a framework for green businesses to quantify their sustainability efforts across a broad range of factors, looking at energy use, paper use, the breakroom, cleaning chemicals, transportation, shipping, and many other factors. Their Web-based system to track the status of your efforts is easy to use, and helps you to track improvements over time. Depending on your current level of sustainability, you can receive one of three levels of certification, and receiving the ability to display a seal on your Web site and decal for your business location, and to be featured in their green business listings. Based on your current status, the Green Business Bureau system can also suggest a plan for further improvement of your eco-impact.
“Green business certification is answering a huge demand in today’s eco-conscious markets,” says Marcos Cordero, Green Business Bureau CEO. “Businesses who are making the commitment to green their practices stand to realize significant financial benefits.”
The best green business certifications are those that have teeth in the form of third party verification of green progress, and that’s where the partnership with Green Irene comes in. Green Irene has the nation’s largest network of Eco Consultants, with almost 600 consultants in 47 states calling on homes and businesses to help them go green. Their consultants are a force already in place to certify the sustainability of businesses working with the Green Business Bureau, keeping green claims on solid ground.
“We position ourselves as the outsourced Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) for smaller businesses who would not even think of having the resources of a CSO in house, says PJ Stafford, co-founder of Green Irene. “We help our clients understand and implement the criteria of the Green Business Bureau certification, we verify the client is doing what they believe they are doing and provide unlimited online and human support on their journey to more sustainable business operations. And at a price point starting from just $450 per year, Green Irene and our local, authorized independent Eco-Consultants add a lot of value,” continues Stafford.
The move toward clarity and transparency with steps like this partnership is a parallel to the progress made in the organic food industry. Before the term “organic” was clearly defined, it was used to refer to a variety of different practices, some greener and more eco-friendly than others. Gary Hirshberg, the CE-Yo of organic yogurt producer Stonyfield Farm notes that their industry is one of the few that has asked for more regulation because regulation of the organic industry and the term “organic” provided clarity, removing the confusion of consumers. And with less confusion came greater acceptance of organic foods.
Steps like this partnership are an important step forward in the maturation of the green business world, helping it grow more rapidly and become an integral part of businesses of every size throughout the economy.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green” and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping green businesses to get started and thrive.