Environmental consciousness is not only a way to distinguish your company; it’s also part of being a generally responsible corporate citizen. Read on to discover how going green may also present a business opportunity.
Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report showing the growth in green jobs grew at a rate four times faster than all other industries combined during the early part of this decade. The technical term for the category is “Green Goods and Services” (GGS), which the BLS defines as businesses that primarily produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
Unfortunately, government budget cuts have caused the BLS to stop reporting on GGS jobs as a separate category, but the statistics we have are pretty compelling. If the jobs are there, it stands to reason green businesses are growing. You can start a new green business or possibly make the one you have a little greener.
Depending on the industry, there are different standards to qualify as a green business. In some industries, there is little to no regulation about claims a company can make. In areas where this is the case, it can be helpful to get independent certification if you want to market your company as green and sell to consumers who are looking to do business with green firms. Certification from an independent, third-party would allow you to use their logo or "ecolabel" on your product's label and other marketing materials.
The federal government has a fairly extensive list of certification programs, which generally have strict standards and criteria. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers a list of certifying organizations, plus helpful information for business owners who want green certification. There are private certification organizations as well, but be sure to understand the standards they’re using to ensure their certification is meaningful.
Alternately, there are independent organizations that have certification programs with a goal of helping consumers make informed choices when they’re looking for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Green Seal is a non-profit that has been doing such certification for twenty-five years, and covers over thirty different products and industries. Green Seal’s fees can range upwards of several thousand dollars, however, so be sure to do an analysis of how that fits into your marketing budget and what kind of return you’d need to get to make it worthwhile.
Green Certification by Industry
Even though the general concept of being green is pretty universal, there are specifics depending on individual business categories.
In the food industry, “green” includes food that is organically grown, food that is grown or raised using sustainable practices, and food that doesn’t contain genetically-modified ingredients. The U.S. government has strict standards for organic food and a list of Accredited Certifying Agents. Other green claims must also be substantiated, including “natural” and “humane”.
If you are marketing a food product and make any specific claims about its ingredients, you will have to have a certified analysis done to prove them. Foodrisk.org has a list of private laboratories that test food to meet FDA standards.
Restaurants that want to be green can consult the Green Restaurant Association.
Green building practices include structures that are energy-efficient and/or use renewable energy. The construction itself cuts down on the amount of wasted products and environmental toxins. It concentrates on smart growth and sustainable development, making the most of the resources available.
The Environment Protection Agency lists some of the codes and options available for green construction firms, with links to the certifying organizations.
LEED Certification is probably the best-known and widely respected in the green building industry. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council. A project will be certified at the basic, silver, gold or platinum level depending on how strictly it adheres to certain standards for categories such as water and energy efficiency, use of sustainable building materials, etc.
Cleaning Services and Dry Cleaners
From dry cleaners to residential and industrial cleaning products, green cleaning has become big business as many consumers, especially parents of young children, look to reduce their exposure to toxins.
Unfortunately, there is no government standard for what makes a dry cleaner green, although the EPA has rules about Perchloroethylene, a chemical of concern to some people. The Green Business Bureau is a third-party certification organization with guidelines for dry cleaners.
Your business can also promote its use of cleaning and other products approved by the EPA's Design for the Environment program. These products have been identified as performing well and being safer for human health and the environment.
Underwriters Laboratories, familiar to many of us for their safety certification of electrical products, also has a division that certifies products for their sustainability and environmental responsibility. Its Greenguard program covers products and materials that have chemical emissions, like carpeting, paint, building materials and bedding.
For a long time, the landscaping industry has been working on a set of standards similar to what LEED does for the building industry. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a program called the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), and recently announced a collaboration with the Green Building Certification Institute, the same organization that oversees LEED, to help it become the landscape industry standard.
For lawn maintenance companies, the EPA has a wealth of information about green business practices.
If we didn’t cover your business in this list, take a look at the Greener Products page on the EPA’s website. You can get specific information based on the industry you’re interested in and the particular products or services you might want to offer. Green may just turn out to be a good color for your business.
Top Articles on Green Businesses