If you’re interested in making your business more environmentally friendly, Green Business Certification is a great option.
The Bay Area Green Business Program certifies local businesses that meet high standards for environmental performance. It was launched in 1996 and is part of the statewide California Green Business Program, which leads the state and nation in working with small to medium sized businesses to grow a vibrant and healthy green economy. It currently operates in all nine Bay Area counties and has certified over 2300 businesses.
The program is unique compared to other certification programs in that it is a collaboration between local government and utilities to help small to medium sized businesses.
Why Should You Get Certified?
There are many benefits to Green Business Certification:
- Do the right thing. Most businesses get certified because they want to align their business with their values. The certification framework and process helps them to make sure that they are doing all they can to reduce their environmental impact.
- Cost savings. You can identify opportunities for reducing expenses through implementing water conservation measures, saving energy, and reducing waste. Reducing the resources you use directly benefits your bottom line.
- Continuous improvement. One of the unexpected benefits that many businesses encounter is that they find opportunities for improvement. Even if they are already doing a lot to be green, or even if they already have another sustainability certification such as B Corp certification, they are still able to find ways to improve upon their current sustainability efforts.
- Stand out from the crowd. You’ll be able to differentiate from your competitors who are not minimizing their environmental impact or may not have the third-party verification to support their claims.
- Authentic marketing. Let your customers know, in an authentic way, that you are not just talking about sustainability and being green, but you have actually taken concrete steps and been vetted by a third-party.
- A proven framework. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sustainability. You’ll be able to use a proven framework to make sure that you’re evaluating all of your environmental impacts, rather than taking an ad hoc approach and maybe overlooking something important.
- Join a community. With over 500 Certified Green Businesses throughout Alameda County, you can help to raise the level of consciousness among both consumers and business owners about the importance of operating in an environmentally responsible manner as a business.
What Does the Certification Process Involve?
The certification process is straightforward:
- Register your business. You can enroll online by filling out a short form. When you enroll, you will need to select a “sector” that reflects your business type. In many cases, this will be obvious, such as “Office/Retail” or “Restaurant.” If you don’t see a sector for your business or if you’re not sure which sector is best for you, you should check with the Program Coordinator.
- Complete the online checklist. The checklist consists of six sections: Solid Waste, Energy, Water, Pollution Prevention, Wastewater, and General. In each section, you will need to make sure that you implement all of the required measures and the minimum number of additional measures.
- Pass the on-site audits. After your checklist is complete, you’ll need to schedule the on-site audits. The auditors will confirm that everything that is on your checklist has been implemented at your business. If the auditor finds that you’re not meeting the program requirements, the auditor will let you know what you need to do to correct the deficiency.
Once you complete these steps, your business will be certified!
How Long Will It Take?
The certification process can vary quite a bit from business to business. On average, it might take 3-4 months. Some factors that affect the length of time required to complete the certification include:
- Capacity. Even for a small business, the certification process can take some time. Having a dedicated individual who can dedicate time to working on the checklist, gather information, coordinate with other staff, and arrange the on-site audits is important. Businesses that aren’t able to allocate staff resources to this find that it takes much longer for them to get through the process.
- Business size. Obviously, a larger business will have more information to gather and departments to coordinate, which can take longer than for a smaller business.
- Changes needed. A business that already meets many of the program standards will have fewer measures to implement compared to one that needs to make significant changes. Some changes, especially ones that relate to your facilities, can take longer to implement.
- Audit follow-ups. Sometimes items will come up during the on-site audits that need to be addressed before a business can pass an audit. Delays in addressing the follow-up items will of course slow down the overall certification process.
How Long Does the Certification Last?
The certification is good for three years. For some businesses that use the Office/Retail checklist, the certification is valid for four years. At the end of your certification period, you will be contacted to begin your recertification.
Is There a Cost for Certification?
At this time, there is no fee for the certification itself. If your business needs to implement some changes to meet the program standards, there may be costs involved.
Green Business Certification is a great opportunity for many small businesses in Alameda County: you align your business with your values, get a framework for sustainability, and get a marketing advantage all at no cost to you!