Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Certification, Standards & Accreditation

What is a sustainability certification, and why is it important?

Sustainability certifications are recognitions given to organizations that meet specific sustainability criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to, environmental, social, economic, and community standards that help demonstrate businesses' commitment to good environmental, social, ethical, and food safety practices. However, it is essential to note that sustainability certifications can be voluntary guidelines instead of industry requirements, depending on the industry and the countries in which the business operates.

Sustainability certifications are essential to building strong customer relations and securing successful business deals in today's world. Becoming sustainable certified businesses ensures not only customers but also wider stakeholders, including business partners and investors, that companies are operating in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. 

These certifications help consumers make informed decisions about the products they purchase and answer the growing demand for environmentally responsible and socially conscious practices. On the other hand, sustainability certifications help businesses to attract environmentally conscious investors and improve their reputation within the sector.

Why should a company pursue sustainability certification?

Given that greenwashing is one of the most common challenges in sustainability, some might see sustainability certification as a show. However, this is not the case. Sustainability certifications are becoming a must for businesses to answer changes in customer habits and priorities. This automatically translates to increasing consumer interest and brand loyalty, inspiring more talent to apply for jobs, environmental advocacy, and growing business opportunities. 

But that’s not it; sustainable business practices are not only about how stakeholders perceive businesses but also offer many benefits to business operations. Overall benefits that businesses can get from sustainability certifications include:

-Improving stakeholder investment and gaining a competitive edge

-Building trust with customers and retailers 

-Attracting talent

-Improving overall environmental policy 

-Growing sales

What is the difference between sustainability certification, standards, and accreditation?

Certifications, standards, and accreditation are usually used interchangeably in the context of sustainability. However, the main difference between certification and accreditation comes from the authority confirming the sustainability competence of organizations.

Certification can refer to a written assurance by a third party that a product, process, or service is confirmed to meet specified requirements following an organization's systems or products audit. On the other hand, accreditation is a formal recognition by an authoritative and independent body of work that meets specified standards. Accreditation demonstrates the technical competence of business operations.

How can certifications help companies stand out for their environmental efforts?

Sustainability certifications verify organizations' commitment to tackling social/ethical/environmental issues. As a first step, these certifications allow businesses to see their sustainability effort in a bigger picture and identify the areas they need to improve. Certification assessments review company policies, business practices, and procedures and point out weaknesses to equip businesses with sustainable practices.

It is always good to remember that sustainability is not a destination but a journey, and sustainability certifications help organizations increase their performance during this journey. Most sustainable certifications require renewal in regular intervals; this also offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to get a step ahead every time and focus on different aspects of their sustainable plan and strategy.

Can a company be certified against multiple sustainability standards?

There is no rule limiting companies with a certain number of sustainable standards or certifications. The number of certifications corporations need depends on the company's sustainability policy and the sustainable practices they want to focus on. However, the rule here is to focus on a reliable certification system for each aspect and keep up with the standards. For example, if a business already has sustainability certification for energy efficiency, a second one concentrating energy-efficient practices wouldn't be necessary.

On the other hand, companies can improve their sustainability efforts by focusing on different aspects and enhancing their sustainability with different specific certifications. Focusing on the sustainability of different aspects of businesses demonstrates a better, coherent commitment to sustainable practices and an environmentally friendly philosophy.

Why is accreditation important in sustainability certification?

Accreditation proves the credibility of any sustainability certificate, which means that the certification is recognized by an independent accreditation body and provided with the written assurance of compliance.

Non-accredited certifications mean that the necessary standards are applied to the best of business knowledge and ability and don't provide any assurance from an accredited certification body.

While it is impossible to guarantee non-accredited certifications' competence or impartiality for customers and suppliers, accreditated certifications don't leave room for suspicion or speculation. Therefore, accreditation is crucial to meeting legal or contractual requirements and providing business commitments to customers and suppliers.

Why is it important for certifications to be given by independent groups instead of industry-related ones?

There is always a risk that industry-related organizations might have conflicts of interest, which can lead to biased evaluation. On the other hand, independent, accredited certifications provide a degree of rigor and comparability in evidence and methodology and are considered more credible. A certification given by industry organizations can raise many questions about objectivity and the benefits that might be brought to the industry itself. However, certifications given by independent groups are almost always considered to be objective and trusted more by consumers and business professionals.

How does a company's sustainability record impact customers' buying decisions?

Considering consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the environment, they are searching for eco-friendly products with a lower carbon footprint. Undoubtedly, sustainability has a direct effect on customers’ buying decisions. Consumers even delay their purchases until they find a more environmentally sustainable or socially responsible alternative. This makes it clear that today's consumers put their values before their needs or the functionality of products. They will likely spend their money on brands that share the same values and work towards a sustainable, greener future.

How can I get my business or organization certified as sustainable?

It all starts with research! If you want to get your business certified as sustainable, you should research different certifications and choose what best meets your sustainability goals. It is essential to lay out the requirements for each certification you consider and check the areas you need to improve.

Certification processes can be lengthy and daunting. However, it is best to remember that they are all about progress and that you are doing what is best for your business, your customers, and the environment. With that in mind, you might want to consider initiating a sustainability community and including many of your employees. This will not only help with the process but also improve your reputation as an employee.

How does Intengine help companies find information on being environmentally friendly?

Intengine connects you and your business with other sustainable, environmentally, and socially responsible companies. It offers a platform for collaboration and partnership for sustainable, responsible businesses to make business practices more environmentally friendly by allowing them to learn from each other and increase awareness in the business world.

On the other hand, Intengine provides a generous database of sustainability standards, certifications, and eco-labels that you can use to kickstart your sustainability certification journey, find business partners to help you navigate, and get your business certified by reputable, independent organizations to demonstrate your commitment.