The Sweet Candy Co. in Salt Lake City reduced the amount of waste it sent to landfills and cut its water and energy use. Now it has an appetite to tout its efforts to make its business operations more eco-friendly.
But when looking at all the options, the company decided that getting a green business certification may be the answer, though it was hard to choose from among the mass of them on the market.
"I’m not super-fluent in this field and I’m trying to head up a (sustainability) team, but I’m confused myself," said Rachel Sweet, the Sweet Candy Co.'s vice president of marketing.
She's looking for a certification that "stands for something."
"I'm concerned about all the different certifications that are coming out and what they're going to end up meaning in consumers' minds," Sweet said.
As more companies strive to display their green credentials, a crop of certifications are springing up to fill the need but they vary in rigor and oversight. There is no consistency among them and no national authority in charge of setting uniform standards. "The problem is, it's a new, emerging area," said Tom Hinton, president and CEO of the American Consumer Council (ACC). "As a result, there is a lack of credible organizations trying to fill the demand for certification. Until you have a few other industries and nonprofit organizations step forward, consumers and companies run the risk of subscribing to a certification process that may not deliver all that it's propped up to be."
The ACC launched its Green C Certification in the U.S. in June (see sidebar) after seeing a trend four years ago: Consumers wanted to support the green movement by buying from companies known for environmental stewardship, Hinton said.
"As we researched the field of environmental compliance, we found no consumer-focused, universal criteria that companies or organizations could use to tell consumers they were 'environmentally compliant' or acting responsibly," Hinton said. "So we acted to fill the gap as a nonprofit organization that represents the voice of the consumer."
The ACC isn't alone. The Green Business Alliance in Boca Raton, Fla., debuted a certification program this year, while EarthRight Business Institute of Park City, Utah, and Sustainable Business Network of Washington, D.C. are now conducting pilot programs with plans of launching final products in late 2008 and early 2009, respectively. The city of Los Angeles also is reportedly developing one modeled after the Bay Area Green Business Program, which started 12 years ago.
It can fatten a company's bottom line, according to Cliff Waldeck, owner of Waldeck Office Supplies in San Francisco, which is certified through San Francisco County.
"In the process of being certified green, you're going to save money because you're consuming less electricity and water," Waldeck said. "You're recycling and reusing a lot more."
Having your business certified can earn your company a special logo to market to customers.
"From business point of view, it makes sense. It's a PR story you can share with your customers, but also a positive story for your company that you can talk about," Sweet said. "If you can make a customer and consumer hopefully understand they will make a better investment in you by buying your product because you in turn have positive practices, that's very positive."