Green Business Certification FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions on Green America’s Green Business Certification
Get the details on Green America’s Green Business Certification, including answers to your questions on how to be eligible, how the process works, how you may use the Green America Seal once your company has earned it, and more. If you have specific questions for your company, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
The issues covered were very relevant and the application took about 20 minutes.Rachel Kronberg
Certification Overview & Eligibility
What is Green America's Green Business Certification?
People are looking for authentic seals that stand for businesses deeply committed to both environmental and social justice. Green America’s Green Business Certification is one of the oldest and most reputable consumer trustmarks in the marketplace and the first to include both social and environmental criteria.
It is also holistic in another way – we examine the entire business’s practices and policies, not individual products or corporate divisions.
Green America’s Green Business Certification offers consumers assurance that businesses bearing the Green America Seal have met industry-specific standards relating to the environment and social justice. The Certification offers businesses a thoughtful, efficient way to earn a meaningful consumer-facing business certification.
How does your Certification differ from other Certifications?
Green America’s Green Business Certification is only awarded to companies who are leaders in both environmental and social sustainability. Companies with the Certified Seal and the Gold Certified Seal are reviewed by experienced staff and in the case of Gold, the Standards and Certification Committee (appointed by the Green America Board of Directors).
Green America is home to both the Green Business Network and a consumer association of over 200,000 households. Green Business Certification gives you direct access to the most committed green consumers in the nation. Please note that we only award Green Business Certification to companies, not brands or divisions thereof, though companies may advertise whatever part of their company they wish.
What are Green America's Green Business Standards?
When is the right time to apply?
If your business is operational, has a website and green practices in place, apply now!
To be considered for Gold level Certification, your business must be fully operational for at least six months.
Two exceptions for Gold:
- If your business has a network marketing (MLM) structure, your business must be operational for one full year before applying and must provide additional documentation. The home office must apply, not an associate.
- If your business has a franchise model, your business must have at least one established franchisee and must provide additional documentation.
Is my business eligible to apply?
Several factors impact a business’s eligibility for the Green America Certification. We’ll list them here, but don’t disqualify yourself! If you wonder whether you’re eligible, just give us a call at (202)872-5357.
- The most common factor is the age of your business. You can apply to be Certified as long as you are fully operational, have a website and green practices in place. To be considered for Gold level Certification, your business must be operational for at least six months.
- The second most common factor is company ownership. If you are a franchise, MLM, brand, division or subsidiary, the parent company must submit the application.
Reasons for ineligibility include :
- If a business operates in any of the following industries: weapons, pornography, gambling, gas/oil/coal, tobacco or nuclear.
- If formal legal complaints exist in these areas: product integrity, worker/labor abuse, fraud, or financial mishandling.
- If a product base is primarily composed of or uses significant amounts of the following:
- Conventional products with no extraordinary sustainable aspect or contribution to community/workers/customers; or,
- More toxic chemicals such as pesticides, “poison plastics” like PVC and vinyl, chlorine, PFOA (non-stick coatings), or industrial chemicals.
The Green Business Network is currently utilizing the Precautionary Principle with regards to nanotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms. Cosmetic and body-care companies that include nano-particles in their ingredients should contact our Standards Department at [email protected].
Do I have to go through the Certification process to be a Green Business Network member?
- It is not mandatory for Green Business Network members to become Certified. However, it is the only way to be listed in the National Green Pages®, GreenPages.org, and to advertise to our members.
Companies, however, need to ensure their Green Business Network membership remains active (by paying timely dues) to maintain Certification.
I'm a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), First Affirmative Financial Network (FAFN), Progressive Asset Management (PAM), US Social Investment Forum (US SIF), or a federally certified CDFI; do I still need to go through the Certification process?
Please contact us at [email protected].
Can I use my Certification towards Benefit Corporation status?
Yes! The Green America certification meets the third party standards for annual benefit reporting outlined in the legislation for each state. Learn more about Benefit Corporations.
What is the process for multi-level marketing (MLM) / direct sales companies to earn certification?
- Company calls our Member Services Representative at (202)872-5357 Monday-Thursday, 9-5 EST to join and pay the $250 non-refundable research fee, which also serves as their membership fees in the Green Business Network for the first year.
- Company uses the online certification process for the appropriate and its answers are reviewed and approved by certification program staff. Staff take extra care reviewing responses and asking additional, industry specific questions
- Staff members create a brief history of company, including when it adopted the MLM structure if it was not originally part of its plan, based on the company’s website or request for information
- Company supplies its agreement and training materials used for current distributors; this step is mandatory but Green America’s Director of Certification will sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement supplied by the company at this step
- Interview/ ask questions of at least six currently active associates or whatever the company calls its sales force. Company instructs all people available for questions to work with Green America staff in full.
- Company supplies the following information for six associates, or if the company has fewer, all.
- When joined company
- Phone number
- City and state where located
- Certification Director creates a report on the company with the above information and presents it to the Green America Board-chartered Certification Committee for final approval, more questions or rejection. After one year, companies using Direct Sales/ Multi- Level Marketing may apply for Gold Green Business Certification.
Green America Seal Use
How do I download the Seal to my website?
How and where can I display my Seal?
The Seal may be used:
- on your website
- on brochures and printed business collateral such as letterhead or business cards
- on product packaging or hangtags
- at retail locations, the Seal may be placed in the store window, on in-store signage, and displays
- on your banners or poster displays–such as a Green Festival® booth display
- in your business-specific advertisements
- in an e-mail newsletter
The Seal may NOT be used:
- directly on your products
- to denote safety or quality of a specific product
- as an endorsement of an individual as separate from their incorporated business (i.e. The business Seal is to be used by Bob’s Shoes, but not by Bob)
Are there ways to "lose" the Seal?
A review may be triggered by a change in the following: ownership, industry standards, or business’s operations (such as business model or supply chain). Serious and/or multiple complaints can instigate a review. The Director of Standards and Certification leads the review process. It includes recertification and may include interviews.
Companies need to ensure their Green Business Network membership remains active (by paying timely dues) to continue using the Seal. This level of due diligence is why ethical shoppers use our GreenPages.org online directory.
For all questions regarding certification, please call us at (202)872-5357 or email [email protected].
Please note that our current certification process rewards companies with Green Business Certification or Gold Green Business Certification. Other processes used before September 2014 are no longer available to businesses who have not begun certification.
How long will it take to get Certified?
The assessment is designed to take roughly 20-40 minutes. Businesses that have all their sustainability information at their fingertips and their website site fully updated with comprehensive and specific information on their social and environmental achievements can finish it in less than 20.
The assessment is not responsive to a phone or tablet. Please use a laptop or PC for the best experience.
Some companies will have to do additional work on their websites or ask suppliers some questions, so you do not have to complete the assessment in one sitting. You can submit it at any point and come back to it. Make sure to save your work as you go.
What do I have to do to earn Gold Green Business Certification?
Companies must have been in business for more than six months and been awarded Green Business Certification. Your next step is to contact us at [email protected] and request an assessment for the Gold Green Business Certification. You will receive a link to an assessment within seven days. Half of the assessment will pertain to industry specific best practices and half will be questions tailored to the business, its region, history and products. Expect 8-12 questions, no uploads and few URLs accepted as responses. Staff review the responses and may ask clarifying questions before bringing the application and responses to the Standards and Certification Committee for final review and approval. The Committee is chartered by Green America’s Board of Directors. The time between when the staff let the company know that their application has been sent to the Committee for final sign off and the company learns of the Committee’s decision is typically 10 days.
How does the Gold Level review process work?
The Standards Committee is composed of three to five Green America staff from our Business, Programs, Publications and Senior Administrative teams who have industry specific and larger green business experience.
The Committee upholds our cumulative expertise and leadership in green business from the past 25 years, and they look for evidence that a business balances social practices (workers, supply chains, community) with environmental practices and has moved beyond general sustainability practices into a deeper focus on their core work.
Factors that trigger recertification include:
- Complaints against the company from consumers or colleagues
- Changes in ownership
- Changes in business model or product offering
- Changes in the standards applicable to the industry under which the company was certified
Companies selected for recertification complete the current certification process in order to maintain their certification.
- The process they use is identical to new members.
- Their application and compliance with our posted standards are also treated similarly.
- If the company is found to be non-compliant with our posted standards or chooses not be recertified, they lose their Green Business Certification and all rights to use the Green America Seal and to claim any affiliation with Green America or the Green Business Network.
Questions? Please contact us at [email protected] or call us at (202)872-5307.
How has the Certification process changed over the last several years?
Prior to 2011, companies filled out a standard form to describe their social and environmental initiatives, and approval was limited to the highest-achieving green businesses. Each company was reviewed by the Standards and Certification Committee, appointed by the Green America Board of Directors.
In 2011, we rolled out GreenGain, an online certification system which offered companies a chance to earn credit for industry specific and general work by choosing questions to answer and earning Bronze, Silver or Gold Certification. We expanded the opportunity for Certification by offering the Bronze and Silver Levels to companies making progress in their development as green businesses. Gold Certification received review by the Standards Committee.
In mid-2014, we continued to innovate and serve our businesses with new, industry-specific assessments, with over 40 industries at launch. Depending on their progress in social and environmental aspects of business, companies may become Certified or Gold Certified. Every application receives staff attention and approval for the newly created Certified level and Committee approval for the Gold Certified level.
The Standards and Certification Committee conducts an independent review of businesses applying for the Gold Seal and convenes to discuss responses in the assessment. The Committee reviews the assessment, as well as publicly available information about the company, and requests supplementary information for a random set of questions in the assessment.
The Bronze and Silver levels in the process used in 2011 to mid 2014 were based on self-reporting. Companies using them have until Jan 2016 to use the current certification process with staff review in order to stay certified. After Jan 2016, we will discontinue the Bronze and Silver Seals.
Companies that earned Green Business Certification at the Bronze or Silver Level have until Jan 2016 to use the current certification process to earn the Green Business Certification, and have their application reviewed and approved by staff.