Certification FAQ

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  • Certification Overview & Eligibility
  • GreenGain Certification Process
  • Standards & Ratings System
  • Seal Usage
  • GreenGain & Member Benefits
  • Green Economy Allies

  • Certification Overview & Eligibility

    What is the Green America Green Business Certification?

    People are looking for authentic seals that stand for businesses deeply committed to both environmental and social justice. The Green America 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. Our Green Business Certification is also offered in three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold, so we can recognize and reward businesses as they make greater progress. Accompanied with our rigorous review at the Gold level, the Green America Green Business Certification offers consumers assurance that businesses are on a credible path to deeper green.

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    How does your Certification different from other Certifications?

    Simply put, we offer more than a Certification. GreenGain, the new online sustainability tool that is used for the Certification assessment, is also a project management tool. It provides businesses with over 800+ industry-specific recommendations, key steps, and resources to go green. It also functions as a roadmap to help businesses strategically improve their performance at their own pace.

    Additionally, Green America is home to both the Green Business Network and a consumer association of 170,000 households. So the Seal gives you direct access to the most committed green consumers in the nation.

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    How is the GreenGain Certification process different from the old screening application?

    The GreenGain Certification process is different in several ways. To earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold Certification, you must complete the points-based assessment in GreenGain, the online sustainability tool. Unlike our old screening application, GreenGain is designed for you to work at your own pace and manage your sustainability performance in real time.

    In your online GreenGain account, you can easily ASSESS your sustainability performance, PLAN next steps, and PRIORITIZE new sustainability initiatives strategically.

    Finally, the new Certification process emphasizes transparency. GreenGain generates a public Sustainability Report linked to your Seal, which allows you to REPORT your progress to your stakeholders. View a sample report here:


     For those who have already joined us as Members, click here to start GreenGain today. For those who are not yet part of the Green Business Network, please join as a Member and you will be sent a personalized link to start the Certification process in GreenGain.

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    How is the GreenGain Certification process similar to the old screening application?

    The company review in the old screening process remains intact in the new Certification process at the Gold level. The Standards Committee conducts an independent review of the business and will set up an interview 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 are based solely on self-reporting.

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    When is the right time to apply?

    If your business is operational, has a website and green practices in place, apply to earn Bronze or Silver Certification! Join today »

    To be considered for Gold level Certification, your business must be fully operational for at least six months. Join today »

    Two exceptions for Gold:

    1. 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.
    2. If your business has a franchise model, your business must have at least one established franchisee and must provide additional documentation.

    If you wonder whether you qualify, read on for more insight or give us a call at (202)872-5329.

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    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)872-5329.

    1. The most common factor is the age of your business. You can apply to earn Bronze or Silver Certification 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.
    2. 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, 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,
      • Toxic chemicals such as pesticides, “poison plastics” like PVC and vinyl, chlorine, PFOA (non-stick coatings), or industrial chemicals.

    Finally, the Green Business Network is currently utilizing the Precautionary Principle with regards to nanotechnology and gmos. Cosmetic and body-care companies that include nano-particles in their ingredients should contact our Standards Department at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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    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, if you were previously certified under the old process, you must log into your GreenGain account to access and download your new Gold Seal. 

    Companies, however, need to ensure their Green Business Network membership remains active (by paying timely dues) to continue using the Seal and GreenGain. Renew your membership »

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    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?

    It is not mandatory for Green Business Network members to become certified. However if you were previously certified under the old process, you must log into your GreenGain account to access and download your new Gold Seal. All businesses that were previously approved under the old process are automatically grandfathered into the new process at the Gold level. Additionally, GreenGain generates a Public Sustainability Report linked to your Seal, which allows you to REPORT your progress to your stakeholders. It is a great way to share your achievements and commitment with customers.

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    Can I use my Certification towards Benefit Corporation status?

    The Green America certification does meet the third party standards for annual benefit reporting outlined in the legislation for each state. Learn more about Benefit Corporations

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    GreenGain Certification Process

    How long will the Assessment take?

    The assessment is designed to take roughly 90 minutes. Businesses that have all their sustainability information at their fingertips can finish in under an hour, while businesses that need time to research typically take 90 minutes to complete the assessment.

    Let us know about your green commitments and the assessment will determine whether you have earned Bronze, Silver, or qualify for the Gold level Certification review. 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. If you have changed to a different seal level, the system updates your results in real time after you save your progress.

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    What do I have to do to reach each Certification level?

    To reach each Certification level, you must complete the Required Actions and earn enough points assigned to that Seal level. At the Gold level, a business must also complete a review with Green America’s Standards Committee before obtaining the Gold Level Seal.

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    How do I earn points in GreenGain?

    You earn points every time you complete a question in the assessment or an initiative in the Earn More Points section on your Dashboard. Each initiative is assigned a points value, which you can view by clicking on the initiative in the Earn More Points section. Scroll down below the page fold on your Dashboard to view. You can also click on each category header in My Progress to access the initiative recommendations for the respective category.

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    What are Required Actions?

    Required Actions are initiatives you must complete to earn each Seal level. They are industry specific actions reflecting Green America’s Required Standards for businesses as they move deeper in their work on social and environmental responsibility. Green America looks for businesses that balance social practices (workers, supply chains, community) with environmental as they advance through the Certification levels. Businesses must also move beyond general sustainability practices towards a deeper focus on their core work. The Required Actions are displayed as a separate category in both the Assessment and on your Dashboard (at the top of the page).

    Review our general standards by industry:

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    How does the Gold Level review process work?

    Once your business completes all of the Required Actions for each level and has earned enough points to reach Gold, Green America’s Standards Committee will review your overall performance in GreenGain to determine the scope of your commitment to social and environmental responsibility. The Standards Committee will set up an interview to discuss responses in the assessment. In preparation for the interview, they will review the assessment as well as publicly available information about your company and request supplementary information for a random set of questions in the assessment.

    The Standards 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.

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    How long does the Gold Level review process take?

    Once the Standards Committee has reviewed your GreenGain assessment, they will notify you via email with follow-up questions and to set up an interview. After the review, the Standards Committee will determine whether to activate your Gold Seal. Since we pride ourselves on being thorough, this process may take up to 8 weeks (a little longer for franchises and more complex business models). In the end, each business is provided detailed feedback about how it can improve. The Committee will offer ideas, resources, and contacts to help you continue your work.

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    What information will appear in my Public Sustainability Report? Will any of my info be kept confidential?

    Our Certification operates in the spirit of transparency. Information submitted in GreenGain appears in your Public Sustainability Report through a coded Seal image, which can be downloaded onto your company’s website. Consumers will have the ability to click on the seal image to obtain information about your sustainability achievements,  including a list of completed initiatives in GreenGain. The Report also lists expiration date of your Seal, and the year in which the Seal was earned.

    Note: Green America understands the sensitivity around disclosure of certain business data. Therefore, the following responses in GreenGain are withheld from the Public Sustainability Report and used solely for internal review purposes: required fields in the My Profile section, any written content posted in Assessment questions, and any information provided during the Gold level review process. Information in these areas is only seen by Standards Committee staff, all of whom have signed nondisclosure agreements.

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    Standards & Ratings System

    How were the GreenGain initiatives developed?

    Green America has been helping businesses go green since 1982. We used our extensive screening experience and our ongoing standards development process to develop 800+ initiatives customized by industry. Our work is supported by consultations with sustainable business stewards in each industry, scientific studies, and standards and ratings experts in a variety of specialties. When designing the initiatives, we focused on specific actions that can be operationalized within a company to yield a concrete social and environmental benefit. Clearly, there are many more possible initiatives. We view our standards development process as an opportunity for mutual reflection and learning, so we want to hear ideas from you. We encourage you to offer feedback and suggestions through our Public Comment Periods.

    Review Green America’s Standards Development Process and Public Comments by industry »

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    How are the points assigned and calculated?

    Green America developed a ratings system that measures the impact of each initiative in four main areas: social benefit, environmental benefit, effort level, and investment. Each initiative is weighted in these four areas using a scale from one to five, with five representing the highest level of impact. For example, the points are then calculated using an algorithm to establish the total points assigned to the initiative. The initiatives with the highest number of total points require more effort and money to obtain a higher social and environmental benefit.

    To help you prioritize your planning strategically, GreenGain lists initiatives in order of return on investment, showing those with the highest social and environmental benefit for the least investment in time and money first. We want to help your business transition to sustainable practices without breaking the bank!

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    Seal Use

    How do I download the Seal to my website?

    We make it as easy for you to display your sustainability achievements to your customers. The web version of the Seal is linked to your Public Sustainability Report, listing your completed initiatives from the GreenGain Certification assessment. With this interactive feature, customers can click on the Seal to view your Public Sustainability Report and submit comments about your achievements. To display the Seal on your website, click on the Download your Seal button on your Dashboard and simply copy and paste the HTML code snippet to your website.

    To obtain an electronic file of the Seal for print applications, contact greengain@greenamerica.org.

    Review our Seal Use Policy (PDF) »

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    How and where can I display my Seal?

    The Seal may be used:

    • on your Web site using the HTML code provided in your GreenGain account.
    • 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.)

    Remember, Green America and its 170,000 individual members act as a watchdog for the integrity of our Seal. If you misuse the GreenGain Certification process simply to obtain our Seal (by, for example, arbitrarily clicking on enough initiatives to achieve Bronze or Silver without truthfully completing the actual initiatives in your company), you permanently forfeit your rights to carry our Seal.

    Learn more about the Seal Use Policy »

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    Are there ways to "lose" the Seal?

    Yes, several factors result in a review of a Member business’s practices.

    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). It is quite rare, but serious and/or multiple complaints can instigate a review. The Director of Standards and Certification leads the review process. It may include a full re-assessment or interviews.

    In 2012, we are implementing an annual review process – we will be reviewing the performance of a small percentage of companies every year. All Gold level members will be reviewed once every three years. This will help every business stay committed and improve upon their sustainability practices. If we find evidence of a company abusing the GreenGain tool, e.g. arbitrarily indicating completion of initiatives that the company has not truthfully implemented for the sake of reaching the next Certification level, the company will immediately forfeit its membership and usage rights of our Seal.

    Lastly, companies need to ensure their Green Business Network membership remains active (by paying timely dues) to continue using the Seal and GreenGain. This level of due diligence is why our GreenPages.org online directory receives millions of clicks a year from ethical shoppers.

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    Member Benefits

    I want to be a Green Festival® exhibitor. How does this relate to the Seal?

    Green Festival exhibitors are expected to go through the GreenGain Certification process to identify their commitment to adherence to Green America’s environmental sustainability and social justice standards. All businesses wishing to exhibit must be Green America certified.

    However, if your business has not yet received the Seal, you may pass an initial review process for your first show but must achieve Bronze level before exhibiting at a second show. All first-time exhibitors will receive a one-year free membership with the Green Business Network.

    Those who earn the Seal and keep their membership active with Green America will be invited back to participate, sponsor, and exhibit in all future Festivals. Those who do not earn the Seal will be welcomed as a member of the Green Business Network but can only exhibit at future Festivals once they successfully participate in the GreenGain Certification process and maintain a minimum of Bronze level Certification.

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    I want to advertise on GreenPages.org. How does this relate to the Seal?

    Showcase listings at GreenPages.org are reserved for Green Business Network members that have achieved a minimum of Bronze level Certification. All Green Business Network members that have achieved a Certification level appear first in the search rankings in order of Certification levels. A company’s Certification level is displayed with both Premium and Showcase listings. Only companies that have achieved a Certification level can purchase additional web advertising.

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    Green Economy Allies

    I'm a nonprofit / community-based organization. Do I qualify for the Green America Business Certification?

    The Green Business Network is home to many cutting-edge environmental and social justice organizations throughout the country.

    If you are a non-profit with revenue stream from product or service sales, you should join as a Member and complete the GreenGain assessment. Examples like this in our membership include Ten Thousand Villages and Partners for Just Trade.

    If you are a non-profit organization, standards-setting entity, or municipality, we encourage you to join as a Green Economy Ally. This category of membership is designed to highlight Green America’s peers and the local and national leaders in this movement. Examples in our membership include Climate Ride, GoodWeave, and City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

    Green Economy Allies enjoy lots of the same exciting member benefits – including a special Seal, advertising opportunities, and a listing in the National Green Pages®. You will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire.

    Wondering which category is right for you? Learn more about Green Economy Allies.

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    Still have questions?

    Support

    Do you need help?

    For general Certification questions or questions about GreenGain or Seal use, email greengain@greenamerica.org.

    For questions about the Green America Standards and public comments, email standards@greenamerica.org

    You can also call our Director of Standards and Certification at 202-378-5329.