Sustainability is such a hot topic; many companies (especially procurement professionals within those companies) are investing to improve their position by achieving accreditations to protect our future planet and people. There are three critical interconnected areas of focus when considering sustainability, Ethics, the Environment and Economics (the 4C methodology of 3E) is an overview of four certifying bodies which can help focus on and accomplish sustainability goals. Please note these certifications are not mutually exclusive, they can work together to embed a robust system of action throughout a business and ensure it is leading the way in a highly competitive marketplace.
1. B Corp
Arguably one of the most well-known sustainability certifications, which focuses on the entire business operation and encourages shifting cultural norms within and around the company, such as governance, workers, environment, community, and customers covering different policies and practices. Currently, there are over 5,000 Certified B Corporations across more than 154 industries in over 79 countries.
Using the previous 12 months’ data, companies must answer 200 questions of which at least 80 answers need to be accepted by B Lab’s independent Standards Team to qualify certification.
One-off submission fee of £250 (ex VAT), certification fees are paid annually and are based on a company’s total revenue; they can be from £1,000 to £50,000 (companies with £1bn+ in revenue should contact the organisation directly for alternative pricing).
Recognised globally and encourages social responsibility, attracting like-minded employees. Any size company can apply, free and online tool to measure a company’s current performance and provides support material to improve. No such thing as failing, but continue making developments to the assessment.
Only for-profit businesses are eligible for the B Corp Certification, with at least a year of operations. Most businesses do not meet the minimum criteria initially and some measures are vague.
It takes about 18 months to be certified.
EvoVadis provides a scorecard in four sustainability themes: environmental, labour and human rights, ethics, and sustainable procurement, in addition to a dedicated scorecard on carbon. This allows companies to compare scores against peers in the same industry and there is guidance on how to improve on focus areas. Currently, 90,000+ business, in 200+ industries, across 160+ countries have partnered with EcoVadis.
Four-step process which includes completing a customised questionnaire after registering and submitting all necessary documents/certifications; analysts then distil all information provided into a scorecard, providing the end score.
Dependent on the size and country, the company is in and which programme you want to invest it (four to choose from, for example a basic package allows a business to benchmark performance against competitors while the corporate package manages group performance across all entities).
Live news portal from public sources and EcoVardis analysts are accessible to keep up-to-date with sustainability alerts. Offers supplier management support, industry benchmarking opportunities and e-learning courses to improve performance in target areas available from their academy, where companies can also collaborate with other customers.
An annual assessment must be completed, and evidence needs to be submitted to achieve a high score.
It takes about12 months to be certified.
3. ISO Standards (14001, 50001, 14040, 14067, 26000)
ISO Standards are internationally recognised frameworks that outline all requirements to enhance environmental performance, fulfilment of compliance obligations and achievement of environment objectives across environmental management systems, energy, life cycle assessment, carbon footprint and social responsibility.
An audit to evaluate the company’s existing performance in the chosen ISO Standard and identify opportunities to pull an action plan together, a full report will then be provided outlining any gaps in the current procedures and actions that need to be completed. Then, a management system based on the recommendations from the auditor will need to be developed to outline how the company will meet the standard required for the certification. Lastly, a second stage audit will assess if all the objectives have been met and either grant the certification or if necessary, guide through the required next steps.
Between a few thousand and a few hundred thousand, depending on the size of the company.
Recognised globally, helps to reduce waste and minimise the carbon footprint of a company and lowers energy, tax, and insurance bills. Standards are developed through a multi-stakeholder process responding to requests from industries or consumer groups.
Can be a very administrative process and costly to implement. Audited every year to ensure continual improvements are made.
Dependent on number of employees c. 3-20 months.
4. Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi)
SBTs enable companies to define greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets; the process follows a “top-down” approach as it focuses on the quantity of emissions that need to be reduced to meet the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement (limiting global warming to well-below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees). This enables companies to tackle global warming whilst enhancing competitiveness in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Five-stage process requires business to; commit through registering, develop a science-based target (comprehensive guidance is offered at this stage), submit the target for validation, communicate by announcing the approved target to stakeholders and lastly disclose the company’s emissions annually and monitor progress on reaching the target.
Dependent on validation service offering from $1,000 to $14,500.
Recognised globally, aligns with regulation as the government continues to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, whilst driving down costs and increases competitiveness within the market.
Requires a high level of granularity which may be difficult to measure, particularly for Scope 3 emissions and only focuses on emissions.
C.12 months to be certified.
The views expressed in this blog represent the honest opinion of the author and 4C Associates.
If you would like to learn more about making your business more sustainable and the accreditations in this area, please contact Edward Court (firstname.lastname@example.org).