Keeping up with frequently shifting trends and legislation has set out new challenges for businesses in this age. ESG credentials provide the gatekeepers of the corporate world with a real-time evaluation of a company’s sustainable and social impact. Hive Life has compiled a list of the fundamental globally accredited ESG certifications for businesses, professionals, and emerging SMEs to effectively evaluate and deliver their sustainability goals.
The ever-evolving dynamics of the business world, alongside increased global speculation and intervention, have put many under the microscope. As sustainable innovation becomes the pinnacle of reformation and growth in the hyper-competitive industry, Environment, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) adoption rates are rising significantly. Capital Group’s ESG Global Study 2022 reported a surge of ESG users in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region from 81% in 2021 to 88% this year, with these values firmly ingrained amongst institutional, and professional investors globally.
Businesses and corporate watchdogs, likewise, ensure companies deliver their social and environmental goals, deeming them crucial to evaluate and ensure compliance to sustainable practices and operations. Additionally, incorporating ESG values and practices into an organisation provides an edge for businesses, helping them survive and perform better in a hyper-competitive market.
With sustainability becoming the norm for modern-day businesses, green certifications affirm those values by proactively analysing and reporting a company’s adherence to ESG goals in their strategies and day-to-day operations. While there is no denying that such certifications allow businesses to pledge their allegiance to the cause, and showcase their honest efforts to make an impact in the world, being certified brings in additional benefits. Having globally standardised credentials helps to avoid greenwashing and enables businesses to appear more credible and attractive to investors and customers alike.
Although finding a green certification for specific ESG and sustainable areas is no easy task, read on for insights on qualifications for various business functions from buildings to companies, to professionals, as well as additional rating systems for a more general evaluation.
B Corp Certification
Under the ESG model, the social responsibility and environmental impact of a corporation are highly regarded, often demonstrating an organisation’s overall performance and transparency, in alliance with its sustainability goals and achievements.
A prominent name dedicated to this cause, the B Corp Certification, certified and appraised by nonprofit B Lab, is an internationally recognised certification that helps accredit a company’s compliance with the highest benchmark of social and environmental performance. Assessing beyond just surface value and outcomes, it evaluates the depth of a business’ operations, ensuring public transparency, legal commitment, and accountability are well-sustained.
Companies are successfully awarded this certificate upon completion of a rigorous assessment, scoping 5 primary areas of corporate governance, employee contentment, community drive, environment impact, and customer satisfaction. The thorough methodology requires businesses to undergo the free B Impact Assessment, and the Legal Requirement Tool to evaluate a company’s stakeholder integration into its governance structure, followed by a risk review, and other detailed assessments.
Furthermore, B Corp delivers a holistic and flexible approach for diverse business models and sizes to attain certification, as the process varies from different regions to company structures. For emerging startups and smaller companies committed to ESG, they provide a Pending B Corp status.
Green building design and operations have become growingly popular amongst investors and tenants, though still in its preliminary stages, the market continues to progress. Reinventing the way buildings are designed, constructed, and managed, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to assess the resource efficiency and cost-effectiveness of buildings globally.
The widely adopted system certifies buildings after an inspection of various aspects of its form and functions, from energy efficiency, and water conservation, to its waste management structure, lighting and site selection, and more. All projects go through a verification and evaluation process conducted by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), and are rewarded points later translated to the different levels of globally recognised LEED certification.
LEED-certified buildings have proven to effectively reduce costs, improve efficiency, and lower carbon emissions; a UC Berkeley study stated that “buildings complying to LEED standards contributed 50% fewer greenhouse gases than those conventionally constructed.”
Sustainable building design preserves precious natural resources, which minimises human and material impact on nature, improving overall social and environmental wellbeing. Moreover, for companies exploring opportunities to invest in ESG office spaces, LEED offers a great overview of a building’s sustainability impact, resilience, and ability to accommodate equitable communities.
As the global focus shifts towards workplace wellness, organisations in response have begun to prioritise their corporate environment, ensuring employee health and wellbeing. While LEED evaluates the greenness, design, and welfare of a building, the WELL Certification provides a more in-depth account of the wellbeing of the community residing within the premises.
The WELL Building Standard™ version 2 developed in 2018 further extends its support through its enhanced suite of personalised services, a robust digital platform, as well as an integrative project management tool.
Additionally, buildings certified with WELL set a high standard, fulfilling many requirements, by maintaining good air filtration and water quality, optimal natural lighting, improved health and fitness access, employee nourishment and comfort, alongside other wellness standards for occupants. The certification brings numerous benefits for companies integrating its system, from increased talent retention and revenue, to lowering turnover rates and healthcare costs, for all-rounded community growth.
Its scope spans over 108 features and 10 distinct wellness concepts, with around 4,000 projects in over 60 countries. It offers a comprehensive framework that enables companies to demonstrate their implementation of verified ESG protocols to support the mental health and safety of their employees at the workplace.
A benchmark for emerging ESG startups venturing into F&B, retail, and commercial sectors, the Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organisation, and one of the most acclaimed certifications in the sustainability scene. The programme emphasises the important work that goes behind supply chains such as protecting and promoting workers’ rights, which is often hidden from the customer’s watch.
The certification evaluates trade and supply chains, and provides the required accreditation for companies adhering responsibly and ensuring transparency of their production and distribution processes. Paving the path to building a robust and diverse agriculture space and practices, its Sustainable Agriculture Standard prioritises shared responsibility throughout supply chains globally, in accordance with sustainability, social, economic, and environmental factors.
Assessing products and farm produce such as coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, and other commodities, and after recent reform, the Rainforest Alliance can now certify retail and foodservice labels.
ESG Professional Organisations
Investments into sustainable development, eco-friendly solutions, and socially responsible companies have risen significantly, as the annual capital flow dedicated to combating climate change, environmental issues, and prompt sustainable investments, doubled from 2019 to 2020.
Witnessing the potential of this market, ESG investors and venture capital firms have a heightened interest in green investing, resulting in an increased demand for professionals in the field. For investment experts around the globe, the CFA Institute launched its internationally recognised Certificate in ESG Investing, a newly set precedent for investors and professionals in the field to analyse and integrate ESG factors in their day-to-day practices and operations.
The practical and viable educational programme adapts and reforms according to the rapid-changing ESG investment industry, accelerating opportunities, advancement, and purpose for interested parties while ensuring it remains on top of market trends.
The certification procedure and curriculum materials are approved by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and designed by leading practitioners to offer depth and breadth of the ESG investing scope, through both practical and theoretical approaches.
As a leading global qualification provider for ESG investment and management, the course strengthens one’s understanding of the marketplace, integrity toward ESG, as well as skillsets required to establish a career in the investment field.
In order for companies to adapt to the new sustainable approach of the world, pledging to uphold ESG strategies is a crucial way for businesses to perform and grow in the industry. A nonprofit organisation based in the United Kingdom, International Association for Sustainable Economy (IASE), promotes sustainability and ESG education and implementation globally for all professionals through its standardised certifications.
IASE has gained global traction and is well recognised internationally as a prominent international ESG certification body. It empowers individuals to actively take upon the role of ESG facilitators in the community to shape a sustainable future. As the first enterprise worldwide to certify professionals in ESG, the course provides an in-depth exploration of a sustainable and socially viable corporate culture, alongside empowerment through knowledge, essential skills, conduct, and ethics.
Its extensive project aims to reach a consensus between sustainable practitioners and corporations worldwide, without any regional differences. IASE sets a global standard of excellence for ESG professionals, through active leadership and advocacy within international and regional organisations, working towards building more responsible organisational structures, improved work-life quality for employee wellbeing, and increasing corporate social responsibility.
A green rating system communicates the efficiency, effectiveness, longevity, and resilience of a sustainable project and framework within an organisation. It helps define a company’s sustainability goals, measuring its existing impact, while pushing teams to explore innovative ways and endless possibilities to achieve their targets, boosting their competitive advantage.
It further incorporates desired values in its initiative, additionally aiding with reducing waste generated and energy costs, along with providing incentives to engage in long-term sustainability goals and opportunities.
EcoVadis, as the most trusted sustainable business rating provider globally, helps companies track and trace their key performance indicators. It aims to promote sustainability intelligence in all business decisions, improving economies and quality of life, while sustaining the planet and its natural resources. Designed in alliance with international sustainability standards, including the Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, and the ISO 26000, the provider successfully covers over 200 spend categories and extends its services to more than 160 countries.
The assessment process is gauged by international experts in their respective sectors, to provide an honest and thorough review, tailored to industry, country, and company size, with traceability and transparency at the core of its operations.