Like the ratings and rankers, there are a number of different certifications that organisations can receive or secure, and they’re at three levels. I’ll go into the first two levels, but there’s the organisational-level certification that people can get. That could be something like getting ISO 14001 certification, which is all about implementing environmental management systems, or ISO 26000, which is all about implementing sustainable development within an organisation.
You could bring things down to a project level. Within the building industry, for example, the U.S. Green Building Council, the USGBC, they have a certification that’s very well-known, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, and buildings can secure different levels of that certification depending on what they have in place as far as products and processes and design and different things. Then, you can also look at WELL and Fitwel. These are healthy buildings, going a little bit deeper into the green-building industry, and there are just a number. If you go one level down, then we look at the product side, and there are a number of different certifications that you can get with that as well: If you’re looking at wood and paper products, there’s the Forest Stewardship Council; you’ve got the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
You’ve got people looking at design specifically — there’s something called Cradle to Cradle Certification, and this is looking at product circularity. A lot of times, we’re designing things, assuming that we’re going to throw them away at the end of the life of that product, and with Cradle to Cradle and the idea of circularity, we’re thinking more about, how do we design with the end in mind? What happens with this product once we’re done using it? Is it being designed and manufactured with materials that are able to be recycled or reused and to stay at a high value? That’s the idea behind Cradle to Cradle. You’ve got a number of other product certifications — the International Living Future Institute has the Living Product Challenge, the Living Building Challenge.
There are so many certifications out there at the organisational level, at the product level. I won’t even get into the individual level because it’s almost overwhelming, and one of the things that can help boards and help organisations is to have someone like Protiviti that can come in, do a materiality assessment, have conversations, interviews, discussions, to see which one of these certifications is worth the organisation’s time. Not everything is going to work for every type of organisation, not everything will work for every kind of product, and it’s important in this landscape of so many certifications, of so many avenues to demonstrate how sustainable a product can be. It behooves an organisation to have some guidance with that.
What I’ve mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg, and just the environmental side. When we’re talking about ESG, we’re also talking about the social side and the governance side. If we’re looking at social, there’re a number of DE&I — diversity, equity and inclusion — certifications that you can get. There’s one called EDGE that’s all about gender equity. There’re different certifications that you have that can demonstrate how well you’re implementing diversity and inclusion programmes.
On the governance side, there’re ethical ratings, ethical certifications that are very important for organisations. You can look at things like top companies, and there’re certain standards and certifications that go with the best place to work or the most ethical organisations, similar to a lot of the rankers that you’ll see out there.
But there are particular frameworks within these certifications that can be very helpful to an organisation that helps a board and helps a business be able to promote itself and have some sort of foundation behind the claims that it will make about being sustainable, or being ethical, or being socially progressive, or being even inclusive, that these certifications can help to give that foundation some sort of grit and some sort of credence put in place.