Sustainability Certifications

A plethora of sustainability certifications is now available for organisations to show independent verification of their commitment to sustainability. Third party verifications can be useful for businesses and consumers. Here’s a list of certifications that are most relevant to your business.


AsureQuality

AsureQuality regulates food safety and biosecurity services for the food and primary production sectors. A commercial company owned by the New Zealand Government, AsureQuality certifies that food is meeting the “safety, ethics and environmental sustainability” requirements held by global markets.

AsureQuality undertakes more than 100 different types of audits across the livestock, horticulture, dairy, forestry, arable, seeds, apiculture, food processing and retain sectors. It’s located throughout Australia, China and Singapore and works with more than 40 different countries to protect the food supply in New Zealand and around the world.


B Corporation

B Corporations are companies that are voluntarily meeting higher standards of “social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency” in an effort to be more sustainable. B Corps are certified by the non-profit B Lab (based in the US). It’s a global certification, with more than 950 B Corporations in 32 countries.

To become a B Corporation, a company must complete the B Impact Assessment and earn a minimum score.


BioGro

BioGro is a New Zealand certifier for organic produce and products, providing certification for more than 750 producers, farmers and manufacturers across New Zealand and the Pacific. The BioGro logo is the mark of a genuine organic product, which provides guarantee that the product is made without animal testing, genetic modification or the routine use of synthetic pesticides. The BioGro Standards also recognise a requirement to reduce environmental impact, and take into account animal welfare, caring for workers and truthful advertising. BioGro assists producers to meet international organic regulation in key export markets including Europe, Canada, the US and parts of Asia.

BioGro provides four main certification services:

  • Organic Certification
  • Inputs for Organic Certification
  • Non-GMO Certification
  • Natural Certification (accredited by NATRUE)

CarboNZero & CEMARS

The carboNZeroCertTM and CEMARS® (Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) certification programmes ensure accuracy and consistency of businesses’ emissions measurement, reduction and neutrality claims. CEMARS and carboNZero certification guides businesses through a process of measuring all emissions and putting in place plans to manage and reduce their footprint. This measurement and management is independently audited and certified each year.

carboNZero certified businesses and products take the additional step of offsetting all remaining emissions through the purchase of verified carbon credits. Both programmes are certified to international standards, including ISO 14064-1 for organisations and PAS 2050 for products.


CoGo

CoGo is a business accreditation programme that awards sustainable and ethical businesses with badges for the good work they are doing. Aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the badges reflect sustainable practices in business operations and products that respect people, animals and the planet, such as offering vegan products or paying their workers a living wage. CoGo shares this good work with consumers on the CoGo app, making it easy for consumers to find and support values-aligned businesses. By joining the programme, businesses feature on the CoGo app, where they can promote their ethical and environmental credentials, connect with customers and other businesses, and work to create a better world.

The programme is currently available for sustainable businesses in most industries, throughout New Zealand and the UK.


Corporate Responsibility Index

The Corporate Responsibility Index (CR Index) is a business management and benchmarking tool that enables companies to measure, monitor, and report their impacts on society and the environment. Participating companies use the CR Index to benchmark their own corporate responsibility performance from year to year, as well as their performance against industry peers.

The index measures responsible business practice through four main areas: strategy; strategy implementation and integration; management practice in regard to community, environment, marketplace and workplace issues; and performance in a range of social and environmental impact areas.

37 companies have been participating in the CR Index since it started in 2002, including Unilever, Marks & Spencer, Heineken, and Lloyds Banking Group. In Australia and New Zealand the CR Index is managed by the Net Balance Foundation.


Demeter

Demeter is an international system that certifies food or products that have been produced using biodynamic practices. In New Zealand, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association certifies producers.

Biodynamic practices are organic farming methods that use a number of different techniques that are tailored to individual farms, and focus on the land, crops and livestock as one unit. Inspectors visit the farmers or processors and evaluate their practices to determine whether they are biodynamic.

Some of the standards for becoming a Demeter certified farm include: not using most synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or animal remedies; using biodynamic preparation; and using biodynamic compost and liquid brew. Demeter operates in 50 different countries.


Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index is a global index that ranks the largest global companies based on their sustainable business practices. As well as sustainability, this index looks at the financial returns of participating companies. The companies are ranked based on economic, environmental and social factors and these rankings act as a benchmark for sustainable companies and a platform for businesses looking to increase corporate sustainability.

To be included or to remain in the index, companies have to continually intensify their sustainability initiatives. The index’s ‘best-in-class’ approach means that it only includes companies that fulfill certain sustainability criteria better than the majority of their peers.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index family includes the world index as well as indices for North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Korea, Emerging Markets and Australia. The world index was launched in 1999 as the first global sustainability benchmark.


Eco Warranty

Eco Warranty is an environmental management system standard that is operated by Quality Environmental Consulting Ltd, based in New Zealand. Internationally recognised, it is designed to increase sustainability and lower costs by decreasing waste and inefficiency.

To gain Eco Warranty, a company must follow certain guidelines which include: commitment to care of the environment, continuous improvement, environmental review, training, environmental hazard assessment and environmental planning.

Eco Warranty focuses on the environmental and economic benefits of mitigating degradation. Eco Warranty can also help and train companies that are working towards numerous certifications including, ISO 9001, 14001 and 4801.


Energy Mark

Energy-MarkTM certification is an energy management system programme jointly offered by Enviro-Mark Solutions and Energy Management Association of New Zealand (EMANZ). Member organisations assess energy use and implement a system to track, manage, and improve energy efficiency. The Energy-Mark programme is a three-step journey to energy efficiency with a focus on continuous improvement as companies work from Bronze to Gold level. Energy-Mark Gold, the final step, is equivalent to ISO 50001.


Energy Rating

Energy Rating gives consumers information on how much energy an appliance uses so they can compare the efficiency of different products. All new whiteware, heat pumps, televisions and computer monitors available for sale in New Zealand must display their Energy Rating, which shows how much energy a product uses per year. The rating system is based on stars: the more stars a product has, the more efficient is it, up to a maximum of six stars.

The stars can be used to compare products that are the same size and have the same function, however the energy consumption figure shows a per annum energy use that can also be used to compare products of a different sizes.

In New Zealand Energy Rating is run by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) Energywise programme.


Energy Star

Energy Star was created by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992 and has since become an international standard of product efficiency. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) in New Zealand has implemented Energy Star for products including home appliances, office equipment and electronics.

The Energy Star rating is given to the top 25% most energy efficient products on the market. Companies can become Energy Star partners at no cost, which means they follow the standards of Energy Star and can use the Energy Star mark on their products.


Environmental Choice

Environmental Choice is an independent environmental label that is owned by the New Zealand Government. The label is given to environmentally-friendly products, and the specifications for certification vary by product. The goals of the label include working towards compliance with international standards, providing a credible national environmental label, establishing mutual recognition agreements with similar certifications, and providing a market incentive for producers and sellers of environmentally friendly products.

To use the Environmental Choice label manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and service providers must apply for a licence. An independent third party verifies all information and monitors licence holders to ensure continued compliance with standards. To make it easy for consumers to find products that are focused on sustainability, all of the Environmental Choice-labelled products are listed on their website. The products are separated into categories that span from laundry detergents to recycled rubber products.


Enviro-Mark

Enviro-Mark® certification is an environmental management system programme, through which member organisations assess environmental impacts and identify improvement opportunities. The Enviro-Mark programme is a five-step journey to improved environmental performance with a focus on continuous improvement as companies work from Bronze to Diamond level. At Enviro-Mark Gold level, member companies are recognised as having an ongoing measurable environmental improvement programme. Enviro-Mark Diamond, the final step, is equivalent to ISO 14001.


Fairtrade

Fairtrade focuses on empowering workers, improving working conditions, mitigating poverty, and connecting consumers to producers and traders. Fairtrade is the only certification system that includes minimum prices that cover the costs of sustainable production, and through its standards encourages members to use sustainable farming and production practices. Through Fairtrade farming communities also receive an extra premium to invest in social or environmental projects or to put towards improving their businesses. The FAIRTRADE Mark on products verifies that products have been audited against international standards for Fairtrade.
Fairtrade International is a global multi-stakeholder system working together to improve the conditions for farmers and workers. It is represented in New Zealand by Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.


Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. It runs a global forest certification system with two key components: Forest Management and Chain of Custody certification. This system allows consumers to identify, purchase and use timber and forest products produced from well-managed forests.

FSC certification creates an incentive for forest owners and managers to follow best social and environmental practices. This incentive brings direct benefits to the forest, such as protecting biodiversity, indigenous peoples’ rights, workers’ rights and preservation of areas of significant environmental or cultural importance. FSC International has branches around the world.


FTSE4Good Index

The FTSE4Good Index measures the performance of companies based on globally recognised corporate responsibility standards. Investors can use the Index to indentify global companies that are using responsible business practices, and other businesses and groups can use the Index as a benchmark for their own corporate sustainability.

For a company to be included in the FTSE4Good Index, it has to meet certain criteria that include environmental, social and human considerations. The environmental criteria are based on how environmentally degrading the company is and companies are put in categories of low, medium and high environmental impact. The higher the environmental impacts the stricter the criteria are. The high impact companies have to have higher levels of transparency, monitoring and reporting with the sustainable business practices. Companies that are not meeting the standards in any of these areas are removed from the Index.


Green Globe

The Green Globe standard is a global tourism certification system. It applies to travel and tourism businesses and their supply chain partners. The standard is based on 337 compliance indicators which are applied to 41 individual sustainability criteria.

The indicators and criteria for Green Globe certification cover the following areas: sustainable management, social/ economic, cultural heritage and environment, with the most weight given to environment. Environmental criteria include: purchasing environmentally friendly materials, regulating water and energy use, being conscious of waste management, and reducing emissions.

Green Globe certification allows businesses to be part of a network of sustainable tourism industries.


Green Star

Green Star is a voluntary, New Zealand environmental rating system that measures the environmental attributes of a building. It is run by the NZ Green Building Council.

The environmental impact of a building is based on factors such as: site selection, design, construction, and maintenance. Green Star acknowledges that different building types have different sustainability attributes, for instance, offices, industrial buildings and educational buildings are all measured on their own scales. Buildings are given merits for sustainability construction and design.

There are three levels of Green Star certification; 4 stars – ‘Best Practice’, 5 stars – ‘New Zealand Excellence’, and 6 stars – ‘World Leadership’.

A Design Tool rates the design of a building before construction begins. Built tool accreditation is given after the construction of the building, to certify that sustainability plans made during the design period were followed. Throughout the certification process Green Star also awards points for innovative approaches to sustainability, which can help a building gain a higher level of certification.


Green Tick

Green Tick is a global, sustainability standard for consumer products. It is an independent environmental certification separate from any industry or government guidance. This certification can be given to any product or service anywhere in the world that is operating under the Green Tick definition of sustainability: “operating without permanently damaging the environment”.

There are six different sustainability options: sustainable, sustainable + carbon neutral, sustainable + natural, sustainable + organic, sustainable + GE free, and sustainable + free trader. Green Tick has been a Government-approved sustainability certifier in New Zealand and Australia since 2007.


IFOAM

The IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement) Standard is an internationally-applicable organic standard that can be used for certification. IFOAM works as an umbrella organisation for groups involved in the organic sector, assessing hundreds of different international and national organic standards operating in the world.

IFOAM looks at organic standards through the world and decides which ones to endorse. If a standard is in its “family of standards” it means IFOAM recognises this to be a trustworthy organic standard


ISO 14000

SO 14000 is a set of environmental management standards. It provides practical tools for organisations looking to identify and control their environmental impacts and improve environmental performance. ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 focus on environmental management systems. The other standards in the family focus on specific environmental aspects such as life cycle analysis, communication and auditing. Any organisation that wishes to implement environmental management standards is able to apply for ISO 140000.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards. It was founded in 1947 and since then has published more than 19,500 international standards covering different aspects of technology and business.


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification by the US Green Building Council. LEED is a certification system where businesses get credits for using green building practices. There are four levels of certification, depending on the number of credits achieved: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Buildings can get credits in 11 different categories, such as materials and resources, water efficiency, sustainable site and indoor environmental quality. There are also five different rating systems applicable to different building types.


Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification that applies to building projects in 12 countries including New Zealand. It encompasses seven areas (known as petals): Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. The Challenge identifies four different types of building projects, called Typologies, which include: renovation, infrastructure and landscape, building, and neighbourhood.

There are three different certifications that can be given out by the Living Building challenge: Living Status (full certification), Petal Certification (given to buildings that are making strides in reaching Living Status), and Net Zero Energy Building Certification (given to buildings that fulfill imperatives in some of the petals).


Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies sustainable fishing practices and traceability. The international certification applies to wild caught fish only and cannot be considered for farmed fish. It ensures that MSC-labelled seafood comes from, and can be traced back to, a sustainable fishery.

In order to display an MSC logo, a fishery must have achieved both sustainability certifications and traceability certifications. The sustainability certification standards have three main principles: (1) the fishery is operating in a manner that allows for sustainable fish stocks; (2) the fishery is minimising its environmental impact; and (3) the fishery adheres to all local, national and international laws and has a management strategy in place to maintain sustainability.

The traceability certification is part of the chain of custody standards for the MSC certified seafood. Once a fishery has been MSC certified, every organisation in the supply chain must be audited.


NABERS (National Australian Built Environmental Rating System)

NABERS (National Australian Built Environmental Rating System) measures the environmental impacts of buildings, homes and tenancies. It looks at energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality. Buildings are rated using a star rating system: one star means there is considerable room for sustainability improvement and 6 stars means the building is leading in sustainable building performance.

The NABERS rating system is used to inform the owner about the building’s sustainability and environmental impacts. NABERS assesses the past 12 months of a building’s operation, and performance is compared to a benchmark of similar buildings. In 2012 the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) began adopting NABERS for use with New Zealand commercial buildings and in 2013 NABERS was officially launched in New Zealand.


Qualmark Sustainable Tourism Business Award

Qualmark is an accreditation system that recognises only those businesses that are delivering a quality sustainable experience, who have safe principles and practices and showcase true New Zealand hospitality.

The overarching assessment framework that Qualmark Tourism Business Advisors use in their evaluations is the Sustainable Tourism Business criteria where they look at four key areas of the business:  Economic; Social and People; Environment and Culture; and Health, Safety and Wellness.

Following an assessment by one of our Qualmark Tourism Business Advisors, businesses will be awarded a Gold, Silver, or Bronze award based on their performance under the Sustainable Tourism Business Criteria.


Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand

Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand is an industry initiative aimed at increasing the use of environmentally responsible practices. It gives grape growers and winemakers a network to keep updated on the latest sustainable technology and innovations and uses an external audit structure to make sure winegrowers follow sustainable practices.

It identifies seven pillars as the most important factors in sustainable wine production: biodiversity, soil + water + air, energy, chemicals, by-products, people, and business practices. Winegrowers in this association must also comply with labour relations, animal welfare and food security laws. The long term goal of the association is for New Zealand to have 100% of its grape growers and winemakers operating under approved independently audited sustainability programmes.


USDA Organic

USDA Organic is an organic food certification run by the US Department of Agriculture that regulates organic crops and livestock. Some of the standards for USDA organic certification include: no use of synthetic fertilisers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones or antibiotics. Any product with the USDA organic seal consists of at least 95% organic material. The specific regulations vary depending on the product that is being certified but all production of any crop or livestock must protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity and use only approved substances.


Feedback

Did we miss any? Please let us know if you think we should add any certifications to this guide.

What’s your experience with these certifications? We’d love to hear your opinion about the cost, time involved and value of specific certifications so other members can learn from your experience. You can add your opinion to the Comments section at the bottom of this page.