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 Aotearoa’s largest organic certifier providing certification for more than 830 producers, farmers and manufacturers across New Zealand and the Pacific. The BioGro logo is the mark of a genuine organic product, providing a 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 consider 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)

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 Rating Label

The Energy Rating Label gives consumers information on how much energy an appliance uses so they can compare the efficiency of similar appliances. All new refrigerators, freezers, heat pumps, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, televisions and computer monitors available for sale in New Zealand must display the Energy Rating Label, 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, the Energy Rating Label is run by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).


Environmental Choice

Environmental Choice New Zealand (ECNZ) is the country’s only Type I ecolabel – owned and endorsed by the New Zealand Government. Administered by the New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust, the ecolabel was established in 1992 to provide a credible and independent guide for businesses and consumers who want to purchase and use products that are better for the environment. The label gives assurance that a product or service has met internationally recognised, scientifically defensible standards and is environmentally preferable.

A member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), the ECNZ label signifies that licenced products and services meet criteria that take a life-cycle approach, from raw materials sourcing, through manufacture and usage, to end-of-life disposal or reuse. Licensed products and services are independently assessed by a third party and reassessed annually.


FairClimateFund

FairClimateFund wants to demonstrate that the carbon market can benefit the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in a fair and effective way. It provides an effective way for organisations, that have a large carbon footprint, to invest in carbon reduction projects with a high social impact.

Together with its partners, FairClimateFund finances and implements climate projects. It focuses on cleaner cooking and reforestation projects. These climate projects reduce carbon emissions and deforestation, and improve the living conditions for people in developing countries. Projects are Fairtrade certified and generate Gold Standard/Fairtrade Carbon Credits. FairClimateFund sells those carbon credits at a fair price to private individuals and companies in Western countries that want to offset the carbon emissions that they cannot (yet) reduce.


Fairtrade

Fairtrade serves as an alternative to conventional trade and is based on the partnership between producers and consumers with the goal of empowering workers, improving working conditions and reducing poverty through ethical trade practices. The Fairtrade certification system aims to assure consumers that their purchase meets special social, economic and environmental standards.

Fairtrade is the only global sustainability label that guarantees a minimum price that cover the costs of sustainable production. Through Fairtrade, farming communities also receive an extra premium to invest in social or environmental projects or to put towards improving their businesses.

Fairtrade International is a global multi-stakeholder system that 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 identify 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 380 compliance indicators which are applied to 44 core 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 an internationally-recognised rating system for the sustainable, efficient and productive design, construction and operation of buildings. It is also used for fitouts and entire community developments. It measures and independently verifies all types of buildings except for residential homes which are considered under our Homestar rating.

To rate the overall environmental impact Green Star considers a number of key criteria including energy, water, materials, indoor environment quality, transport, land use and ecology, management, emissions and innovation. A 4 Green Star rating is considered best practice, while 6 Green Star is world leading.

Green Star helps you save money, create a healthy place for people, minimise your environmental footprint and build a better future for all of Aotearoa.

Green Star is run by the New Zealand Green Building Council and ratings are verified by independent assessors.


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.


HomeFit

HomeFit is a straightforward way to check the quality of a home – that it’s warm, safe and dry.

A HomeFit home has been certified to be fit for living. This means the home includes features that make it warm, safe and dry, and more efficient to run. It’s an assessment of health, comfort, energy efficiency
and safety, and covers a range of criteria that are essential for a home to be liveable.

HomeFit also includes a higher standard called HomeFit PLUS, for a home that is even warmer, drier, more comfortable and energy efficient. HomeFit Plus homes have more insulation, more energy efficient lights, energy efficient heating and hot water.

If you get a home HomeFit certified, it will also meet the Healthy Homes Standards.

HomeFit is run by the New Zealand Green Building Council.


Homestar

Homestar is a comprehensive, independent national rating tool that measures the health, warmth and efficiency of New Zealand houses. A home is rated on a scale from 6 to 10.

A new home built only to Building Code would achieve 3-4 Homestar on the scale. A 6 Homestar rating or higher provides assurance that a house will be warmer, drier, healthier and cost less to run than a typical new house built to the building code. A 10 Homestar rating means you’ve built a world leading home.

At 6 Homestar you’ll notice a real difference in warmth, dryness, health and water efficiency. That’s because it’s certified as having better levels of insulation than Building Code requires, moisture-control measures, and water-efficiency measures such as dual flush toilets and low-flow showers.

Homestar is run by the New Zealand Green Building Council.


Ifoam logo

IFOAM

The IFOAM Standard is an internationally-applicable organic standard that can be used for certification. It serves as an international reference and inspiration for those developing their national or regional organic standard.

IFOAM-Organics International works as an umbrella organisation for groups involved in the organic sector. Apart from maintaining the IFOAM Standard, IFOAM-Organics International assesses the various different government and private organic standards operating in the world. The standards that have successfully passed the assessment are approved in the “IFOAM family of standards”, meaning that IFOAM-Organics International recognises it to be a trustworthy organic standard.


ISO 14000

ISO 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 14000.

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) is an international, scientific, not for profit dedicated to tackling overfishing and marine habitat destruction, by driving the fishing and seafood industry towards sustainability.

The organisation does this by producing and updating the MSC Fisheries Standard, an internationally recognised benchmark that allows fisheries to have their sustainability assessed on three criteria: stock status, habitat impact, and management. If a fishery is successful and becomes MSC certified, seafood they land can bear the MSC blue fish tick as long as all of the supply chain (processors, retailers etc) meets a second benchmark, the MSC Chain of Custody Standard.

The MSC blue fish tick makes it easy to choose seafood that’s sustainable, traceable, and wild. You can find it on a wide range of seafood in supermarkets, fish shops, and restaurants in more than 100 countries worldwide.

NABERSNZ

NABERSNZ is a tool used to measure and rate the energy performance of commercial office buildings. Ratings range from 0 to 6 stars with 3 stars considered good, while 5 and 6 stars are awarded for market leading, aspirational performance.

NABERSNZ helps you understand how well you’re managing energy in your building or tenancy. It can also help identify where energy performance can be improved and communicates at a glance your organisation’s commitment to energy management. Better performance means lower costs, increased value, and helps provide a better environment for people to work.

It’s an annual rating to ensure it accurately represents the building or workplace’s current performance, allowing building owners and tenants to keep track, measure the impact of any actions they take, and set targets for future years. It also encourages continuous monitoring and means that when your energy efficiency improves, you’ll be able to prove it.

NABERSNZ is licensed to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and administered by the New Zealand Green Building Council.


Qualmark logo

Qualmark

Qualmark is New Zealand tourism’s official quality assurance organisation, providing a trusted guide to iconic travel experiences. Owned and operated by Tourism New Zealand and backed by leading industry associations, it provides a star grading system for accommodation providers and a quality endorsement programme for visitor activities, service and transport providers, as an official mark of quality.

Qualmark looks to recognise tourism businesses that are delivering a holistically sustainable experience.  Following an evaluation, a Qualmark business will receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold award based on their performance under the Sustainable Tourism Business Award Criteria.

Accommodation businesses will also receive an official star rating that denotes the quality of the facilities on offer.


Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand

Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) is an industry initiative aimed at providing a ‘best practice’ model of environmentally responsible practices in the vineyard and winery. SWNZ is widely recognised as a world leading sustainability programme and was one of the first to be established in the international wine industry in 1997. Today, 96% of New Zealand’s producing vineyard area is SWNZ-certified.

SWNZ uses a framework of six sustainability focus areas that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals: waste, water, pest & disease, soil, climate change, and people. The programme is based on continuous improvement and adherence to a set of standards. An external audit structure is used to ensure winegrowers meet programme requirements and implement sustainable practices.


Toitū carbonreduce

The Toitū carbonzero and carbonreduce certification programmes give businesses the tools to measure, manage and reduce the carbon emissions of their organisation or product. Programme members have their emissions measurements and reduction plan independently audited and certified each year. On average, organisations certified in the Toitū carbon programmes reduce their footprint by 20 percent within three to five years.


Toitū carbonzero

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


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. Please contact Fiona at [email protected]