ChamberLink • april 2014
Focus on ...
Sustainable Business Practices
Sustainability Certified – Is it right for my business and what’s involved? By Gail Dunn Certifying your organization for sustainability – what does that mean? For many, the term “sustainability” is synonymous with “green,” but today’s sustainability is so much more. Often, sustainability is expressed through the idea of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. It is intended to represent a full accounting of business performance by looking at the social, environmental and economic implications of one’s business decisions. At the core of this notion is the underlying recognition that sustainability is a multidisciplinary pursuit that affects both the short- and long-term. Business decisions are not made in a vacuum. Every decision affects the economics of your business, the welfare of your employees and/or community, and the natural environment that provides the ecosystem services we all rely upon. While we traditionally measure our company’s economic health, all three attributes are necessary for the long-term sustainability of any enterprise. This brings us back to the question of whether certifying your company’s sustainability is a course you should pursue. Please note: you can self-evaluate your business from the standpoint of sustainability in ways that do not involve certification, and a variety of web resources can help you do that. What you gain from certification is: • independent, third party verification • the assurance of knowing that your practices and performances have been evaluated in a measurable and standardized format that allows for comparison with others in your industry • credentials • the ability to state your certification in one sentence rather than reciting a long list of accomplishments Sometimes there is accompanying visibility or recognition among your peers, and the ability to network more easily with other organizations that have similar credentials. Many evaluation protocols exist to choose from. For instance, GRI, the Global Reporting Initiative, has developed voluntary sustainability reporting guidelines. A company self-reports its performance against the GRI criteria, and can then have a third party do “assurance” on its report. ISO – the International Standards Organization – has sustainability certification standards for Environmental Management Systems and Occupational Health and Safety, and guidance (non-certification) standards for Quality Management and Social Responsibility. Additionally, there are standards for specific industry segments, such as LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Cost will also play a role in your certification decision, as it can run from $10,000-$30,000 (including staff costs to collect documentation and manage the process). It is important to do your homework when determining whether or not to certify and, ultimately, which certification to choose. Recently, Marstel-Day, LLC went through a certification process. After researching a wide array of options, we chose to work with NSF International (NSFI), the internationally-accredited standards organization that created a sustainability protocol for service providers. This protocol is focused on all three aspects of the triple bottom line. In January 2013, we were certified to P391, NSFI’s General Sustainability Protocol for Services and Service Providers. Using our experience as an example, here’s what we encountered when pursuing certification with NSFI. (Although different standards and protocols will have different assessment criteria, the process itself remains roughly the same.) Phase I: Do your homework Once you have identified the standard or protocol your company will pursue, acquire a copy from the provider. It will contain information on what factors will be evaluated. (For NSFI, go to www.techstreet.com/nsf.) Our evaluation categories ranged from the traditional environmental attributes such as annual energy usage; to social, economic, legal and labor attributes such as our procedures to handle confidential business information, our compensation policies, our investments in the community, and our workplace, health and safety practices. This initial review allows you to understand the overall scope of the sustainability assessment. Once you have completed the preliminary assessment, you can decide if you want to move forward. At this point, you might wish to engage a company that has already gone through the certification process to help you with the more involved work you will encounter in Phase II. Continued on page 11
Top: Marstel-Day partnered with the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge to assist in trail maintenance, biological work, and posting carsonite trail markers at the Port Royal Unit to celebrate Earth Day 2013 and is looking forward to returning to the unit again for Earth Day 2014. Above: Rain barrels help reduce runoff and can serve as a reservoir for watering gardens.
ChamberLink, the monthly newspaper of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.