Join Nicholas and Cam to take a quick dive into a few different Social Impact Certifications that different companies can apply for.
In this episode, we join Nicholas and Cam to go over and describe what various Social Impact Certifications mean, how they are achieved or gained and the costs associated with them.
With so many different labels and certifications sometimes we forget what each of them represents. We picked 12 different certifications such as B Corp, Better Cotton Initiative, Energy Star, USDA organic certified, and a bunch of others that you may or may not have heard of!
N Kristock: Hey, this is Nick.
C Cecchini: And this is Cam.
N Kristock: And this is your deep dive on social impact certifications. Let’s rock
N Kristock: Welcome, welcome. You’re listening to The Science of Social Impact, a podcast from Crate of Good. We are on a mission to educate and inspire you to make social impact part of your daily life. Thanks for joining. Let’s make an impact right now.
N Kristock: All right Cam, we’re going to deep dive here on social impact certification. So what we’re talking about today is those, those labels, those certifications. Some of them we’ve heard of, some of them we probably haven’t heard of, but these all answer the question of how do we know this product is actually a social impact product.
C Cecchini: Transparency focus then.
N Kristock: You got it. Yup. And we’re going to learn a little bit more about some of these certifications. We’ve picked 12 of what we think are the most widely recognized certifications and ratings in a variety of sectors from energy efficiency to organic farming. So we’re just going to kind of go through one by one a little bit here and do a little bit of a dive on exactly what they mean how you get them and maybe how much they cost, which would be interesting. So the first one that we’re gonna talk about is certified B Corp. I think this one might be one of the most well known ones. Certified B Corp measures companies that meet these rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. It’s a certified by B Lab, which has been a nonprofit since 2007. You have to recertify to be a certified B Corp every two years. And those certification costs is actually contingent on company revenues anywhere from $500 to $50,000.
C Cecchini: Thats fair, I like hearing that.
N Kristock: Absolutely. Yeah. So companies completed online impact assessment. The B lab staff reviews that assessment, verifies documents then does an onsite evaluation and they have to meet some legal requirements as well. Certification number two, the Better Cotton Initiative. This measures sustainable cotton production in three areas, environmental, social, and economic. And so I would assume that this is mostly going to be textiles, probably a lot of apparel. Right This is certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. A nonprofit that started in 2009. You have to recertify either annually or every three or five years, but there is an annual self-assessment. It sounds like. The cost of this small and medium farms actually pay no fee to be certified as the better cotton initiative. Large farms pay a third party verifier to come out and verify. So farmsbased on their size, must reach minimum requirements on decent work, crop protection, water and soil management, biodiversity conservation and fiber quality. Really interesting. Super. Next one is Cradle to Cradle. So this guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories. So cradle to cradle products. Innovation Institute is the certifying nonprofit here. You have to certify every two years and the cost is $5,000 to $50,000, depending on product complexity. This certification involves assessors, evaluating products on material health, material re-utilization, water stewardship, social fairness, and renewable energy. And carbon management.
C Cecchini: Is there a specific industry that that certification is geared towards?
N Kristock: This is a good question. So I think we’re just talking about physical products for sure here. And one thing that stuck out to me was water stewardship and material re-utilization. So we’re gonna have to dig deeper into that one. On a future episode we could probably even spend a whole deep dive on cradle to cradle innovation Institute and they will come back to that. But an interesting one on the less move into our next certification, we’ve got Energy Star. So you’ve definitely seen this on things before. If you haven’t, if you don’t recognize the name, just Google search energy star and you will definitely be like, Oh my gosh, I’ve seen that sticker a thousand times. So what this measures is it measures energy efficiency of more than 70 appliances and products. Select products are checked for additional metrics such as lighting quality. The US EPA actually certifies this one annual testing and recertification when regulations are updated by the government. There’s no federal fee. But companies do have to pay a third party certifier. So the EPA defines testing and performance standards in EPA recognized labs. Certification allows you to use this energy star Mark. So definitely have seen this one before on I think, refrigerators, conditioners,
C Cecchini: Air conditioners..
N Kristock: Refrigerators, big appliances like that. Obviously really like this one cause we are keeping a check on just, you know, big name, big box appliance makers, anyone who’s making those appliances. Cause if you’ve ever looked at, I remember I did a a science experiment in fifth grade and I tested household appliances in which one actually use the most power. So like we would turn everything off in the house and we would just run the hairdryer or the refrigerator and we would go to the meter outside and see how many, I think it was like kilowatts of energy this appliance was using. Do you have a guess at which household appliance actually use the most energy.
C Cecchini: Vacuum?
N Kristock: Hairdryer.
C Cecchini: That would have been my second guess.
N Kristock: Next one is Epeat. E. P. E. A. T. this measures,electronics for more than 40 environmental criteria from energy use to inclusion of recycled plastics. And yeah, the manufacturers registered products based on attainment of specific criteria by third party assessors, which verify conformance on an ongoing basis. This is certified about the green electronics council and nonprofits since 2006. Next one coming up. Another big one is one is fair trade. So we have definitely seen fair trade. We’ve heard people talk about it. This is a huge one. I know I have come across fair trade, a ton of products that we have looked at for Crate of Good. We’ve had a lot of conversations with founders about fair trade. So this measures certifies products that are sourced from producers that engage in sustainable practices, have safe working conditions and earn fair and stable prices. This is certified by fair trade USA, a nonprofit since 1999. There’s regular audits on this one. Brands that source products do pay a fee and producer fees vary by size. And scope. Certification involves a various assessments of compliance supply chain partners by product partners with they train audit bodies to conduct assessments. This one is a big one, at least from the third party seat. It’s nice to see this one on products.
C Cecchini: For sure. Yeah. I mean, so they gotta have a pretty wide operation because I know there’s quite a few American companies that source their product from South America and Cambodia, Overseas. And so and I know a lot of those companies are socially conscious. And so that’s, that’s just a long way to travel, you know, so hopefully they got people in those individual, you know, countries are far away countries too that are trained well enough to be able to produce the certification.
N Kristock: Absolutely. Yeah. So take a peak, you’ll, you’ll see that one, not a lot of products. So take a peek at that and dig deeper if it, if it interests you. The next one, the Forest Stewardship Council Certified. So this insurance products are from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. This is certified by the forest stewardship council a nonprofit since 1993 costs vary for this one, depending on the size of the company, the area of the forest and the total revenue of the company. So accredited auditors are reviewing, this is interesting. Forest management plans. They talk with stakeholders and they verify adherence to chain of custody and trademark standards to allow the use of the label forest management plans. Awesome. Of course, right. Someone makes a living on forest management and something that I never think about.
C Cecchini: I haven’t yet. Yeah.
N Kristock: But for all the talk about deforestation that’s out there it’s at least nice to know that someone is full time dedicated to, well yes, we’re cutting down these trees…
C Cecchini: Fighting for the forest.
N Kristock: Is there a way we can cut them down strategically that actually might be healthy for the trees and is doing the best good for society. I don’t really know. But in forest management we trust, I guess for this one.
C Cecchini: Happy Forest.
N Kristock: The forest stewardship council certified we’re going to go to LEED. This is leadership in energy and environmental design. So this writes the design, construction, operation and maintenance and significant retrofit of buildings and neighborhoods for environmental impact. So us green buildings council certifies this one. There’s a flat fee based on project size type. Members of LEED have a discounted rate, but the lead rating system consists of points allocated for each type of certification based on actions taken to improve outcomes for humans and the environment. So we are talking about buildings here, LEED leadership and energy and environmental design. L, E E. D. This would be a good one for builders. People in construction. I’m sure you know about this. We haven’t known if we’ve stumbled on like a social impact construction company yet, but I would assume when we do, and I know they’re out there, they’re going to know all about LEED. And if you, if you, there’s got one in mind, please email us at email@example.com. Let us know. That’s it. Coming up here, we’ve got the Marine Stewardship Council Certified. So we’re moving to the water. This measures the environmental sustainability of wild capture fisheries and insures, chain of custody standards and the Marine Stewardship Council has been a nonprofit since. ’97. This certification costs 15 grand to 120 grand. And what the certification involves is a fishery is scored against 28 performance indicators organized within principles of sustainable fish stocks, minimizing environmental impact and effective management.
N Kristock: So here’s another one that I might not even think about. Forest management was one. We’ve got sustainable fish. Farming management is a whole ‘nother, I’m sure if someone goes to school for that, gets trained for that. And the Marine Stewardship Council regulates that. That’s great. Really interesting. We’re going to go to our final one here and this is going to be a very popular one. It’s the USDA organic label. Go to the grocery store. You’re like, am I buying organic? What does that even mean? How do I know if it’s organic? Well, the USDA measures compliance with USDA organic production and handling standards and four main areas, crop, livestock, wild crops and handling or processing. So we’re talking about where are we growing it, what are we growing it from, what animals are involved in, whatever it is that we’re selling, and how is that product handled and processed.
N Kristock: I think for, for me, a lot of my questions are going to come in not just with the crops and the livestock, like what do we spray on them and all that stuff, but also how is it handled? How is it processed? And it’s so important that both parts of that are, I don’t know if cleans the right word, but we want to know as someone who eats the food that does USDA organic certified food is both taken from the right crops, crops that haven’t been hit with pesticides or whatever it may be as well as has been handled and processed appropriately and hasn’t been hit with tons of preservatives or, or whatever it may be. Steroids. Right? Yeah, you got it. So USDA accredited agents review applications and they schedule inspections for this one, processors, handlers and farms must complete an organic system plan for that one. So those are those are 10 of the 12 ones that we identify. We’ll post links to all of those in the show notes for this episode.
C Cecchini: Do you know if the USDA is also in charge of the free range or talking about the mobility or lack thereof of the animals, you know, chickens, pigs, what not.
N Kristock: Good question. I don’t, but I’m assuming that that that is also government regulated. And if it’s not USDA then it’s going to be, and it’s going to be another one, but we should check that one out for sure. So as I was I was getting ready to wrap up social impact certifications in my research before we made this. And, and I came upon interesting article that asked are certifications out of control, has the rising number of labels, ratings and certifications impacted the value of certification?
C Cecchini: Sure. It’s a definite, it’s a very valid point for sure.
N Kristock: Yup. There is potential for consumer confusion and resources diverted by companies seeking certification and like is it all worth the effort to people and the planet benefits to companies benefit? And obviously the answer is it depends, right? The right mix of certifications and ratings can establish credibility for sure. The best stamps of approval get managers new tools for improving operations and creating communities amongst certified companies that ensure these high quality products. And to find the most value in certifications that executives just have to pinpoint how their business will benefit. They have identify their target audience and wade through the sea of possible credentials to find the credentials that best fit their needs.
C Cecchini: The vast majority of those certifications cost, you know, a decent dollar, you know, so you do not want to undertake or pursue one of these certifications, you know, pay the money, do whatever kind of work on a infrastructure or care of the animals for example shell out that cash. But then you’ve got somebody down the street that’s trying to, you know, trying to get by with get by with a similar procedure when it comes to producing the, the crops or the goods but does not get the certification, therefore is not really held to the same standard as the the company down the road that is doing it by the book. So you need to make sure, you know, it’s good that they are, that there are regulatory bodies that oversee this stuff because, you know, if one company is saying this is, this is the book that we play by, you know, we need to make sure that that the other players involved are also following.
N Kristock: And from the skeptic side here, the argument really is that you know, there are so many certifications. At what point is it a pay to play type thing? What point is it? I just give you my 20 grand for the year and you give me the label and it doesn’t really matter what I do on the back end. And so I think as we see social impact continue to grow, we probably will see more certifications emerge. But I do think that there will be a plateau that we will hit a threshold of certifications. I think there’s going to be a shakeout of certifications and ratings and, and this label clutter will start to dissipate as more enterprises like pick just the most widely recognized options and stick with those options.
C Cecchini: Throw it all out there and see what sticks.
N Kristock: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll be interested to see where that does go. Because so much about today’s products and marketing, it’s all about niche, right? It’s like find a niche and market to the niche, target the niche and certifications are kind of all over the place. So I don’t know if they’re gonna all eventually land in this niche category or if they’ll stay wide in general and leave the consumers to do their due diligence from there. Right. So that is a social impact certifications. Again, we’re going to link to a couple of articles to give you the tools to go even deeper into it. Hopefully you have some general knowledge on it now and can speak about it to friends, family, coworkers, whoever. Cam, thank you very much for joining me.
C Cecchini: It was great chatting with you as always, Nicholas.
N Kristock: All right, well, we’re going to go and you guys go make the world a better place.
N Kristock: We’ll talk to you soon. Thanks so much for being with us on this episode of The Science of Social Impact, a podcast from Crate of Good. Let’s go out there and make the world a better and brighter place. I’ll see ya when I’m looking at you.