To decide whether a Green Business Certification Program is best suited to meeting your goals, it is helpful to review the different types of voluntary programs available to promote pollution prevention (P2) and/or resource conservation (RC), how they operate, what is valuable about them and their limitations. Selecting one type of program does not preclude implementing others. In fact, many coexist and some can serve as starting points to reach others.
Description: Hold workshops to promote P2 and RC. Target specific industry sectors (eg auto repair, printing).
Pro: Allows participants to see how to make changes first hand, especially if workshop is held at a business location. Allows give and take between trainer and trainee. Results in direct contact between trainers and business owners. Helps identify barriers to change.
Con: Since workshop is one-time event with no follow-up, don't know if attendees implement what was learned. Requires considerable work to recruit attendees. May need to be held during non-business hours (evenings or weekends)
Description: Train inspectors in P2 and RC so that they can share this information with businesses they inspect.
Pro: Good way to introduce businesses to P2 and RC since inspectors have relationships with business owners and are in a good position to share what they learn.
Con: Hard for inspectors to find time to participate. They may not be motivated to promote P2 and RC. Promotion requires marketing skills that inspectors may lack.
Description: Awarding organization establishes criteria, solicits applicants, selects awardees and holds award events. This may be a one-time or an annual event. Awards can be given by a governor, mayor, community group or business association. Award programs consist of one-time recognitions and have few "winners".
Examples: State Governor's Environmental Awards Program
Pro: Administratively easy to set up. Good way to introduce businesses to concept of being rewarded/recognized for going beyond compliance.
Con: Considerable amount of work to solicit applicants and organize event. May require significant effort to develop criteria and/or policies and procedures. Alternatively, criteria may not be consistent and awarding may be subjective. If program is on-going, after several years it may be difficult to find businesses interested in applying and program may lose momentum. Program does not provide for regular contact between businesses and regulatory agencies and provides very little continuous information to the general public. Award may inadvertently be given to businesses not in full compliance with environmental laws. This can confuse the public and call program validity into question.
Description: Agency (or many agencies working together as "partners") sets standards, builds capacity to evaluate applicants, solicits applicants, evaluates applicants, and recognizes successful applicants by awarding certificates. Applicants must periodically reapply for recertification. Certification may be revoked for failure to meet standards. Recognition is on-going and results in an unlimited number of "winners".
Examples: Bay Area Green Business Program and Green Zia
Pro: Program improves communication and cooperation between businesses and agencies and stresses education. Improves communication and cooperation among program partners. Importance of P2 and RC is communicated by many agencies. Program standards result in consistent selection process. Increases inspector knowledge of P2 and RC. Once program reaches critical mass of certified participants, program begins to "market itself" through peer pressure. As critical mass is achieved, certification results in competitive advantage and consumers favor certified businesses.
Con: Difficult, costly and time-consuming to establish, especially for multi-agency partnerships. May be easier to start with partial certificate program (recognition for partial achievement). Hard to educate public about the program until critical number of businesses are signed on. If program does not grow, it may lose credibility. Requires sustainable funding to be on-going.
Description: Agency rewards businesses and non-profit organizations that select and achieve P2 and/or RC goals. The program may or may not provide technical/regulatory assistance.
Examples: US EPA 33/50 and US EPA Waste Wise Program
Pro: This type of program can be used to motivate participants to help agency meet its goals (eg waste reduction)
Con: Challenge programs require more resources than awards programs. Program does not provide for regular contact with regulatory agencies, which can cause problematic situations if a business falls out of compliance after the award is granted.
Description: A program emerges from an environmental problem, an opportunity, or a specific concept. Generally transcends geographic boundaries so tends to be established at federal and multi-state level.
Examples: US EPA Common Sense Initiative, US EPA Design for the Environment, and Great Printers Project
Pro: Can generate highly innovative approaches to P2 and RC.
Con: Program is costly and may take several years to generate useful results.
Description: A project emerges from a situation specific to a site, company or facility.
Examples: Dow-Midland Project
Pro: Promotes innovative approaches to environmental problems. Indicates a strong agency commitment to the program, which can leverage strong commitment by participating business.
Con: Project-specific programs are very expensive and therefore few of them can be undertaken.