Adopting standards and attaining certifications creates a set of governing principles to guide all of your sustainable business efforts, from selecting suppliers to establishing employee policies. Some companies refer to this set of guiding principles as a corporate social responsibility policy, a sustainability policy, or a corporate consciousness policy. Whatever the name, the theory's the same.
The overarching purpose of incorporating such standards into your sustainability plan is to achieve credibility in the eyes of your stakeholders. Doing so may not appear to mean a lot today, but it'll become more important as time rolls on and green business standards evolve to become the norm.
Green business standards, sometimes known as sustainability standards, are essentially yardsticks developed by objective third parties against which you can measure your business's sustainability. They primarily have two common goals:
Making sure a company is constantly striving to improve its business performance and acting in a way that sustains (and even rejuvenates) the environment and treats stakeholders with respect and dignity. In short, they encourage a business to embrace the triple-bottom-line business model, which considers people, planet, and profit.
Generating a common platform for understanding often overused terms such as corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and green business practices.
Benefits of Standards
Standards are helpful for uniting efforts, maintaining focus, guiding managers, and crafting future expectations. When you're developing a sustainability plan or a corporate social responsibility policy for your business, pointing stakeholders to a backbone of standards gives stability to your efforts internally and lends credibility externally.
Standards can also help your organization recognize various business challenges and possibilities. For example, ISO14004 identifies environmental risks and opportunities. It sets standards only for those elements that can be independently verified and strives to move a company forward with continuous improvement in environmental performance. If your company's efforts to meet this standard are effectively planned and executed, your overall environmental impact will be reduced over time.
Additionally, standards are grounded in organizations that provide wonderful networking opportunities. Adopting standards and collaborating with other like-kind organizations is a key component of developing a sound sustainability plan.
Choosing Standards to Follow
Of course, green business standards don't just involve setting forth a philosophy to follow. They also affect the day-to-day business operations of your company, as well as its overall corporate culture of sustainability (meaning the values, dictums, attitudes, and beliefs you and your employees espouse). Your company's image, as well as your operational policies and procedures, will be shaped by the standards that you choose to follow.
You may choose to adopt green business standards that:
Promote social responsibility regarding human and labor rights, organizational ethics, and your company's impact on biodiversity
Enforce sustainability reporting standards
Regulate occupational health and safety management systems
Encourage social accountability through the practice of collective bargaining, employee safety, and disciplinary practices
Develop and provide guidance on administering an Environmental Management System
Measure your company's impact on the community in which you operate
Show loyalty to suppliers who engage in Fair Trade practices and environmental innovation and offer quality products at an ethical price