Who Certifies Green Products and Services?
Standards and certification programs are useful when you are purchasing
environmentally preferable products (EPP) and writing specifications for
bid documents. Standards establish human health, environmental
and social criteria by which products and services can be evaluated and certified.
Standards organizations typically develop certification programs
(also known as eco-labels) that identify products and services that
have met the standards. This can make preparing bid documents far easier
since the requirements of the standard can be
incorporated in the document in just a few sentences.
To learn more about how standards and certifications apply to specific product categories, see the
How Can I Use Standards and Certifications?
You can use standards and certifications to:
- Identify manufacturers and service providers that are proven environmental
- Incorporate environmental criteria into bid documents by reference
to an existing standard (check procurement guidelines.)
What are the Characteristics of a
Reliable Standards and Certifications Program?
Reliable standards and certification programs are designed to:
- Incorporate product life cycle stages from raw materials to end-of-life.
- Require on-site testing and verification by an independent laboratory
or certifying group.
- Often incorporate performance and safety standards that the product
must meet or exceed.
Reliable standards and certification organizations:
- Are independent of ties to product manufacturers.
- Use a broad-based stakeholder consensus process (typically involving
manufacturers, users, government, non governmental organizations, and academia)
or other rigorous process to develop standards.
- Provide information on their organizational structure, funding
and standards development process.
- Periodically review and update standards to stay current with new technology
and emerging information about human health, environmental, and
social impacts of products.
- Encourage the design of products and services with positive environmental
and human health attributes.
Note: Be aware that some manufacturers, service providers, and
trade associations create “green” labels for their product or service
lines that do not meet these tests of independence and credibility.
Check with neutral and reliable resources to determine if a certification
system is credible.
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Standards and Certification Organizations
U.S. & Canada
Learn about standards and certification programs frequently referenced
in bid documents in North America.
- Design for the Environment
Design for the Environment (DFE) is an EPA program that forms voluntary
partnerships with selected industry sectors to:
- Evaluate the human health and environmental impacts of an industry's
manufacturing processes and products.
- Conduct assessments of safer alternatives.
- Reduce the use and release of toxic chemicals through innovation
of cleaner technologies that use safer chemicals.
- Implement pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and other resource
- Design products that can be reused, refurbished, remanufactured,
Through this process, the DFE program creates a model for industry
to follow. DFE generally works through industry leaders, and trade
and technical associations, plus often involves public interest
groups, universities, research institutions, and other government
agencies at the federal, state, and local level.
- Energy Star
Energy Efficient Products
Energy Star is a voluntary labeling program designed to identify
and promote energy-efficient products. The program is funded by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department
of Energy. Energy Star certifies products in over 50 categories,
including commercial appliances, food service equipment, heating
and cooling systems, electronics, office equipment, and lighting.
These products deliver the same or better performance as comparable
models while using less energy and saving money.
Through its partnerships with more than 9,000 private and public
sector organizations, Energy Star provides technical information
and tools that agencies can use to choose energy-efficient equipment.
Energy Star is also used by EPA for an energy performance rating
system for top-performing buildings.
- Ecologo Program
The Environmental Choice Program (ECP) has developed 150 environmental
standards in a wide range of product categories and awards the EcoLogo
- Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool
The Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool (EPEAT)
is a rating system to help purchasers in the public and private
sectors evaluate, compare, and select desktop computers, notebook
computers, and monitors based on their environmental attributes.
EPEAT provides a set of voluntary environmental performance criteria,
which are specified in an Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers (IEEE) standard for environmental assessment of computer
Computer products receive Bronze, Silver or Gold EPEAT rating
depending on how many of the 23 required criteria and 28 optional
criteria are met. EPEAT is operated by the
Green Electronics Council,
an independent non-profit organization.
- Forest Stewardship Council
Forestry and Paper Products
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a global standard-setting
organization focused on forest management. FSC has developed ten
principles and 57 criteria that address legal issues, indigenous
rights, labor rights, and environmental impacts surrounding forest
management. FSC accredits independent third-party certifiers to
assess forest operations worldwide against the standards. Certifiers
also evaluate operations that use or sell FSC certified materials.
FSC has three product labels:
- "FSC pure label": 100 percent FSC certified content
- "FSC mixed label": at least 10 percent FSC certified and 60 percent
- "FSC recycled label": 100 percent post-consumer content.
Green-e is an independent certification and verification program
for renewable energy and for companies that use renewable energy.
Companies selling renewable energy can receive Green-e certification
by meeting the standards and undergoing periodic reviews to ensure
compliance. Businesses using certified renewable energy to manufacture
their products can be identified by the Green-e logo. Green-e is
currently developing the first national standard for the expanding
carbon offset industry.
- GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
Low Emissions Products
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) establishes low emissions
standards for products such as building materials, interior furnishings,
furniture, cleaning and maintenance products, electronic equipment,
and personal care products. GREENGUARD certifies products that have
been tested by an approved testing lab to ensure that their chemical
and particle emissions meet acceptable indoor air quality guidelines
and standards. Since children are more vulnerable to environmental
toxins than adults, GEI also provides a certification program for
low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finishes
used in daycare and K-12 environments. The organization was acquired
by UL Environment in 2011.
- Green Seal
Green Seal establishes standards for both institutional and household
products in over 30 product categories. Green Seal certifies products
ranging from alternative fuel vehicles to recycled content latex
paint. Green Seal regularly publishes its Choose Green Reports,
which evaluate the environmental impacts of products and recommend
products that meet its standards.
- Social Accountability International
Sustainable Labor Practices
Social Accountability International (SAI) develops standards for
humane working conditions, primarily through the voluntary SA8000
program. Based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards
and U.N. Human Rights Conventions, SA8000 is used to audit companies
and contractors in multiple countries and industries. SAI helps
manage verification of facility-level compliance through independent
auditing and public reporting.
Environmental Protection Agency Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG)
Recycled Content Products
Federal agencies, state agencies, and political subdivisions of
a state using appropriated federal funds for procurement are required
to purchase recycled content products. EPA ‘s Comprehensive Procurement
Guidelines recommend recycled content levels for a wide variety
of products and practices for buying these products. EPA publishes
recycled content level recommendations for construction, landscaping,
office supplies, paper, transportation, automotive, and miscellaneous
- US Green Building Council
Green Building Products
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) operates the Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating
System. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system
for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Building
performance in five categories - sustainable site development, water
savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental
quality - is evaluated before awarding LEED credits. Building projects
receive Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification based on the number
of credits earned.
The LEED system addresses all building types including new construction,
major remodels, commercial interiors, homes, neighborhoods, and
specific applications such as retail, campuses, schools, healthcare
facilities, laboratories and lodging.
Organic Standards Certification
As of October 2002, all agricultural products labeled "organic"
must be in compliance with the National Organic Standards, which:
- Prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically
modified organisms in organic production.
- Reflect National Organic Standards Board recommendations concerning
allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances.
- Prohibit antibiotics in organic meat and poultry.
- Require 100% organic feed for organic livestock.
The word "organic" on U. S. products means that the ingredients
and production methods have been verified by an accredited certification
agency as meeting or exceeding USDA standards for organic production.
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The following standards and certifications are in use outside of the U.S. and Canada.
- Blue Angel
The Blue Angel is the first and oldest eco-label in the world.
Blue Angel certifies products in 80 categories against its environmental
standards, with about 40 additional standards under development.
Eco-Mark is Japan's leading standards and certifications organization.
- European Union Eco-Label
The European Union (EU) established the European Eco-label in 1992
for the member states of the European Union, plus Norway, Iceland,
and Liechtenstein. The European Eco-label awards its label in 28
product groups. The environmental criteria are defined to allow
up to 30 percent of the products on the market to meet the standard.
- Global Ecolabelling Network
The Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN) is a non-profit association
of third-party, environmental performance labeling organizations.
GEN was founded in 1994 to improve, promote, and develop the eco-labeling
of products and services. GEN facilitates communication and harmonization
among the world's eco-labeling programs.
- Nordic Swan
Nordic Swan develops environmental standards endorsed by Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. The five countries work together
through the Nordic Ecolabelling Board. The Swan eco-label is awarded
to a wide range of products and is widely accepted in Europe.
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Make sure that an environmentally preferable product or service performs
to industry standards.
The following organizations develop technical and performance standards
that can be used to verify that an environmentally preferable product
or service performs at accepted levels.
- American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) coordinates the
development and use of voluntary consensus standards in the United
States and represents U.S. stakeholders in standardization forums
around the globe. ANSI also accredits programs that assess conformance
to standards, including the ISO 9000 quality management systems and
ISO 14000 environmental management systems.
- ASTM International
ASTM International develops standards for the performance of materials,
products, systems, and services. ASTM standards can be used to verify
that environmentally preferable products meet technical and performance
- International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a network
of national standards institutes in 157 countries, develops technical
standards for use across the entire manufacturing cycle. ISO stakeholders
develop consensus on specifications and criteria in classification
of materials, manufacture and supply of products, testing and analysis,
terminology, and provision of services. Over 3,000 technical groups
participate in developing and updating ISO standards.
To promote compatibility among global eco-labeling systems, ISO established
an environmental labeling subcommittee within the ISO/TC 207 technical
committee. International Standard 14020 establishes guiding principles
for the development and use of environmental labels to be accurate,
verifiable, and transparent.
- Master Painters Institute
The Master Painters Institute establishes quality standards and quality
assurance in the architectural painting and coating application industries.
- Scientific Certification Systems
Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) provides independent verification
of auditing and testing services, as well as of environmental claims.
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The Competitive Advantage: EcoPurchasing, Sandra Cannon, Battelle Press, 2006.
Commission, Environmental Marketing.
Global Ecolabelling Network, "What is Ecolabelling"
For Buy Green technical assistance, contact:
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