Standards, ratings & certification

Green / eco product certification, accreditation, labeling, standards and rating schemes

There exists a wide range of environmental certification schemes, standards, accreditation systems and tools in place around the world. Sometimes these help cut through greenwash and assist decision-makers including consumers, builders, and those involved in purchasing decisions.

However, be wary that some schemes are not fool-proof and some organisations make up their own rating labels to give the perception a product is endorsed by some recognised body.

Some of the best known certification schemes and rating tools for green products and services are briefly summarised on this page (with a focus on Australia).

Standards for green products and services, environmental management and energy management

In Australia, ISO standards are available for purchase from SAI Global. They also have a certification scheme.

Standards are available for products as well as standards for Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001), Energy Management Systems (ISO 50001) and so on which fall under Corporate Social Responsibility standard ISO 26000. Note that ISO 26000 cannot be certified (unlike other standards) as it is for guidance only.

A toolkit for ISO 14000 (Environmental Management Systems) is available for purchase.

International green product rating and labeling schemes

For an international summary of green certification and ecolabeling: http://www.sba.gov/content/green-certification-and-ecolabeling

Energy Efficiency standards and tools

The Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 came into effect on 1 October 2012. It’s designed to improve the energy efficiency of appliances and products in all sectors (residential, commercial and industrial). The main policy tools used to achieve reductions in energy use from these products are mandatory Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and Energy Rating Labels (ERLs) – the familiar star labels that have compared a range of electrical goods for twenty five years in Australia.

e3-logoMEPS and ERLs already apply to a large range of equipment, appliances and lighting products including refrigerators, clothes washers, televisions, compact fluorescent lamps and industrial motors.  Suppliers of all these products must register their products with one of the E3 Regulators before the products may lawfully be sold in either Australia or New Zealand. Accordingly, we have now have star ratings available for many electronic appliances under the Energy rating scheme under the Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) Program – overseen by the E3 Committee consisting of officials from the Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies as well as representatives of the New Zealand Government.

See also: http://www.energyrating.gov.au/commencement-of-gems-legislation/

For information about efforts to introduce accreditation for energy efficiency professionals visit the website of the Energy Efficiency Council.

Certification schemes and rating tools for buildings and fitout materials

Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has an assessment framework they use to determine which rating schemes are applicable to Green Star professionals. GBCA currently recognise the following schemes:

More info: http://www.gbca.org.au/green-star/materials-category/product-certification-project/2292.htm

Certification schemes and rating tools for organisations, buildings and urban planning projects

  • BASIX: Introduced by the NSW Government, BASIX, the Building Sustainability Index, ensures homes are designed to use less potable water and be responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions by setting energy and water reduction targets for house and units. https://www.basix.nsw.gov.au/information/index.jsp
  • EnviroDevelopment: This is the scheme of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA). It’s essentially a branding system designed to make it easier for purchasers to recognise and, thereby, select more environmentally sustainable developments and lifestyles. http://www.envirodevelopment.com.au
  • Green Star: Tools by the Green Building Council of Australia include certification of different types of buildings as designed (for new builds), fitouts, community and shortly, operational building performance (existing buildings). www.gbca.org.au
  • NABERS: The National Australian Building Energy Rating Scheme is managed through the New South Wales Government and is linked with national legislation that requires commercial buildings over a certain size to be rated for operational ecoefficiency prior to being sold or leased. http://www.nabers.gov.au/public/WebPages/Home.aspx
  • NatHERS: Administered by the Australian Government, NatHERS provides a framework that allows various computer software tools to rate the potential energy efficiency of Australian homes. NatHERS defines the minimum set of information that must be used by software tools.

Other green certification organisations working in Australia

Certification or ranking of green consumer goods and services

  • Green Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) is a certifier of environmentally preferable goods and services. GECA is not-for-profit, independent, and the only Australian member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN). It offers training in product life cycle assessment.

Green certification for business operations

  • Greenbiz check has reviewed over 60 ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ standards and assessment frameworks and combined and modified them to reflect the relevant commercial aspects of the office, retail, food and beverage and IT environment. Greenbiz check franchises take clients through the process of an annual online assessment and receive a comprehensive environmental report containing their score and practical, high-impact actions to reduce their footprint. Depending on how many eco-actions are implemented, clients reach Bronze (70% of total points score), Silver (80%) or Gold (90%) GreenBizCheck certification.

Standards and ecolabeling of green cleaning and personal products

As yet, very few cleaning and personal products have become certified by organisations like Green Environmental Choice Australia. Instead, many manufacturers rely on other ways to build credibility, for example using marketing tools.

This story provides an overview of standards, ecolabeling and attributes of green consumer products (with a focus on cleaning products) visit Fresh Green Clean. It also touches on greenwashing.

The Green Directory has a list of green cleaning retailers and manufacturers here.

Organic food certification

The Biological Farmers of Australia have two certification streams including Australian Certified Organic (auditing, certifying, and licensing company of organic and biodynamic operators) and the Organic Growers of Australia Small Producers (similar but designed for smaller primary producers who mainly sell at the farm gate or at local/farmers markets).

Other information resources about green rating tools

The Municipal Association of Victoria has put together this 4 page summary of the rating tools available in Victoria which are relevant to sustainable buildings. Check out the fact sheets in their Sustainable Buildings webpage launched 15 August 2012. http://www.mav.asn.au/policy-services/planning-building/sustainable-buildings/Pages/default.aspx