Today, it seems as if every company is acting in a way that supports sustainability. But how serious are companies when it comes to truly taking this direction? This often cannot be determined at first glance. Thanks to standards and certifications, sustainability measures taken can be proven.
Sustainability is becoming more and more important
Sustainability has become a strategic challenge decisive for all companies and industries throughout Europe. Companies which neglect to focus on environmental protection, social responsibility or other sustainability aspects will have increasingly difficulty remaining on the market. The sole focus on business optimisation and growth will hardly be enough in future to successfully stand out from the competition.
Those who would like to sell services or products have a decisive advantage when these contribute to sustainability development. This can be clearly seen in a Visable survey (German) from 2021 amongst buyers. According to this survey, around one-fourth of German buyers only work with sustainability-focused sellers, and more than half (51%) prefer sustainable suppliers. In contrast, only 8 per cent of those buyers questioned reveal that the sustainability efforts of a seller are not important.
Having sustainability certified: these are the standards
But it is not only clear at first glance if a producer or service provider are serious about their sustainability efforts. Greenwashing, a PR method for giving the impression of a company’s eco-friendliness and responsible action-taking, even though this company is actually making little effort to support sustainability, is widespread. Certificates and standards help companies demonstrate to customers, employees and other interested groups that the companies have obligated themselves to sustainability, with the use of references.
For instance, there is a host of “green” ISO standards found in the areas of environmental management, greenhouse gas emissions, climate protection and alignment, financing and corporate communication.
The ISO 26000 standard, above all, was launched at the end of 2010 and focuses on societal responsibility, sustainability and sustainability management within companies. This standard defines actions which show to be responsible towards society. However, it is not a certified standard – instead, it provides advice on how those responsible in companies can align their company, their supply chains and their sales markets to guidelines.
Certificates and labels proving sustainability
However, there are institutions which review companies based on these standards and provide a sustainability label when such efforts have been proven. For example, the Deutsche Institut für Qualitätsstandards und -prüfung e. V. (DIQP; German). This non-profit institute awards the sustainability label as well as other quality labels to give buyers better guidance.
On top of this are various ISO standards which enable companies to prove their sustainability efforts in special areas. Such as the verification of the carbon footprint of an entire company, of individual projects or of single products or services.
Product seals or labels also signalise the characteristics of a certain product or offer. These could be the fairtrade label, the EU organic logo or the Blue Angel.
Sustainability communication: how buyers can be made aware of ISO and other standards
The successes of a company’s sustainability efforts only have a positive effect on the business results when potential customers are made aware of them. Sustainability communication can take place across various channels, whereby the company’s own website and, if relevant, own online shop are two of the most important. Here is where the respective certificates should be prominently showcased. The packaging design for smaller products is also suitable for advertising ISO standards and labels.
On B2B platforms like wlw, sellers can be filtered according to certificates – enabling sustainability-focused buyers to quickly and easily find the right seller for them. In turn, they also have the option to advertise their own sustainability efforts on such platforms.