At the grocery store, it’s easy to identify certified products, with seals such as organic, fair trade, Aliments du Québec, Ocean Wise, etc. Some may even influence your purchases! 

Certifications can also be found outside the agri-food sector, particularly in the area of sustainable development and social responsibility, and are available to companies and organizations that want to demonstrate and strengthen their commitment to social, environmental and economic best practices.  

Learn more about the benefits and different types of certifications, and what to consider before diving into this lengthy process.

The benefits of certification 

Greater credibility

Certifications symbolize your commitment to the well-being of society, the environment or your employees. They require a serious and very rigorous process in which independent, impartial organizations conduct the necessary verifications to ensure that each applicant fully meets the requirements.

Certification is a way to demonstrate that your values are reflected in your actions and that your organization wishes to have a positive impact on society, not simply make a profit. 

An effective introspective process 

The processes involved in obtaining a certification in sustainable development and social responsibility can be complex. They require analyzing your organization’s governance practices, as well as its operations and their impact. International certifications may even require changes to the organization’s legal status. 

This introspection allows you to take a closer look at your mission, your ideological foundations and the goals you want to project and ultimately achieve. This work benefits your organization’s operations and sustainability. 

Examples of certifications

Sustainable development and social responsibility certifications are available at regional, national and even international levels. 

Here are just a few.  

Social responsibility 

B Corp (short for “Beneficial Corporation”) is an internationally recognized certification. To date, more than 6,000 companies worldwide, only 300 of which are in Canada, have earned this distinction. The rigorous assessment is based on three criteria: social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability

Another program to consider is For Life, a sister certification to Fair for Life (fair trade) that is also linked to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards on social responsibility. 

Environment & sustainable development

Overseen by the Canadian Council of Sustainable Industries, the four-level ECORESPONSIBLE certification is designed to encourage organizations to make strategic decisions about sustainable development. 

On a more global scale, Climate Neutral is an international organization whose mission is to certify organizations committed to reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint. Similarly, the Carbon Care certification, offered in Quebec by Enviro-access, has the same objective and is available to local businesses, municipalities and public and para-public institutions. 

Employer branding 

Both the Quebec Employeur Remarquable certification and the annual Canada’s Top 100 Employers competition recognize the quality of your organization’s internal labour relations and its values of equity and inclusion. 

Also available in Quebec is the Concilivi seal, a testament to the importance your organization places on work–life balance.

How many certifications should you pursue? 

It’s better to focus on one niche than to try to obtain as many certifications as possible. This will ensure that you obtain a certification that reflects your organization’s core values while addressing a sustainable development issue that it deems important.

Things to consider before applying

This rigorous approach requires investing significant resources and implementing concrete initiatives. Gathering all the resources at your disposal will facilitate the application process.

Identifying your goals

If you are considering certification, it is likely to reflect the values that are important to your organization. Clearly identifying your reasons for seeking certification will help you target the right type of certification, one that feels authentic and aligns with your values. This will help guide your actions as well as the content of your application.

Assessing your resources 

Human Resources

Since this process can take several years, consider dedicating a member of your team or a consultant to the project. By centralizing your resources, you can reduce the number of steps in the process, each of which requires gathering a significant amount of information.  

Are you considering obtaining an official seal but lack the resources to coordinate the process?

Our team can help, from the initial idea to the final preparation of your application. Make an appointment today to discuss!

Financial Resources

A certification process involves administrative and sometimes legal costs. Coordinating the project will also require an investment in human resources. Be sure to pay close attention to the financial implications of certification when doing your research.

Involving your staff

A sustainable development certification process examines not only your organizational values, but also those of your employees. 

Corporate culture plays an important role in engaging your teams in your future certification. Involving them in the introspection and value analysis process will be beneficial in every way. 

Here are some examples of activities: 

  • Brainstorming sessions on organizational values;
  • One-on-one interviews; 
  • Strategic retreats. 

Certification, more than just a seal 

Even before embarking on this lengthy process, your organization should already have initiatives in place that reflect its commitment and its intention to have a positive impact on society. This will help you better assess the authenticity and likelihood of success of your application.

Think about how you can cultivate your organization’s social responsibility from within. Read our article on this topic for ideas and potential courses of action. 

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