Smarter Business: Standards & Metrics

Green Seal

Key Facts

Founded in 1989 by Rena Shulsky David, Green Seal is a non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) that uses a science-based certification scheme to label environmentally friendly products and services. The first U.S. certification program of its kind, the Green Seal label is intended as a tool to help consumers and businesses make green purchasing choices and support environmentally responsible practices.

Green Seal certifies a wide variety of products and services (31 issued standards that cover over 230 product and service categories, with approximately 10 new categories released each year); everything from construction materials and equipment to paints, institutional cleaning products and hotels. Green Seal scrutinizes a product's entire life cycle with strict sustainability criteria, established by the Green Seal research team, and offers third-party verification for any product or service that fulfills these criteria. Green Seal develops and revises environmental standards following procedures in accordance with ISO 14020, ISO 14024, and ANSI. Green Seal procedures are also third-party verified and in accordance with EPA and Federal Trade Commission's environmental labeling programs.

Green Seal provides a preliminary application form in order to register a product or service to be certified. The certification process typically takes about six months, depending on the amount of necessary testing and data collection. If Green Seal does not currently have standards for the type of product or service you provide, it's possible to apply to create a new product category. Green Seal also has rigorous criteria for certifying an entire company.

Costs

The Green Seal certification fee is based on the type and scope of certification required. Licensees of certified products/services pay a set initial evaluation and license fee as well as an annual monitoring fee, based on the number of products/services certified, the size of the company, and other factors. Green Seal does not charge a percentage of sales of the products or services it certifies.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • The business benefits of becoming Green Seal-certified are numerous, including: improved work environments for employees, increased health and well-being of customers, access to a new niche market of consumers, increased consumer loyalty and improved community relations.
  • Green Seal is widely recognized, including by the U.S. Federal Government, many State governments, and other important entities.
  • Green Seal works closely with hotel and lodging companies to influence large-scale green purchasing decisions (the average hotel purchases more products in one week than 100 families typically do each year) as well as those of individual consumers.
  • A life-cycle study comparing typical ingredients and packaging of a conventional industrial cleaning product and a GS-37 certified product showed certified products had 88% less environmental impact.

Cons:

Some question Green Seal's accountability and transparency. Green Seal claims, "the standards are reviewed at least once every three years and are revised to ensure that criteria keep up with new research on environmental issues, changing technologies and consumer needs." However, there are some exceptions, such as requirements for compact fluorescent lamps, which haven't been updated since November 2009.

Resources

  • Learn more about the life cycle assessment and research behind Green Seal's standards.
  • To apply or request a certification quote see Green Seal's complete contact information.
  • Green Seal provides technical assistance help businesses implement environmentally preferable practices in their operations. From maintenance to mail, they help facilitate sustainability across the supply chain. Find out how to partner with Green Seal.

last revised 6/16/2011

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