General

How should a business determine which certification program is right for them?

Businesses should review all the certification standards recognized by the Green Business Certification Program to determine which one is most applicable to their specific sector and operations.  Many of the standards are tailored specifically to certain business sectors, and businesses are encouraged to use the one most relevant to its sector per the chart below. 

B Lab Green America Green Restaurant Association Green Seal Montgomery County DEP
Architecture & Design Services X X X
Cleaning Services X X X
Communications X X X
Energy Services X X X
Financial Services & Banking X X X
Food & Beverage X X
Information Technology X X X
Landscaping X X X
Hotels & Lodging X X X
Nonprofit Organizations X X
Office X X
Printing X X
Restaurants & Catering X X X X
Retail X X X
Sustainable Home & Building Products X X X
Travel Services X X X
Wellness, Body & Personal Care X X X

 

Are all the certification programs comparable?

The third party certification programs differ and cannot easily be compared to one another.  Some extend beyond the environmental arena into issues such as social justice, governance and community involvement.  Some are more rigorous than others; however, they are all credible, robust and establish a high standard for sustainable business practices.  

 

Can a business lose its membership in the Green Business Certification program?

Yes, if a business fails to re-submit its application for re-certification at the end of a certification period, or if, for whatever reason, it no longer meets the spirit of the program. 

 

Does it make sense for a business to pursue multiple certifications?

Yes, because the certification standards differ in terms of scope and emphasis it very often makes sense to achieve certification through more than one program.  In fact, there are a number of businesses in the Green Business Directory that have more than one certification.

 

What is the cost of certification?

Costs vary among the third party certification programs, ranging from $100 to $25,000.  Contact the certification program you are pursuing.

 

How often is re-certification required?

Re-certification varies by standard, ranging from annually to every three years:

  • B Lab:  10% of Certified B Corporations are randomly selected each year for an on-site review. Recertification occurs every two years. 
  • Green America: Recertification is every three years based on a 10% random selection.  Businesses selected for recertification receive either an onsite visit or are asked to respond to a set of questions over the phone.
  • Green Restaurant Association: Maintaining certification requires an annual assessment, and a restaurant must demonstrate continuous improvement.
  • Green Seal:
    • GS-42 and GS-49 - Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services and Residential Cleaning Services -- Onsite compliance monitoring is conducted every year, and a company must demonstrate continuous improvement.
    • GS-33 – Hotels and Lodging Properties -- Onsite compliance monitoring is conducted every year, and a hotel/lodge must demonstrate continuous improvement.
    • GS-55 – Restaurants and Food Services -- Onsite compliance monitoring is conducted every 18 months, and a restaurant must demonstrate continuous improvement.
  • Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (Office and Landscaping): Onsite re-certification is every three years, and businesses must demonstrate continuous improvement. 

 

How is the Green Business Certification Program different from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification?

LEED certification focuses largely on buildings and their major systems while all the standards recognized by the Green Business Certification Program emphasize day-to-day operations.  However, there is some overlap between LEED and the other certification programs.

 

DEP Office Application FAQs

Are organizations like religious institutions and non-profit organizations eligible for Office/Retail certification?

Yes, most institutions are eligible for office/retail certification assuming their operations are similar to an office environment.

 

Where can we get training assistance to prepare us for certification?

Currently, DEP provides free technical assistance and strategic advice for up to four hours to businesses interested in pursuing certification.  We will come to your office and meet with you and your "green team" members to address specific issues related to your application.  Ideally, this would occur once you have submerged yourself in the application and have clear and specific needs.  Contact the Green Business Certification Program Manager at MCGreenBiz@montgomerycountymd.gov to learn about other green business training and educational opportunities that might be available.

 

We are a business that leases space.  Can we get credit for actions the property manager/owner is taking independent of our prodding?

Yes, you made the decision to be a tenant at your location, so take credit for the good things your property manager/owner is doing. Encourage and help them to make more environmentally beneficial improvements and get more credit on your application!

 

Does certification cover all aspects of, and the environmental impacts from, a business’ operations?

No.  The scope of certification is limited to the areas covered by the applicable checklist and to applicable locations and/or activities conducted in Montgomery County.  For example, a business that has an office in Montgomery County but does manufacturing outside the County could certify its Montgomery County office through DEP (as opposed to certification for the company as a whole).

Similarly, a business’ environmental impacts might extend beyond its office operations.  For example, a consulting firm that has sustainable office operations (related to paper use, energy consumption, supplies, etc.) may be advising clients to take actions or pursue strategies with little or no consideration for the environment.

DEP recognizes the limitations of this approach.  The environmental impacts associated with office operations could be nominal relative to its impacts resulting from its manufacturing or its clients’ actions.  DEP thus encourages businesses with operations that transcend the office to pursue an additional certification standard that is more comprehensive and broader in scope.

 

DEP Landscape Application FAQs

We provide multiple landscaping services.  Can we pursue certification for just one service area?

No – to be certified, a business must meet the applicable checklist requirements for ALL the services it provides from among the following areas:

  • Garden Center
  • Installation
  • Design
  • Maintenance

 

How is Green Landscape Business Certification different from certification through the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™)?

SITES certifies individual sites while the Green Landscape Business Certification focuses on business operations as a whole, including garden centers and worksites designed, installed and/or maintained by those businesses.

 

How do I determine what pull down response to select when it’s not clear-cut?

Yes – Select Yes for actions you are taking.  You may also select Yes for not taking an action when the inaction or alternative action is more beneficial than the action itself.  For example, if you are opposed to the application of pesticides and use benign, alternative methods of control, you can check Yes for all actions related to pesticide application.

No – Select No if you are not implementing an action that can reasonably be expected as part of the services you offer.  For example, if you provide Installation services but do not offer conservation landscaping, then select No. 

n/a – This is used when an action, usually fairly specialized, is outside the scope of your operations.  For example, if you provide Installation services but do not build green roofs or decks then the answer to the actions related to these items would be n/a.