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Sustainable Business Certification - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the sustainable business certification program?
The Sustainable Business Certification was developed by the Sustainability Alliance based on the principles of The Natural Step. The program launched in 2017, and in its first four years certified over 110 organizations across the region. In 2022 the Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization assumed leadership of the program.

Why was the sustainable business certification program created?
We recognized the need for a comprehensive sustainable business certification program that addresses social as well as environmental issues. It is designed with a tiered structure to encourage continuous learning and improvement.  

What is this certification based on?
The Natural Step has four principles or system conditions were developed by scientists to describe the conditions for a fully sustainable society. Paraphrased, the principles call on entities to:

  • Move away from or close the loop on non-renewable resources and energy;
  • Preserve and restore critical ecosystems and their functions (for example, cleaning air and water, creating renewable resources like fish and lumber);
  • Move away from or close the loop on toxic materials and pollution (especially persistent bio-accumulative toxins); and
  • Address human and social needs (for employees, customers, local communities, and suppliers).

What are the Sustainable Business Certification Program components?
There are five components included with the certification program. They are:

  • Sustainability 101 webinars and trainings;
  • Local community representatives who can provide information and answer questions;
  • An online assessment tool;
  • A certifier who will meet with you to review your responses and approve your certification; and
  • Marketing collateral to promote your commitment to sustainable practices.

What are the certification levels?

  • Bronze – Reduces negative impact by conserving resources and providing a safety net for employees.
  • Silver – Creates positive impacts beyond the basics.
  • Gold – Actively encourages other stakeholders to get involved in sustainability efforts.
  • Platinum – Operates as a restorative business with zero negative impacts and is a leader with a highly empowered workforce.

What are the categories, types of practices, addressed in the certification?

  • Reduce non-renewable energy and materials;
  • Minimize pollution and toxics;
  • Protect ecosystems;
  • Meet human needs; and
  • Manage for sustainability.

What is the process for getting certified?
Our Sustainable Business Certification process is informative, friendly, and offered at no cost. Find out what you are already doing, get expert advice about what to work on next, and find out what level of certification you qualify for. You don’t have to be perfect to get certified since this is a process. You’ll learn a lot just by reviewing the questions and you’re probably doing more than you realize. Visit www.vvreo.com and follow the instructions. Note: Certification is primarily for businesses, organizations, and local governments in the Verde Valley, Arizona.

How does sustainability and certification benefit my business?
By going through the self-assessment, you will discover what you are already doing and what more you can do. Getting certified brings you marketing benefits and access to special events. Key components and outcomes include:

  • Engaging employees;
  • Building a sustainable brand and/or reputation;
  • Attracting the lifestyles of health and sustainability (LOHAS) market;
  • Reducing wasted resources (water, energy, solid waste) and associated costs;
  • Increasing efficiency and/or reducing costs;
  • Reducing  environmental and social risks; and
  • Reflecting the identity and values the business, organization, or local government has embraced.

What does it cost and how long does it take?
The process to become certified is available at no cost to the applicant. The entire process typically takes about two hours for the applicant. This includes completing the self-assessment and discussing your application with the certifier. We are also happy to spend more time with you if there are specific topics you’d like to pursue in more detail.

How long is the certification good for?
The certification is valid for three years. Recertification is an excellent opportunity to review your status and get recognized for improvements. You may be eligible to upgrade your certification to a higher level if you have made additional improvements in the sustainability practices for your business. You do not need to wait three years. You are encouraged to upgrade at any time.

What if I have more than one location or facility?
Certify each location separately unless their management and facility are similar. If you have a more complex organization, we recommend inviting key members of your staff to a meeting to go through the assessment together with our facilitator.

What if my business is certified in another program?
Congratulations! Many of those practices can be applied to the Sustainable Business Certification.

How does this relate to other sustainability certification programs in the Verde Valley and Arizona?
There are other programs and certifications available, and we are partnering with many of them. This program was developed in the Verde Valley to embrace sustainability as a region. Other Arizona-based certifications include Friends of the Verde River’s River Friendly Living, APS Going Green & Going Smart, and Local First Arizona’s SCALE UP sustainability accelerator that helps small businesses develop, design, finance, and implement sustainability solutions. In addition, there are industry specific certifications you may choose to pursue.

How to Get Certified

Follow this link to the Sustainability Alliance business certification program and questionnaire.

Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization Certified Sustainable Businesses


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