A Closer Look at 12 Ecolabels and Certifications

A Chart Highlighting Third-Party Verified Product Labels and Process Certifications with Teeth

Certifications Illustration

Despite the proliferation of labels and certifications, a number of ratings and third-party verified claims are valuable to consumers and companies.
Illustration by Suzy Weller

This chart lists 12 of the most widely recognized certifications and ratings in a variety of sectors, from energy efficiency to organic farming. Scroll through to see what each measures, the organization responsible for certification, and the certification requirements for each label and rating. You can also view the chart as a PDF.

The chart originally appeared in Are Certifications Out of Control? in the summer 2016 issue of B Magazine.

Certification or Rating What It Measures Certifying Organization How Often Recertified Certification Cost What Certification Involves
Certified B Corporation Logo Certified companies meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. B Lab, nonprofit; since 2007 Every two years $500 to $50,000 depending on company revenues Companies complete online B Impact Assessment. B Lab staff reviews assessment, verifies documents and does on-site evaluation. Companies must also meet legal requirements.
 Better Cotton Initiative Logo Measures sustainable cotton production in three areas: environmental, social and economic. Better Cotton Initiative, nonprofit; since 2009 Annually, or every three or five years; annual self-assessment Small and medium farms pay no fee; large farms pay third-party verifier Farms, based on size, must reach minimum requirements on decent work, crop protection, water and soil management, biodiversity conservation and fiber quality.
 Cradle to Cradle Logo Guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories. Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, nonprofit; since 2005 Every two years $5,000 to $50,000 depending on product complexity Assessors evaluate products on material health, material reutilization, water stewardship, social fairness, and renewable energy and carbon management.
 Energy Star Logo Measures energy efficiency of more than 70 appliances and products; select products are checked for additional metrics, such as lighting quality. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, since 1992 Annual testing; recertification when regulations are updated No federal fee; companies pay third-party certifier EPA defines testing and performance standards in EPA-recognized labs. Certification allows use of mark.
 EPEAT Logo Assesses electronics for more than 40 environmental criteria, from energy use to inclusion of recycled plastics. Green Electronics Council, nonprofit; since 2006 Regular audits; no recertification Manufacturer registration fees based on revenue; free for purchasers Manufacturers register products based on attainment of specific criteria by third-party assessors, which verify conformance on an ongoing basis.
 Fair Trade Certified Logo Certifies products are sourced from producers that engage in sustainable practices, have safe working conditions, and earn fair and stable prices. Fair Trade USA, nonprofit; since 1998 Regular audits Brands that source products pay a fee; producer fees vary by size and scope Compliance assessment varies for producers, supply-chain partners and by product. Partners with and trains audit bodies to conduct assessments. Recognizes FLOCERT certification.
 FSC Logo Ensures products are from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Forest Stewardship Council, nonprofit; since 1993 Annual audits; recertification every five years Costs vary depending on size of company, area of forest, total revenue Accredited auditors review forest management plans, talk with stakeholders, and verify adherence to chain-of-custody and trademark standards to allow use of label.
GIIRS Logo Rates investment funds on environmental and social impact, not financial performance. B Lab, nonprofit; since 2011 Annual rating Starts at $45,000 per fund Companies must complete online B Impact Assessment and review with B Lab staff. Document and on-site verification optional for additional cost.
LEED Logo Rates the design, construction, operation, maintenance and significant retrofit of buildings and neighborhoods for environmental impact. U.S. Green Buildings Council, nonprofit; since 2000 Recertification required in some instances; annual recertification available Flat fee based on project size, type; members have discounted rate The LEED rating system consists of points allocated for each type of certification based on actions taken to improve outcomes for humans and the environment.
 Marine Stewardship Council Logo Measures the environmental sustainabilitiy of wild-capture fisheries and ensures chain-of-custody standards. Marine Stewardship Council, nonprofit; since 1997 Annual audit; recertification every five years $15,000 to $120,000 Fishery is scored against 28 performance indicators organized within principles of sustainable fish stocks, minimizing environmental impact and effective management.
 Rainforest Alliance Certified Logo Certifies that products originate on or contain ingredients from farms that meet the Sustainable Agriculture Network’s standards; also certifies tourism businesses. Sustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance; since 1992 Annual audit; recertification every three years Fees vary for type of certification and size of operation Independent auditors evaluate farm-management practices. Those sourcing from certified farms are scored using chain-of-custody criteria. Various factors used to assess tourism.
USDA Organic Logo Measures compliance with USDA Organic production and handling standards in four areas: crop, livestock, wild crops and handling/processing. U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program; since 2002 Annually Fees and costs vary widely depending on type, complexity of operation USDA-accredited agents review applications and schedule inspections. Processors, handlers and farms must complete an organic system plan.

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