Real Estate Development/Project Certifications

LEED Certification
The LEED certification program is run by the U.S. Green Building Counsel. The LEED certification system is broken into several categories of certification including: new construction; Schools, HealthCare & Retail; Core & Shell Development, Commercial interiors, Existing Buildings- Operations; Maintenance and homes. Each category of certification has a series of minimum program requirements and optional program requirements. Each requirement
has a certain number of possible points allocated to it. These requirements are broken down into mandatory requirements with optional additional points and optional requirements that are not absolutely needed to get certified. This being said just the mandatory requirements will not get enough points to reach the certification. A certain number of additional points under one of the optional requirements have to be met to get a certification. Minimum number of points will get a basic LEED Certification, additional points above and beyond can qualify a project for Silver, Gold or Platinum level certifications. The requirements themselves are constantly open for public debate and comment, so the certification requirements change every few years based on this debate and comment system.

In order to meet the qualification for certification proof and evidence must be provided to support every single point under the certification category you are applying for. If you are unable to provide enough evidence then USGBC will not
grant that point. For Example: in new construction often the type of HVAC system used is mandatory to meet the Indoor Air Quality Mandatory Requirement. Proof often includes: receipts, contracts, bids and photos. If photos are not taken during the installation it may not be possible latter on once the HVAC is concealed. Without the pictures the project may not meet the Indoor Air Quality mandatory requirement and therefore the whole project will no longer be LEED certifiable as New Construction.

LEED can be a lengthy and detail oriented process. Estimates state that over 70% of projects that are built with LEED certification in mind do not complete the process of getting certified because the certification process is so burdensome. It is advisable to have help in keeping track of documents and filling out the actual LEED certification application. Just tracking and gathering the documents for getting the certification can take up to 80 hours or more during a New Construction project.


Green Globes
Run here in the U.S. by the Green Building Initiative Green Globes is a rating and certification process for green construction used in the USA and in Canada. Similar to LEED Green globes has different areas of mandatory points: Energy, Indoor Environment, Sure, Water, Resources, Emissions, etc. Building must achieve the threshold of at least 35% of the 1,000 total possible points to qualify for Green Globes.


Certifications for Food and Cosmetic Products

Certifications for Organic

The USDA provides a certification program to certify products as organic. Once a product goes through the USDA program and qualifies the product may thenbear the USDA organic certification label and the USDA organic certification label as well phrases like “Certified USDA organic” may then be used in the marketing and sales of said product. Without going through the program and receiving the certification use of the certification logo or reference to the certification is a violation and may be punishable by law. Basic eligibility requirements state that synthetic fertilizers, sewage, sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used at any point in the production of the product.


Applications must go through an accredited certifying agent. The accredited agent must be provided the following basic information in order to start the process: 1) the history of substances being applied to the land for the previous 3 years, 2) the type of operation to be certified and 3) the organic system plan – this plan should describe the substances used in production, the practices/procedures used in production, and the monitoring process by which the practices and substances used are monitored. The system plan must track the product through its entire life cycle including the cycles of the feed or fertilizer, etc. used through harvesting, handling, processing, packaging and possibly transportation. This monitoring process must ensure the integrity of the products and ensure that there is no commingling or contamination during the production process. The plan must also include recording keeping procedures. Post certification records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years.


Once provided with this information the certifying agent will make an on site inspection. Approval for the certification will be dependant on the information submitted and the report from the onsite inspection.


USDA or the certifying agent has the right to make unannounced follow up inspections at any time to ensure the product is still eligible for certification.


American Humane Certification

This certification is offered by the American Humane Society to distinguish producers that allow their animals to freely engage in normal natural behaviors, animals are not raised in cages and employed only trained handlers to tend to
them. Monitored by independent inspectors. Certifications last one year and then producers must undergo an annual audit proving compliance in order to have their certification renewed.


Food Alliance Certified

This certification covers a variety of sustainable practices such as reduced pesticide use, water & energy conservation, protection of biodiversity, wildlife habitat preservation, safe & fair working conditions. Producers that use hormones and antibiotics are disqualified from this certification. The program is operated by the Non- profit Food Alliance and is monitored by regular third party inspections and audits. Once the certification is approved members are required to show yearly progress and set improvement goals.


Marine Stewardship Counsel

MSC has created a set of industry standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. In order to be certified MSC must be able to verify and ensure that the certified seafood comes from, and can be traced back to, a sustainable
fishery. To qualify they must be able to vouch for not just the fisheries themselves but every company in the supply chain between the fishery and the end consumer. MSC has third party inspectors that physically inspect fisheries for compliance with the environmental standards set by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.


Demeter Certified Biodynamic

To qualify to be a Biodynamic-certified producer the producer must not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Farmers must also support biodiversity, the efficient use of water, and take the phases of the moon in the lunar calendar into account. Additionally, they use homeotherapy and herbs to prepare the soil. The standards for Biodynamic farming set in 1982 and are available online. Demeter inspects farms and can monitor them for up to 2-3 years BEFORE granting certification. Once certified farms are inspected on a annual basis.


Rainforest Alliance Certified

Once certified members are responsible for soil & water conservation, use of pesticides as last resort only, and decent wages. The Rainforest Alliance promotes sustainable agriculture and management policies that are socially
and environmentally responsible. The alliance relies on a network of conservation groups and third party independent inspectors to monitor and police the program.

In Addition they offer certifications for tourism, forestry and forest based carbon projects.


Transfair USA Fair Trade Certification (Free Trade Alliance)

This certification is a guarantee that farmers and producers were paid a fair above market price for their crop. It also ensures sustainable farming and forbids the use of child labor and harmful pesticides. Typically associated with the tea, coffee and chocolate industries. Monitored by routine audits of the farmers and all suppliers in the chain by Transfair USA, which is a member of the Fair trade Labeling Organization International.


Vegan Certification

This certification is offered by the nonprofit Vegan Action. The certification can be used for food products as well as for clothing and cosmetics. This certification is given for demonstrating that the product does not use any
animal ingredients or by products in its manufacture or processing. It additionally requires that no products were tested on animals.


National Marine Fisheries’ Service – Dolphin Safe Certification

Policed by the American Tropical Tuna Commission through the use of on boardinspections, this certification guarantees that fisheries are not deliberately or accidentally encircling or kill dolphins in their nets. The use of the term
“Dolphin Safe” by fisheries that do not meet these standards are in violation of the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act.


IOS Natural & Organic Cosmetic Certification

This certification is offered by the independent certification company of Certech Registration, Inc. Certech requires that companies adhere to a strict set of eco-friendly guidelines including recycling, the use of fair trade materials,
that all food ingredients be organic, the use of fair trade productions and minimum environmental impact.


BDIH Natural Cosmetics Certification

The BDIH an Association of German Industries and Trading Firms. To qualify for BDIH certification, products must use natural raw materials and have minimal ecological impact.



The COSMOS or Cosmetics Organic Standard is set by 5 founding members – U.K.’s Soil Association, Ecocert (France), Cosmebio (France), BDIH (Germany) and AIAB/ICEA (Italy).


Sephora’s Natural Seal

Sephora is a large well-known store that carries a variety of cosmetics products made by a variety of producers. They offer their own “Natural Seal” for products that meet the following criteria: 1) high concentration of- Antioxidants, botanicals, essential oils, fruit extracts, marine bioactives, minerals and vitamins and 2) fewer to no- GMOs, Parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, sulfates, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances and triclosan.


Certifications for Apparel and Textiles

(Note Transfair USA- Fair Trade and Vegan Action’s certification
listed above can also be used for Apparel and Textiles)


GOTS – The Global Organic Textile Standard

The raw materials that GOTS certifies have to be approved by a third party like the The Institute for Marketecology. To qualify products must be at least a 95% organic origin. They can grade a product as “Textile containing organic fibers” if it has at least 70% organic origin. Then products must demonstrate that at every step in the manufacturing process, from the harvesting of raw materials right through to proper product labeling they are upholding organic standards. Special attention is given to the dyeing process to ensure health and safety of employees and the enviroment. Manufacturer that uses any heavy metals, formaldehyde, GMO enzymes or carcinogenics will not be eligible for GOTS certification. GOTS also pays particular attention to environmental discharge issues during production and chemical residues in the finished products.

Several companies partner with GOTS and share their standards, including ICEA, based in Italy, ECOCERT, based in France, the Organic Trade Association in the U.S, Soil Association, based in the UK, and the Japan Organic Cotton Association.


Oeko-Tex Standard 100
Oeko-Tex a reliable and independent 3rd party eco-certification, which is globally recognized. The company tests at all stages of production and if applicable, often certifies textile raw materials, as well as intermediate and end products. Oeko-Tex places products into four classes based on how much contact it has with skin. For Example: Products intended for babies must meet more stringent requirements than those woven into a woman’s blouse.


SA8000 Certification
SA8000-certified requires passing a globally recognized social accountability standard for fair and humane working conditions. To be considered for SA8000 certification a producer must be able to ensure No Child Labor, No Forced Labor, Proper Health and Safety, Workers’ Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining, No Discrimination, Reasonable Working Hours, and Fair Wages.


Certifications for Ecotourism

Sustainable Tourism Eco-Certification Program™ (STEP)
Sustainable Travel international is a non-profit organization that rates accommodations attractions, tour operators, transportation services, cruise lines, and scuba diving operators with a separate set of certification available only to luxury accommodations. STI rates these services on a 5 star basis with different qualifications that must be met for each star rating.


Other Travel/ Eco-tourism Certifications Include:

  1. Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) in Costa Rica
  2. The Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program (NEAP) in Australia
  3. Blue Flag in Europe, South Africa, and the Caribbean
  4. Protected Area Network (PAN) in Europe
  5. Committed to Green in Great Britain
  6. Smart Voyager in the Galapagos.