Category Archives: business

The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications

The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications
By Carlyann Edwards,

Today, companies face pressure to expand their corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. SolarCity’s sustainability briefing found that 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making an effort to be sustainable, while 82 percent are more likely to purchase a product that represents CSR over one that does not.

How can businesses effectively market their environmental responsibility while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing?

Many companies have turned to accredited CSR certifications and awards. Sustainability certifications are voluntary norms and standards relating to environmental, social, ethical and food safety issues.

“These certifications help consumers and stakeholders understand that the company has gone through a third-party verification process to make sure the company is actually walking the walk regarding sustainability,” Josh Prigge CEO of Sustridge said.

With sustainability reporting on the rise and a lot at stake for companies, there are several certifications businesses can choose from. Choosing the best one can be difficult, but here are some of the more popular ones to make your decision a bit easier.
B Corp

B Lab certification requires companies to pass an online assessment for “social and environmental performance,” integrate B Lab commitments into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $50 to $50,000. “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk,” its website reads. Today, there are more than 2,564 Certified B corporations from 50 countries and more than 130 industries.

“We chose this certification because we feel it is the ‘gold standard’ for sustainable business,” CEO of Vert Asset Management Samuel Adams said. “For small businesses like ours, it is not hard or costly to get.”
LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an ecology-oriented building certification program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is currently the most widely used green building rating system in the world, available for virtually all buildings. According to the company’s website, LEED buildings attract more tenants, cost less to operate, and boost employee productivity and retention. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories, including energy use and air quality. Depending on the number of points achieved, a project will either earn a Silver, Gold or Platinum rating.
TRUE

The TRUE Zero Waste certification system recognizes those businesses that are working toward achieving zero waste, cutting their carbon footprint and supporting public health. Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), certification is available for any facility and its operations.

To be certified, companies (or projects) must have a zero waste policy in place, and they must have achieved an average of 90 percent or higher in diverting non-hazardous waste from landfills, incineration and the environment for the past year. A detailed list of requirements can be found here. Businesses pay a fee between $1,200 and $1,500 and a certification fee based on the square footage of your facility.
SITES

Developed through a collaborative effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, SITES (used by architects, landscapers, ecologists, etc.) provides performance measures rather than prescribing practices, supporting the unique environmental conditions of each landscape it certifies.

SITE-certified landscapes consume less water, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, and improve air quality. The combined registration and certification introductory fee ranges from $8,000 to $9,500.

“My decision to earn a SITES credential reflects not only my commitment to the highest environmental standards but my commitment to provide consumers and the green building industry with the same shortcut for understanding the impact of landscapes that LEED provides for indoor environments,” said Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping.
GBB

The Green Business Bureau’s (GBB) certification process is entirely initiative-based, so your company will receive points for each activity it completes. GBB’s sustainability assessment identifies and communicates sustainability efforts that your small business has already completed, while also helping to guide and formulate future efforts. GBB certification differentiates itself from other organizations by making it easy for small businesses to customize their sustainability practices.

Member companies choose and prioritize different green initiatives. After completing each initiative, companies are encouraged to promote their accomplishments and continue their progress by focusing on new initiatives. GBB specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses. The cost of the program is dependent on the size of your business, with annual costs ranging from $375 to $875.
Choosing a certification

If these five certifications don’t provide exactly what you’re looking for, don’t fret. There are thousands of sustainability awards available. Victoria Kate Burrows, project manager of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) said the organization doesn’t prefer any one certification due to a multitude of varying local conditions.

The WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment challenges businesses around the world to set ambitious targets to eliminate operational carbon emissions from their facilities. Because of the complexity involved with metrics and various certifications, the WorldGBC has developed a few core principles to increase recognition among the various certification organizations.

“Even if you’re developing a very specific tool to your market, you need to ensure that … key principles are met and that helps achieve alignment and commonality across a huge universe of certification schemes that are out there,” Burrows said.

The same approach can be taken when choosing which sustainability certification makes the most sense for your business. Identify what certifications and measurements your competitors are using, find out what your customers prioritize, and look for a suitable certification.

Certification is an investment. David Veca, a family manager at Veckridge Chemical, stated, “The certificates that are worth paying for are ones that align with your business’s values, and, importantly, your target customer’s values,” he said.

6 Essential Tech Tools for Your HR Department

6 Essential Tech Tools for Your HR Department
By Andreas Rivera,

Few departments juggle as many duties or manage as much information as human resources. Technology makes the tasks of recruitment, payroll and performance evaluation more manageable and allows HR staff members to better engage with the company’s employees.

Here are six HR tech tools that businesses of any size can implement for a happier, better-organized workforce.
1. HRMS (Human Resource Management System) or HRIS (Human Resource Information System)

Human resource departments have a lot of information to input, store and track. The most common method of organizing this information is with a comprehensive human resource management system (HRMS).

Whether it’s a software solution or software as a service, an HRMS can be an HR representative’s best friend. It stores and organizes data, such as employee profiles, schedules, attendance records and more.

Human resource information systems (HRIS) are typically more data-driven solutions that allow you to craft in-depth reports for the purposes of audits.

Most HRMS offerings, such as Paychex and Workday, act as HR’s central platform and often have modules or integrations that allow you to access payroll services, benefits management, and performance evaluations.
2. Performance solutions

Performance evaluations and tracking are not only an annual meeting between supervisor and employee, but the goals and objectives discussed in that meeting are tracked and revisited throughout the year by HR. To get the most out a performance review and better formulate goals for individual employees, HR can provide managers with the tools to track their staff member’s performance throughout the year, saving notes and feedback to prepare both manager and employee for the evaluation. Many HRMS and payroll solutions, such as ADP, come with a customizable performance review module.
3. Recruiting software

As the name implies, recruiting software streamlines the hiring process. You can post job ads, sort and accept applications, manage candidates and more, saving you the hassle of manually tracking everything yourself.

Small businesses, in particular, should check the pricing and features for each solution being considered: Many recruiting programs are geared toward bigger companies with large volumes of applicants. Small businesses may be better served by a less-expensive product with fewer capabilities, depending on your hiring needs. Check out Business News Daily’s best picks for recruiting software here.
4. Payroll service

Payroll processing is an arduous task. Make it easy on yourself (and your bookkeeper) by investing in an online payroll service. This solution automatically calculates and tracks paychecks, deductions, paid time off, etc. Some even allow you to file and pay payroll taxes and report new hires to the IRS.

Business News Daily has compiled a list of the best payroll services here, or if you need help deciding which one is right for you, check out our buyer’s guide.
5. Benefits management platform

While some payroll services allow you to administer certain benefits, such as vacation time, a more robust solution can help you manage all employee benefits including paid time off, retirement plans, health insurance, workers’ compensation and other perks.

Chen Amit, CEO of payment solutions company Tipalti, says one of the best decisions his company made was outsourcing its benefits management.

“It gives our business a baseline for standard HR processes, something that at least puts you on par with larger organizations,” Amit said. “Then we could focus on where to go from there: adding benefits and perks that go beyond standard dental, health, vision. It also reduces our operational footprint.”

A benefits management service, however, is not necessarily the same as a professional employer organization (PEO), which operates under a co-employment arrangement. The PEO acts as a legal employer of your workforce, issuing employees’ paychecks and managing benefits and compliance for you.

“PEOs can give you access to additional perks, healthcare options and expertise that you wouldn’t have managing things on your own,” said Jacqueline Breslin, director of human capital services at TriNet. “These benefits also help with hiring as they make working for you more attractive.”

6. Employee engagement tools

Employee engagement is a high priority for many companies. With today’s tech tools, you can monitor your organization’s culture, giving you better insights into what your employees want.

“I’ve seen apps that encourage positive feedback inside the organization while helping [build] the company culture,” said Pablo Brenner, CEO of Collokia, an enterprise collaboration tool.

For example, such programs as YouEarnedIt allow people to recognize and reward co-workers when they do a good job or exemplify company values. Other tools, such as TINYpulse, let you collect anonymous feedback from your team that you can use to improve your culture and operations.

When you’re trying to get a feel for employees’ thoughts and opinions and specific subjects, such as what type of food should be provided at the next meeting or gathering employee’s opinions on a new companywide policy, sometimes it’s best to use free programs like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. These tools allow you to compile honest feedback anonymously.

Other options for engagement technology include company intranet platforms such as Igloo, Podio, and OneWindow Workplace; corporate social networking apps like Yammer, WeVue, and Workplace by Facebook; and numerous enterprise collaboration and video conferencing tools that are currently available.

Ron Yekutiel, CEO and chairman of video platform Kaltura, noted that video tools may be of interest to HR departments looking to improve their hiring and training processes.

“Whether it’s conducting more effective interviews through video, video conferencing to bring dispersed teams closer together, [or] onboarding and training of … new and existing employees … today’s on-the-go workforce increasingly prefers video as a means for communication and collaboration,” he said.
Choosing a solution

While it may be tempting to choose the highest-rated or least-expensive solution, it’s important to do your research and find the tool that’s right for your business’s needs. Don’t invest in certain solutions just for their own sake – some simply aren’t worth a company’s time, said Breslin.

“It’s important to find solutions to automate tasks that would otherwise eat up valuable time in your day,” she said. “However, some tasks should never be automated, such as the handling of complaints or employee conflicts.”

Brenner noted that the tools you choose should be user-friendly and not create hassle or frustration for your employees.

“You wouldn’t expect a millennial to read a manual on how to use a new app, so why should you expect [employees] to read the … operating manual [for an internal software program]?” he said. “All tools should be self-explanatory, or worst case, [make it] extremely easy to access an explanatory video.”

No matter what type of tools you’re considering, seek out solutions that will carry your organization into the future.

“HR teams looking to stay ahead of the curve should incorporate new technologies, such as … business collaboration systems while keeping an eye on technologies like AR and VR as they evolve,” Yekutiel said. “This goes a long way in attracting today and tomorrow’s workforce, and enabling teams across the organization to work effectively and increase productivity.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon.