This is how environmental accreditation for your business pays off

Consumers use quality marks for sustainability, green labels, to make sustainable choices. With such a label on your product, you show them that you, as a manufacturer, are paying extra attention to such issues as the environment and animal welfare. Read on to find out whether a quality marks for sustainability would be advantageous for your product or service.

A quality mark (keurmerk) is a logo on a product or a service description. Displaying the logo shows that you meet certain requirements to earn that mark. A quality mark for sustainability can say something about the environment, animal welfare, human rights and working conditions. With the Fairtrade logo, for example, you show that the workers who make your product earn at least minimum wage, and that they work under safe conditions. The Climate Neutral Certified logo proves that you are cutting your carbon emissions.

Having a quality mark for sustainability on your product or in the description of your service is not mandatory, but it can be a wise choice. In fact, it gives you the following benefits:

Benefit 1. You help customers choose

Research (in Dutch) by the Authority for Consumers and Markets, ACM shows that consumers think it is becoming increasingly important to contribute to a better world. That is why more and more people are opting for sustainable products. Over 40% of people in the Netherlands think a quality mark helps with that. “The quality mark for sustainability distinguishes your sustainable product from that of a competitor which does not have one,” says Paulien van der Geest, Strategic Communications Adviser for Sustainable Consuming at Milieu Centraal.

Three hundred diferrent labels

There are about three hundred labels and marks for sustainable products and services. Some focus on the environment, others on animal welfare. Then there are marks for particular products such as cosmetics, flowers and paper. To help consumers and businesses find their way, Milieu Centraal has developed this Guide to Environmental Accreditations (in Dutch). Here, you can see what is required in order to earn a quality mark for sustainability.

Benefit 2. Reliable evidence

With a quality mark for sustainability, you prove that you are doing things sustainably. It also proves you are not trying to make your business seem greener than it actually is. This is called greenwashing, and it is not allowed. “Customers often wonder whether green promises and pictures are genuine,” Paulien says. “Because you cannot use a quality mark for sustainability just like that, it shows your customer that you do what you promise."”

Marco Jansen tells us that evidence can also be important for your clients. Marco is director and co-owner of Sunbeam, a company that makes steel mounting systems for solar panels. Sunbeam has the quality mark 'Climate Neutral Certified'. This quality mark shows that the company is actively cutting its CO2 emissions. Thanks in part to offsets, Sunbeam is climate-neutral. Their clients value the evidence that the climate quality mark brings. “We work a lot for government organisations, and they are making more and more sustainability-related demands on suppliers,” says Jansen. “Our quality mark gives us an edge over our competitors.”

Benefit 3. Tool for sustainability

A quality mark for sustainability shows the area in which you can make your business more sustainable. You can use its logo only if you comply with certain rules. Those rules force you to look critically at your processes. “An independent auditor reviews your results annually,” says Marco, “so the accreditation ensures that you stay compliant. In our case, this auditor looks at our calculations of our CO2 emissions, as well as our CO2 reduction targets and our operations. That way, we know we are still on the right track.”

Mandatory sustainability reporting

From 1 January 2024, large companies will have to record, in a mandatory sustainability report, what they are doing in connection with corporate social responsibility. Companies must show the EU how their supply chain works. That is why they will look more critically at small companies they do business with. A quality mark for sustainability helps small businesses stand out in a positive way to large companies.


To apply for the environmental accreditation, Sunbeam invested some 60 hours over a 6-month period. Aside from the time it takes to earn one, a quality mark costs money. Those costs vary greatly from one environmental accreditation to another. What sector you are in and the size of your business also play a role. There are always costs for approval at the start, to cover inspections and the annual licence. At Fairtrade, that licence costs €500 euros for small companies and up to €1,650 for large companies. Climate Neutral Certified charges €250 to €3,000, depending on the size of your business.