Legal and Regulations

"Greener" product standards: Know the facts

Sustainability in business works best when environmental considerations align with what the business does and sells.

Published: March 13, 2015
Updated: May 14, 2019

Sustainable practices can improve your small business, but turning the lights off when you leave the office is just the beginning.

Sustainability extends to the products you produce, as well as the products you use in your business.

Using "greener" products in the office

"Greener" products can have a noticeable effect around the office. Using products made of recycled materials, or materials easily recyclable in the future, is a responsible practice that influences your business culture. In addition to reducing waste, it encourages employees to be accountable and use office resources wisely. Environmentalism also extends to your cleaning products. Workplace productivity can improve with improved air quality, which low-toxic cleaning directly affects.1

Organizations such as the EPA  and Green Seal provide information about products — from household to commercial-grade — on ingredient safety facts and environmental impact scores.

You can also ask your professional cleaning service and other vendors what kind of products and techniques they use. With their help, you can determine how to enhance your business’s sustainability, and identify cost-saving opportunities, such as eliminating unnecessary packaging or offering bulk deliveries to reduce the number of trips.

Producing "greener" products

Customers want to buy from "greener" businesses: A third of consumers buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.2

To make your products or services more sustainable look at every step in the process that involves materials and energy usage. Companies that produce "greener" products typically employ the following in the production process:

  • Using recycled or renewable components

  • Incorporating renewable energy sources such as wind or solar energy

  • Using minimal packaging or bioplastics in packaging to minimize waste

  • Conserving water by implementing a recovery process that, for example, either filters or treats water so it can be reused

You can also reduce a customer’s carbon footprint after the sale by offering a recycling program for your product’s container.

To measure your sustainability practices you could track how much packaging material you save by switching to minimal packaging.

Advertising "greener" products

In addition to the social and environmental responsibility of manufacturing "greener" products, some companies know their customers may be interested in sustainability and call it out in marketing and advertising.

However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has strict rules about environmental advertising claims. If the product carries any environmentally sustainable certifications or seals, it is up to the company to prove the accuracy of those claims.

To comply with the FTC rules, use specific language about which components of a product are recycled or renewable, or what percentage of the product was made with sustainable energy — and what type of energy it was.

Sustainability efforts may fail if employees don’t buy in. Encourage employees to reduce waste through their daily practices, such as recycling and reusing containers and components. Employees might even generate great new sustainability ideas if you signal that their ideas are welcome.

1"An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality." United States Environmental Protection Agency.

2"Report shows a third of consumers prefer sustainable brands," Unilever.