With agencies under increasing pressure to prove their environmental sustainability credentials, achieving reputable certifications is becoming a leading priority.
Here’s the current picture. Clients are demanding higher standards and greater transparency. Environmental legislation is on the horizon – both the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are putting pressure on the government to enforce transparency and clarity on terms like ‘carbon-neutral’ and ‘eco-friendly’ to ensure that consumers are aware of what these phrases actually mean, or should mean.
And while the internet and digital industries continue to generate a huge quantity of CO2 emissions – more than the aviation industry – it’s crucial for agencies to report on it accurately.
In this blog, I’ll explore the advantages of achieving environmental accreditations from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), particularly in the context of winning contracts from large organisations that need to submit Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) information for compliance.
B Corp: highly regarded, but complex.
B Corp certification has become a sought-after stamp of approval for agencies striving to prove their commitment to sustainability, as covered by our B Corp blog.
But it’s a complex certificate that casts its net wider than just environmental standards by measuring ‘social performance’ too, such as workers’ rights, well-being, and community engagement.
Of course, these social markers are important, but the level of detail required for a B Corp application often takes time and resources that some agencies don’t have, rendering it unfeasible for many.
Such agencies might feel that they’re too small, or that the certification doesn’t quite align with their proposition – for example, if they’d prefer to focus solely on environmental credentials. Or, quite simply, they just don’t want to be part of the B Corp movement.
But if any of the above apply to you and you’d still like to prove your dedication to positive climate action, there is a potential solution.
ISO: a more achievable alternative.
So, what are the alternatives? ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certifications offer a viable solution, catering to agencies with different sustainability goals.
Read on to discover which ISO standards might be right for you, and how they can help you find a faster route to proving your agency’s environmental credibility.
What is ISO?
ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organisation that brings together experts to share knowledge and develop consensus-based, market-relevant international standards.
Their standards support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges – aiming to ensure that products and services are safe, reliable, and of good quality.
As an employer, you lease vehicles to your staff, in the form of an employee benefit. You recover the cost through a salary sacrifice scheme.
ISO accreditations provide a framework for businesses to effectively manage their environmental impact, and they offer various benefits that extend beyond mere compliance. I’ll dig a little deeper into the key benefits below.
Great for the planet, and your clients.The internet’s a carbon-emitting beast. It produces over a billion tonnes of CO2 every year – and every webpage contributes to that. That’s why our hosting runs on 100% renewable energy, helping to save 45 million tonnes of CO2 annually.
A valuable alternative to B Corp.
Given that some agencies don’t want to become a B Corp or feel they don’t meet the specific criteria required for B Corp certification, ISO standards could stride boldly into this space
ISO boasts numerous internationally recognised standards for sustainability, allowing agencies to prove their commitment to environmental stewardship without necessarily adopting the broader social mission associated with being a B Corp.
How ISO standards can benefit your agency.
Responding to tenders and SECR compliance.
A key benefit of possessing an environmental ISO accreditation is the advantage it provides when responding to tenders from large organisations.
Clients or prospective clients with over 250 employees are required to produce a Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) document each year, along with a declaration of their company accounts. The SECR policy is designed to promote efficient energy consumption and accurate carbon emissions reporting.
While it’s perhaps more likely for large companies to request detailed carbon emissions figures from agencies to help fulfil their SECR obligations, it’s increasingly common for sustainability-savvy smaller businesses to ask for this information, too.
By holding an ISO certification, your agency possesses a framework with which to respond to tenders from big organisations. So, rather than hunting for information to prove your environmental credentials, you’ll already have a recognised template ready to go.
Enhanced credibility and reputation.
Obtaining ISO standards demonstrates a commitment to operating as an environmentally responsible agency.
Once you have landed one or more ISO standards, many customers, prospects, and stakeholders, should hold your agency in a higher regard. This is essential during a time of ambiguity around green claims and increased accusations of false advertising, aka greenwashing.
Consider your credibility enhanced, and the likelihood of winning lucrative projects and partnerships boosted.
But it’s not just about boosting revenue. Such partnerships should stand you in good stead for the future – elevating the quality of your client portfolio and making your agency more appealing to target clients, employees, and legislative bodies.
Aligning with global environmental goals to secure a sustainable future.
ISO standards align with global environmental targets, such as those outlined by the United Nations in the form of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There are 17 goals in total, developed with the aim of addressing and overcoming global challenges relating to climate change, poverty, inequality, and more.
By obtaining environmental ISO standards, your agency can actively contribute to creating a sustainable future by participating in a combined international effort. Organisations of all sizes and backgrounds are joining forces to do more for the planet – and the underprivileged communities within it.
Supporting innovation, growth, and continuous improvement.
The ISO exists to enhance trade across the globe, so it stands to reason that their standards emphasise a culture of innovation, growth, and continuous improvement.
Through the application and audit processes required to achieve ISO standards, your agency can better understand which areas to target to support your growth.
You can both stay ahead of evolving sustainability regulations and help to drive innovation in environmental management, which is ideal, not only for compliance, but for taking your growth strategy to the next level.
ISO standards promote operational efficiency via enhanced resource management and cost savings. Your agency can reap the financial and operational benefits of optimising resource allocation and minimising waste.
Essential environmental ISO standards.
Let’s delve into three essential ISO certifications that you should consider to bolster your sustainability credentials.
1. ISO 14001: environmental management system.|
ISO 14001 provides a framework for organisations to establish and maintain an effective environmental management system (EMS).
This standard requires agencies to assess their environmental impact, set objectives for improvement, and implement processes to achieve those goals.
By obtaining ISO 14001, you can reduce your environmental footprint, minimise waste, and enhance your reputation as an environmentally responsible enterprise.
2. ISO 14064: greenhouse gas emissions.
ISO 14064 focuses on measuring, quantifying, and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This certification enables agencies to calculate their carbon footprint accurately and develop strategies to reduce emissions.
By obtaining ISO 14064, agencies can provide credible data on their carbon footprint, demonstrate their commitment to mitigating climate change, and align with global environmental goals.
And crucially, obtaining this standard enables you to comply with the requirements and ambitions of potential clients.
3. ISO 14031: improve environmental performance.
Cited as an ideal complement to ISO 14001 – the first standard on our list – ISO 14031 indicates that you’re following a process to improve your environmental performance.
Given that sustainability is a never-ending journey, this standard could be used as a valuable tool to help showcase your dedication to continuously strive for excellence, rather than resting on your laurels.
ISO 14031 equips you with a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to identify risks, establish clear objectives and targets, and track your company’s performance.ISO 14031 equips you with a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to identify risks, establish clear objectives and targets, and track your company’s performance.
Have you considered the BSI standard, PAS 2060 (carbon neutrality)?
Although not an ISO standard, PAS 2060 deserves an honourable mention. Achieving this standard helps you prove that you offer specific carbon-neutral products or services – and showcase your genuine commitment to reducing carbon emissions to clients, stakeholders, and potential customers.
Created by the British Standards Institution (BSI), PAS 2060 specifies the requirements for demonstrating carbon neutrality through the “quantification, reduction, and offsetting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a uniquely identified subject.”
Allowing you to offset your remaining greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through credible carbon offset projects provides some flexibility, helping you identify areas for improvement.
PAS 2060 also helps with pinpointing how you can make cost savings by reducing energy consumption.
Summary: the benefits of ISO certifications.
- Enhanced credibility and reputation as an environmentally responsible agency
- Gain a competitive advantage when bidding for work, particularly from large organisations
- Compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards
- Improved resource management and cost savings through operational efficiency
- Strengthened relationships with clients, stakeholders, and partners who prioritise sustainability
- Increased customer trust and loyalty through transparent sustainability practices
- Helps you legitimise your commitment to sustainability and avoid accusations of greenwashing
- Alignment with global environmental goals, and contributing to a sustainable future
Final thoughts on ISO standards.
For agencies aiming to deliver transparency over green credentials, obtaining one or more environmental ISO standards can help you set healthy benchmarks and outshine the competition.
Investing in environmental ISO certifications, such as ISO 14001, ISO 14064, and ISO 14031, provides you with a clear framework for managing your environmental impact.
These certifications can help you win bids for contracts from large organisations requiring SECR reports, while also providing a competitive edge throughout an agency market that increasingly values sustainability.
Proving the accuracy of your emissions data is a stubborn barrier to effective climate action, and one that I believe you should strive to break down.
Successfully doing so will reduce your negative impact on the planet, maintain or enhance your brand reputation, and help you legitimately avoid or refute any unwelcome accusations of greenwashing.