ECO-INNOVATIONat the heart of European policies
A United Kingdom sustainability certification scheme is extending its impact beyond the companies that it certifies to provide support to the
The Planet Mark is a collaboration between London-based sustainability consultancy Planet First and the Eden Project, which opened in 2001 in Cornwall, south-west England. The Eden Project is known for converting a former china clay pit into one of the UK's most popular environmental education sites, featuring glass “biomes” in which a rainforest and other eco-systems have been recreated. The objective of the Eden Project is to raise awareness about the human impact on the natural world.
The Planet Mark can be awarded to companies and other organisations that cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 2.5% per year. It provides third-party assistance to companies to calculate their carbon footprints and to put in place measures that will lead to reductions. The certification process covers emissions from energy and water use, waste generation, travel and emissions from procured goods and services. By going through the certification process, companies can identify efficiencies that result in savings that usually outweigh the cost of certification.
The scheme was launched in 2013 and is funded by fees paid by organisations that go through the certification process. The Eden Project receives 10% of the certification fees. The Planet Mark has proved suitable for small and medium sized companies. Most recently, Bidvest 3663, a catering and foodservice company, became the first in its sector to receive the Planet Mark.
Steve Malkin, the CEO of Planet First, said that “it is gratifying that most Planet Mark certified businesses come from the SME community, who are not mandated to report carbon emissions or reduce them.”
Planet First also offers the Planet Mark for Buildings, which is designed for new developments including commercial buildings. Certification includes a lifecycle assessment of each development, and includes in its criteria the creation of local community sustainability projects.
The scheme differs from the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which is a broader environmental management certification initiative, under which companies must meet certain criteria relating to the adoption of environmental policies and development of an environmental programme, which should be credible and transparent. By contrast, Planet First certification is primarily focused on helping organisations reduce their carbon footprints by a minimum annual amount.
Planet First encourages certified companies to go beyond the 2.5% minimum annual carbon reduction, and says that most companies achieve 7-8%. Planet First adds that the design of the Planet Mark, and its connection to the Eden Project, means that it is more easily recognisable as a sustainability mark than some other certification schemes, which can be highly technical and not easily understood by the public. Companies that achieve certification also have a motive to continually reduce their carbon footprint, because if they fall even slightly below the 2.5% reduction level, they lose the rights to use the Planet Mark until they get back on track.