What’s the Point of Sustainability Certifications for Businesses?

Sustainability certifications for businesses aren't just for show; they can help your brand improve operations, connect with customers, and more.

Panda in tree, panda friendly logo in bottom-right corner
Photo courtesy of Traditional Medicinals

Is profit the only thing that should matter to businesses? Or is there room for other motivations, like helping the environment and society?

While some people think businesses, particularly publicly traded ones, have a legal obligation to maximize profits and shareholder value, that's arguably not true. (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and you’ll probably want to confirm local rules.)

Lynn Stout, who was a distinguished professor of corporate and business law at Cornell Law School, and the author of “The Shareholder Value Myth,” wrote in a New York Times column that:

"'Shareholder value,' for one thing, is a vague objective: No single 'shareholder value' can exist, because different shareholders have different values."

​She also points to the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case, in which the opinion states:

"While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so."

In other words, there seems to be leeway for businesses to act with more than just finances in mind.

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