Why is (accredited) certification important?

Companies often invest more time and money in trying to convey a green image of their products than in real and effective good environmental practices. To this end, we are witnessing the certification of products with seals that often pretend to link these products to nature without actually being environmentally sound, as can be exemplified by the image of a forest in a bottle containing harmful chemicals.
Certification can be, however, a quick and efficient way to decipher the environmental quality of a product, provided that it is, in fact, an accredited certification, which evaluates a good management of the resource, from manufacture to use, through the processes that the companies themselves implement.
The PCS distinguishes the various certifications that can be applied and that are duly accredited by credible certification systems.

The possible credible certifications, national and international, are presented below. They are divided into:


Ecolabel based on ISO 14024 – environmental certifications of type I. It was created by the Sustainable Construction Portal in 2021 and aims to encourage the demand and supply of products that cause less disturbance in the environment, through the communication of accurate information on the environmental aspects of the products, thus stimulating the potential for a continuous environmental improvement oriented to the best options available in the market. It is voluntary, based on multiple criteria, that authorizes the use of environmental labels on products indicating their overall environmental preference, within a category of products, which also consider their life cycle.

The FSC is a non-governmental, international and independent organisation, consisting of three chambers: economic, environmental and social, which defines the FSC Principles and Criteria for responsible forest management. It is an accrediting body that regulates the use of the FSC brand, recognizing certifying entities as qualified to carry out FSC forest certification processes.

PEFC Portugal is the Portuguese Scheme for the Certification of Sustainable Forest Management, which allows Portuguese forest producers to comply with the minimum requirements that ensure sustainable forest management. Its purpose is to assure consumers that products with PEFC certificates derive from forest management where sustainability principles are consistently applied, based on three basic pillars: social, environmental and economic.

It is a certification system, whose adhesion is voluntary, which is based on technical specifications developed by ANQIP and tests prepared by accredited laboratories, to which five companies have already joined: Tiba, Oliveira & Irmão, Valadares, Geberit and Sanitop. The certification and labelling of the water efficiency of the products consists of a classification, taking into account the water consumption that the equipment such as cisterns, showers or faucets carry out and will allow to reduce the waste of water by about 40%. Thus, the best water efficiency corresponds to the letter A and the lowest efficiency to the letter E, and a graphic indication by drops is also used.

The certification applies to paper with a recycled content of at least 75% or 100% from genuine paper. The raw material must come from factory waste, printed and rejected paper or household or office paper waste.

It means that a product, or part of it, can be recycled in its own facilities. The inclusion of the figure shows the percentage of recycled material used in the product.

Created in 1992 by the Carpet and Rug Institute, the CRI label identifies carpets, seats and glues with low VOC emissions. A label has recently been available that meets even more stringent criteria.

This seal applies to products related to buildings and living quarters, which include a minimum of 85% renewable raw material or ore-based materials, which are of almost unlimited source. The product must also provide a declaration of its contents.

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute monitors the Greenguard Certification Program and sets indoor air quality standards for products, the environment and buildings according to global ISO standards.

GREENGUARD® for Children & Schools – A certification program for low-emission products in buildings, decoration and finishes used in education systems from preschool to secondary.

In collaboration with FSC, ICEA certifies the forest that follows FSC requirements.

The IBR seal is of international quality and refers to sustainability criteria respected in products for construction and housing.

This label presupposes criteria aimed at limiting the main environmental impacts of the three phases of the life cycle of the service (purchases, provision of the service, waste) and, in particular, reducing energy consumption, reducing water consumption, limiting the production of waste, favouring the use of renewable resources and substances less hazardous to the environment and promoting environmental communication and education.

The Rainforest Alliance works with loggers, farmers and tour operators to ensure that their goods and services are environmentally friendly and socially sustainable.

O Cisne Nórdico demonstra que o produto constitui uma boa opção ambiental. O rótulo está disponível em 60 produtos, desde mobília, detergentes líquidos até hotéis.

This certificate certifies that the quality of the product, during its manufacture, is ensured. The product is subject to compliance checks through periodic audits with the taking of samples for analysis according to defined technical specifications.


The energy certification is the result of the transposition of Directive No. 2002/91/EC in 2006 into the national legal order together with the decrees referring to the RCCTE and RSECE.

The objectives of the ESA shall be:

– Ensure regulatory enforcement, in particular with regard to energy efficiency conditions, the use of renewable energy systems and also indoor air guarantee conditions, in accordance with the requirements and provisions contained in the RCCTE [2] and the CSR [3];

– Certify the energy performance and indoor air quality in buildings;

– Identify corrective or performance improvement measures applicable to buildings and their energy systems, including boilers and air conditioning equipment, both with regard to energy performance and with regard to indoor air quality.

Energy certification has been mandatory for new and large buildings since July 2007 and is mandatory for new and small buildings since 1 July 2008. Since January 2009 it covers all buildings including existing ones.

Energy certification is mandatory.

The Portuguese system, LiderA, was developed at IST and version 2.0 has been available since 2009 It is a voluntary system of recognition (design phase) and certification (operation phase) of sustainability. It applies to zones, developments or buildings of different uses or even multiples: housing, commercial, tourism etc. The classification is made from A++ to G, similar to energy certification, covering 22 areas, including energy.

The Domus Natura system has existed in Portugal since 2008. This system was developed by SGS (Société Generale de Surveillance) in 2005. The Domus Natura system includes a quality certification entitled Domus Qual (quality control in buildings). The Domus Qual, consists of a declaration of conformity that aims to verify full compliance with the legal, regulatory and normative requirements and conformity of the technical quality of the construction applicable to the project. Domus Natura combines the quality factor of the previous level with factors such as environmental concern, energy efficiency, efficient management of resources with the aim of increasing comfort and reducing operating costs. It has 6 categories and 127 criteria of which 21 are prerequisites of the Domus Qual.

Environmental quality certification of buildings in the U.S. was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998. Certification concerns various environmental criteria such as energy, indoor air quality, water, materials and innovation.

The BREEAM system, developed at BRE (Building Research Establishment), has been in existence since 1990. BREEAM offices are mandatory in all office buildings, new or rehabilitated, of the British central government. The goal of BREEAM is to minimize the negative effects of buildings on local and global environments by promoting comfort and health in indoor spaces.

The Eco-Hospital certification of the TÜV Rheinland Group aims to ensure compliance with national legislation on the environment, hygiene, health and safety at work and social responsibility in a context of hospital operation, in order to ensure the implementation of consistent practices in terms of optimizing resource consumption, leading to excellent results.

The Eco-Hotel Certification is aimed at companies in the hotel industry, namely hotels, tourist villages and aparthotels, focusing on an environmental policy that ensures the reduction of water and energy consumption and the consequent costs associated with these activities, while ensuring compliance with the environmental legislation applicable to the activity.

This label presupposes criteria aimed at limiting the main environmental impacts of the three phases of the life cycle of the service (purchases, provision of the service, waste) and, in particular, at reducing energy consumption, reducing water consumption, limiting the production of waste, favouring the use of renewable resources and substances less dangerous to the environment, as well as promoting communication and environmental education.

This label presupposes criteria aimed at limiting the main environmental impacts of the three phases of the life cycle of the service (purchases, provision of the service, waste) and, in particular, at reducing energy consumption, reducing water consumption, limiting the production of waste, favouring the use of renewable resources and substances less dangerous to the environment, as well as promoting communication and environmental education.


AA1000 Accountability (social responsibility)

AA 1000 was created and developed by the Institute of Social Responsibility and Ethics ISEA, to assist organizations in defining objectives and targets, measuring progress against these goals, auditing and reporting performance and establishing feedback mechanisms.

The SA 8000 standard allows the evaluation of the social responsibility of organizations. It includes audit requirements and methodologies for assessing workplace conditions, including with regard to child labour, forced labour, health and safety at work, freedom of association, discrimination, disciplinary practices, workload, benefits and the responsibilities of management to maintain and improve working conditions. Like SA 8000 (18 certified in Portugal), NP 4469 is, at national level, the standard that defines the implementation of management systems that allow the management of Social Responsibility practices.

The OSHAS 18001 system allows organizations to manage operational risks and improve their performance, guiding the management of the Safety, Hygiene and Health at Work aspects of organizations, taking into account the prevention of accidents, risk reduction and the well-being of employees in their workplaces.

This standard specifies requirements for a quality management system, where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and/or services that meet customer requirements and applicable regulations. Its function is to promote the standardization of products and services, so that their quality is permanently improved.

Certification according to ISO 14001 can be a preliminary step, indirectly, to joining EMAS. In addition to other differences of greater or lesser detail between these two benchmarks, the determining factor will be the degree of public exposure to which the EMAS registration confers, in that it requires the provision of information to the public on the environmental performance of the company, through the publication of an Environmental Statement.

EMAS is a voluntary mechanism for companies and organizations that want to commit to assess, manage and improve their environmental performance, making it possible to demonstrate, before third parties and in accordance with their respective references, the credibility of their environmental management system and their environmental performance. EMAS is based on four pillars: continuous improvement of environmental performance, worker participation, compliance with environmental legislation, public information of the environmental statement.

In 2006, Ecoprogresso created Carbonfree, aimed at certifying the compensation of emissions through the acquisition of carbon credits or the implementation of projects specifically designed to reduce emissions in the community in which the company operates.

The certificate has been available for ten years in the U.S. and Canada and means that the energy used comes from wind mills and solar panels built in 1997, that no simultaneous sale of energy has been made and that it does not produce GHGs and that the acquisition exceeds the minimums required by law and is contributing to the expansion of renewable energy production in the U.S. and Canada.

It is a joint initiative between the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and City Developments Limited (CDL) and was launched on 5 June 2002 to mark World Environment Day. The first phase of this ongoing program involved the distribution of Eco-office kits, which contained material to help companies raise awareness and motivate more environmentally friendly habits in the workplace. 88 kits were then distributed in Singapore.

It is a mark awarded by Sociedade Ponto Verde that aims to certify events, shows or commercial spaces with a “green dot guarantee”, in which the packaging waste generated in these places is subsequently correctly forwarded for recycling. The entities and companies adhering to the 100R® project are committed to creating and implementing the necessary infrastructures for the correct separation of packaging waste.