Top 5 green building certifications for CSOs

Top 5 green building certifications for CSOs

Thinking of greening your building? Here are our top 5 certifications from our repository! 


Reaching the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires integrating environment and climate change considerations into our everyday operations. Particularly, green buildings and office retrofitcan provide an opportunity for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to move beyond social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Green buildings and offices contribute drastically towards achieving over half of the SDGs, making this an area of significant importance. Not only do green buildings and offices benefit the planet by improving health and well-being of workers, lowering emissions, and creating climate resilient infrastructure, they also enable property owners and employers to remain competitive in the labour market by increasing property value. Furthermore, while COVID-19 has forced organizations to work primarily from home, a unique opportunity arises for CSOs to become green building certified while less people occupy workplaces  


With retrofitting and green buildings in mind, we have highlighted 5 certifications that could meet your organizational needs! 



  1. Accessible for smaller budgets: BOMA BEST Sustainable Workplaces 


Effort Level: 2 out of 5 

The BOMA BEST Sustainable Workplaces Program promotes sustainability within an organization, while facilitating monitoring and reporting on environmental performance. This certification is obtained through a four-step process – develop policies, create goals and objectives, develop and implement programs, and lastly apply for certification. This is a great option for Cooperation Canada members with smaller budgets. 

Cost and timeline: Prices are based on the number of employees in your organizations and range from $500 to $1,900 CAD annually. Certification process typically takes 6 months. 

  • low annual cost 
  • ranking is recognized as roughly equivalent to most widely used certification (LEED) 
  • application can be completed online by a Facility Manager 
  • provide examples for organizations to take inspiration from for each development area 
  • bilingual 
  • requires organizations to develop goals and targets for programs internally, which could complicate matters for organizations that are seeking a more guided route 

2. Online self-assessment for tenants: Green Globes Canada – Sustainable Interiors 

Effort Level: 2 out of 5 

The Green Globes system is a green rating assessment, guidance and certification program that can be completed online through a questionnaire-based system. This approach is specifically designed for tenant improvement projects, fit-outs and remodels. Unlike other certifications, this system allows building owners and individual tenants of commercial and institutional spaces to improve their workspace through interior design. For Cooperation Canada members that do not own their buildings, this can be a great option.  

Cost and timeline: Prices are based on gross floor area and range from $8,000 to $20,000+ CAD over 100,000 ft2. The certification process typically takes between 4 to 6 months

  • flexibility to tailor project for organizations unique situations, as well as various pathways* 
  • lower cost associated with self-assessment  
  • reduced operating costs 
  • qualify for tax incentives and utility rebates 
  • attract and retain employees 
  • additional fees such as assessor travel fees and complexity fees (buildings requiring additional energy modelling review)  
  • website only accessible in English 

*see website for additional pathways for certification  

3. Professional Guidance: LEED – Commercial Interiors 

Effort Level: 3 out of 5 

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the most well-known and recognized rating certification system created primarily for the tenant improvement market. This system allows tenants and designers to make sustainable choices in situations where they may not have whole building operationsThis option is great for Cooperation Canada members who have larger budgets and want more guidance. 

Cost and timelinePrices are based on the gross floor area and range from $1,500 to $34,000 CAD. Certification typically takes between 2 to 4 months.  

  • most recognized certification system 
  • LEED professionals available to provide expert advice and guidance on your project 
  • governing organization is considerate of feedback to improve system 
  • bilingual 
  • costly 
  • not a flexible system that can be adapted to unique organizational needs 


4. Focusing on human wellness and health: WELL Building Standard 

Effort Level: 3 out of 5 

Unlike other green building certifications, the WELL Building Standard primarily focuses on the impact of the built environment on human health and well-being. This performance-based system measures, certifies and monitors building attributes that affect health, including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mindThis option is ideal for CC members that want to focus on health of their employees by integrating wellness into their greening efforts.  

Cost and timeline: Prices are based on the gross floor area and start at $8,000 USD. recertification is required every 3 years to maintain certification statusCertification typically takes approximately 8 months.  

  • timeline generator and price calculator available 
  • 35% discount for non-profits and charitable organizations 
  • places focus on human health and wellness in relation to the built environment 
  • recertification ensures health and wellness standards are maintained continuously 
  • bilingual 
  • recertification every 3 years to maintain certification status at additional cost 


5. For the aspiring ambitious environmentalist: Living Building Challenge 

Effort level: 5 out of 5 

The goal of the Living Building Challenge is to move beyond “being better,” towards a regenerative built environment. Instead of a points-based system, this certification system evaluates buildings according to performances areas, which are further divided into Imperatives. Buildings must meet several required Imperatives to achieve certification. This certification is ideal for CC members that are constructing new buildings and want to commit to regenerative infrastructure.  

Cost and timeline: Prices are based on gross floor area and range from $4,900 to $20,000 USD for large buildings. Certification requires a minimum of 12 months in operation in order to evaluate actual building performance.  

  • ambitious goals that go beyond other certifications to be regenerative 
  • considers human health and equity when building 
  • additional pathways available – Zero Carbon Certification and Zero Energy Certification 
  • bilingual 
  • more challenging for retrofitting, as construction materials are considered in the performance areas 
  • content is very advanced, thus may be difficult to achieve 

Green buildings and retrofitting certifications have become increasingly accessible for all types of organizations, including CSOsOur sector could now benefit from such opportunities while doing their part in achieving the SDGs and more importantly in greening their workplaces, operations and programming. We hope the above list provides clarity for you and your organization for future green building certification endeavors  



See Cooperation Canada’s full repository of tools and resources! 

Top 10 Greening Tools for the International Co-operation Sector

Top 10 Greening Tools for the International Co-operation Sector

While the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be particularly trying and requiring adjustments in all aspects of our day-to-day, some have noted the potential – as we shift towards recovery – for a greener, more sustainable world to emerge. In Canada’s international cooperation sector, organizations have shifted their functioning; from working in offices and commuting to working from home and making extensive use of technologies such as ZoomAs we witness strikingly innovative times and shifts towards greener and more sustainable practicesan opportunity exists to reflect and plan to ensure positive changes remain in the long-term. As part of an ongoing research initiative, Greening CSOsCCIC  gathered resources and tools that can support organizations in greening their operations and programming In preparation for publication of a searchable online repository in October 2020we are presenting a few items to help our members get started on greener and improved operations and programming now 


Committing to greener operations and good practices starts here! 


Take a peek below at CCIC’s top 10 list of tools and resources to start your organization’s journey to greener operations. 


Advocating for a green world  

  1. Engaging with the Green Climate Fund – A Civil Society Toolkit (German Watch) 

The toolkit is published by a civil society consortium for stakeholders interested to engage with the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Encouraging as well as building civil society readiness for the GCF has emerged as a necessary step in contributing to a successful fund. This toolkit aims to provide civil society actors and their organizations, as well as any other stakeholders interested in the GCF, with relevant information, knowledge, and guidance on how to get involved with the fund. Lessons from this toolkit can be applied to a variety of other funding and advocacy mechanisms available to Canadian civil society.  


Green programming  

2. Guide pour l’organisation d’événements écoresponsables (HECOresponsable 

This short guide aims to support event organizers in their planning and management of events that are environment and climate conscious.  


3. Adaptation Layer (weADAPT) is an online space focusing on climate adaptation issues, which enables practitioners, researchers and policy makers to access credible, high quality information and to share experiences and lessons learnt on a range of issues around climate adaptation while developing and offering access to policy-relevant tools and guidance for adaptation planning and decision-making. Adaptation Layer is a weADAPT-Google Earth interface to locate who is doing what and where in the field of adaptation to climate variability and change. This tool allows one to browse case studies, projects, videos, downscaled climate projections and experiences of adaptation by a spatial reference, and search by key terms, providing an instant view of what is already going on and where.  


4. Green Recovery & Reconstruction Toolkit for Humanitarian (GRRT) (Environment and Disaster Management) 

The GRRT is a toolkit and training program designed to increase awareness and knowledge of environmentally responsible disaster response approaches. It consists of 11 training modules through which participants will learn about the intersection of the environment and post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. Although disasters wreak havoc, the rebuilding efforts that follow represent a significant and important opportunity to restore communities in a more environmentally and socially responsible way. Humanitarians, conservation practitioners, government officials, local communities, and donor organizations can take steps to ensure communities prepare for disasters and build back safer by actively addressing environmental sustainability, reducing risk and vulnerability to future disasters, and adapting to the effects of our changing climate. 


5. Climate Change Curriculum Guide (The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada) 

This curriculum guide provides information, suggested activities and advice about climate change for organizations teaching students about climate anxiety. The guide also provides examples of youth who are taking action to tackle climate change. 


Operating greener  

6. How to form a green team: A practical guide to create or form a green team at work (WWF-Canada) 

The Living Planet @ Work green team guide provides a 5-step guide and practical tips on how to create and operate a green team to maximize potential for positive impact within your organization.  


7. Greening Offices: 25 Tips to Get You Started (Cultivating Capital) 

This article provides 25 tips designed to jump-start your organization’s sustainability efforts, as well as links to additional sources to get started on your journey to greener operations. 


8. CUPE’s green workplace guide (Canadian Union of Public Employees) 

The booklet shows workers what steps they can take to make their workplaces and communities environmentally sustainable.  


 9. Reducing your carbon footprint (KAIROS) PDF 

A reduction of carbon emissions throughout the world is important, however much of what is discussed in this regard does not focus on the individual action level. In this simple and well-versed guide to reducing carbon emissions day-by-day, KAIROS provides guidance on what each and everyone of us can do, individually to reduce emissions.  


10. BOMA BEST Sustainable Workplaces – Certification (BOMA Canada)  

This highly accessibleaffordable and bilingual certification helps organizations be more sustainable while enabling them to measure and monitor their environmental performance. Once certified, organizations can easily implement additional policies, procedures and programs aimed to reduce their environmental impact, engage employees, create a healthier work environment, support sustainability goals, and become a leader in corporate sustainability efforts. Areas of development included in this certification are: communication, e-waste, energy, indoor air quality, recycling and waste diversion, sustainable travel and commuting, water, sustainable spaces, and procurement. 


The tools above represent a small sample of what is to come in CCIC’s repository of green tools – Stay tuned for more 

Feeling overwhelmed or unsure of where or how to start your organization’s greening journey?

Take a look at Top Reviewed Ten’s “50+ Go Green Initiatives that Might Save the World” for a noteworthy compilation of 50 green initiatives and efforts by individuals and organizations to fight climate change around the world. You will be sure to find inspiration there for future endeavours that are environment and climate-change conscious, while exploring new avenues for greening!