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How to Get Your Facility TRUE Certified for Zero Waste

Sustainability has evolved from a buzzword previously reserved for a few environmentalists to become a crucial factor in the decision-making process for many organizations. 

One prominent certification that recognizes a facility’s commitment to Zero Waste is the TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Certification. Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), TRUE Certification is the leading and most transparent designation that validates and quantifies an organization’s dedication to waste reduction, recycling, and resource management. The GBCI is the same accreditation group that certifies LEED, WELL, and PEER amongst other certifications regarding the sustainability of our built environment. Those in ESG, EHS, or Sustainability departments are becoming increasingly aware of the significance of obtaining a TRUE Certification designation. We will not go into all the details within the comprehensive 81-point rating system and its constituent components, but rather an overview of the process, its significance, and the achievable levels of certification.

The Importance of TRUE Certification

TRUE Certification is sought after by various types of businesses, including commercial offices, manufacturing facilities, educational institutions, healthcare centers, hospitality establishments, and sports and entertainment venues. Basically, any building which produces a waste output can be a candidate. Obtaining TRUE Certification demonstrates an organization’s commitment to sustainable practices and positions it as a leader in waste mitigation. It shows stakeholders, customers, and employees that the organization is actively taking steps to minimize its environmental impact in concert with positive economic benefits.

The Benefits of TRUE Certification

Economically, TRUE Certification offers several advantages. By implementing waste reduction strategies, replicable P&P’s, and improving resource efficiency, organizations can reduce waste disposal costs, optimize recycling efforts, and streamline operations. This can result in significant cost savings over time. Moreover, TRUE Certification enhances a company’s public perception by showcasing its dedication to environmental stewardship. It strengthens brand reputation, attracts environmentally conscious customers and employees, and can even lead to new business opportunities.

Compared to other third-party standards and certifications on Zero Waste achievement, TRUE Certification stands out due to its comprehensive approach. TRUE focuses not only on recycling but also emphasizes upstream policies, tracking and encouraging waste reduction, and diverting waste from landfills. This holistic perspective ensures that organizations face their waste at every stage, seeding a long-term sustainability culture and compliance.

Engaging employees is crucial in achieving TRUE Certification. Organizations can create internal awareness campaigns, provide training on waste reduction techniques, establish recycling programs, and incentivize employee participation. Engaged employees are more likely to embrace zero-waste practices, fostering a culture of sustainability within the organization.

The TRUE Certification Process

To achieve TRUE Certification, organizations need to follow a structured process outlined in the GBCI TRUE Guide to Certification. The key steps include:

  • Register Project
    • Complete and sign agreement
    • Pay registration fee
  • Prepare Application
    • Seek assistance from a TRUE Advisor
  • Submit Application
    • Optional [Pre-submission call with the GBCI]
    • Pay Certification fee
      • Begin Preliminary review phase
  • Receive Feedback
    • Respond to any clarification requests
  • On-site Assessment
    • Interviews with Key on-site personnel
    • Detailed tour of facility
      • Begin Final review phase
  • Accept and Celebrate
    • Accept certification results

The time and capital required for TRUE Certification vary based on the facility’s size, complexity, and existing waste oversight practices. Costs may be incurred during the certification process but will be returned, many fold, into long-term economic benefits, derived from reduced waste disposal costs and operational efficiencies which have been proven to outweigh the initial investment.

Facilities of various types and sizes can seek TRUE Certification, including offices, retail spaces, manufacturing facilities, campuses, and hospitality establishments. TRUE Certification is applicable worldwide and can be pursued by organizations globally. There are currently only 350 facilities across 32 countries that have achieved TRUE certification.

Facilities must re-certify every 3 years to ensure ongoing compliance with waste reduction and diversion targets. Regular reporting and performance tracking are essential to maintaining the certification.

TRUE Certification Levels (and how to get there):


The Certified level is the entry-level certification and requires a facility to earn a minimum of 31 credits. This level recognizes facilities that have implemented fundamental waste management practices and demonstrated a commitment to waste reduction and diversion. Facilities must fulfill the credit requirements across various categories, including Policy and Planning, Waste Minimization, Recycling, Composting, Education and Training, and Performance Tracking.


To achieve Silver Certification, a facility must earn a minimum of 46 credits. This level represents a higher level of waste management performance and signifies an organization’s dedication to sustainable waste practices. In addition to meeting the requirements for Certified, facilities pursuing Silver Certification must implement more advanced waste reduction strategies and demonstrate improved waste diversion efforts.


Gold Certification is the third level and requires a facility to earn a minimum of 61 credits. Facilities at this level have implemented comprehensive waste management practices and achieved significant waste reduction and diversion. Gold Certification recognizes organizations that have gone beyond the basic requirements and adopted innovative approaches to waste management, such as material reuse, extended producer responsibility, and advanced employee training and engagement.


Platinum Certification represents the highest level of TRUE achievement, requiring a facility to earn a minimum of 76 credits. Facilities pursuing Platinum Certification must demonstrate exceptional waste management practices, showing a strong commitment to waste reduction and diversion. Platinum-certified facilities are leaders in sustainability, implementing advanced waste tracking systems, exploring waste-to-energy solutions, and engaging in community partnerships for waste management initiatives.

By offering these four levels of certification, TRUE recognizes and encourages organizations to continuously improve their waste management practices and strive for higher levels of sustainability. The credit requirements for each level reflect the increasing level of commitment and effort put forth by the facility in waste reduction and diversion.

It’s important to note that the credit requirements may be subject to updates and revisions. Therefore, it’s advisable to refer to the latest resources and guidelines provided by the USGBC and GBCI to ensure accurate and up-to-date information on the credit requirements for each TRUE Certification level.

How Can Okapi Help You?

To kickstart the prestigious TRUE Certification process, organizations can count on Okapi Consultants, a premier, hands-on, boutique zero-waste consulting firm. Okapi specializes in empowering organizations to grasp intricate zero-waste definitions while customizing systematic waste optimization strategies to fulfill the exacting requirements of TRUE Certification. With an expert team of seasoned professionals, Okapi stands ready to meticulously navigate organizations through every phase of the certification journey, ensuring a seamless and successful certification experience.

Okapi consultants have provided experience molding substantive change with sustainability initiatives for a wide range of participants. We have the secrets to ESG success.

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