Diving into the world of environmental, social, and governance initiatives brings the challenge of helping others to appreciate your hard work. Building-level ESG certifications are ideal for communicating your progress and attracting investors. Learn about the top credentials in ESG.

5 Need-To-Know Building-Level ESG Certifications

The many acronyms and initialisms in this field can become confusing. However, five certifications stand out, particularly for those who want to focus on individual buildings.


In 1992, the Department of Energy and the United States Environmental Protection Agency launched ENERGY STAR to encourage businesses and homes to implement efficient practices. This measure became one of the first building-level ESG certifications. Properties that wish to become ENERGY STAR-certified must reach an efficiency level of 75 on a scale from 1 to 100.

The program provides online tools for tracking and measuring, allowing property owners to have actionable benchmarks. ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager is a free platform that can help organizations better understand their overall energy performance, compare their standings to previous periods, measure themselves against similar businesses, and set goals for improvement.


The United States Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program to rate design, construction, operation, and maintenance. The rating can encompass a single building or an entire neighborhood.

LEED provides a straightforward, internationally recognized approach to score new, existing, and retrofitted buildings. The system reviews site selection, materials, resources, energy performance, water efficiency, and the design process.

Indoor air quality is one area where LEED helps an organization determine its environmental impact and its effect on productivity and human health. The standard has grown in popularity since its introduction in the mid-1990s and is a leader among the other measures.


The WELL Building Standard is a more recent addition to the various building-level ESG certifications. The International WELL Building Institute launched the program in 2014.

All WELL certifications and ratings undergo a meticulous, unbiased third-party validation process to guarantee credibility and transparency. The system centers on seven concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

Drawing from the expertise of thousands of WELL users and experts, the WELL Building Standard v2, the WELL Health & Safety Rating, and the WELL Performance Rating provide insights for creating a healthier built environment. The guidance allows for customizable and scalable solutions for organizations to develop healthy, thoughtfully designed spaces that meet ESG criteria.

4. Fitwel

Another recent entry into building-level ESG certifications focuses on prioritizing health and wellness in building design and operations: Fitwel. The advantage of this standard is that, similar to WELL, it focuses more closely on a building’s impact on the world’s top resource, human beings.

The end goal is not simply a number to demonstrate a grade. Fitwel wants to boost the health and wellness of building occupants. Properties that reach over 90 points out of a possible 144 qualify for a Fitwel certification with a one-star rating. Hitting 105 points gets two stars, and 125 points achieves the peak three-star rating.

Fitwel provides over 70 strategies to assist you in improving your score and creating a better environment for building occupants.

5. IREM CSP Certification

Anyone in real estate should be aware of the scoring model from the Institute of Real Estate Management developed through its Certified Sustainable Property program. This is one of the building-level ESG certifications that can be easiest to acquire and add to your list of accolades because buildings with a LEED certification can more easily receive an IREM certification.

Another benefit of an IREM CSP is its appeal to residents and tenants. The score is fitting for the many building owners who generate income through leasing and want to attract high-quality tenants who tend to spend more to rent eco-friendly properties.

IREM also allows organizations to demonstrate real-time commitment to ESG initiatives. Buildings must show a 5% improvement in water, waste, and energy every three years to maintain their certification.

More Building-Level ESG Certifications To Know

Other building-level ESG certifications could also be beneficial, depending on your circumstances:

  • Green Globes
  • Living Building Challenge
  • BOMA 360
  • EDGE

Each program comes from a different organization and focuses on unique project types and distinct areas. A variety of certifications exist as well, and a discussion with an ESG expert is the best way to learn more.

Building-Level ESG Certifications Guidance for Your Green Initiatives 

Understanding the benefits of building-level certifications and choosing which to go for can be a monumental task. Few property management teams, owners, or investors have the time to dedicate to a deep dive into understanding the nuances.

Guidance is readily available. Discuss how to benefit from building-level ESG certifications with ESG Property Consultants, the experts on the E in ESG. We’ll help you uncover the ideal strategies for your properties.