ESG (environmental, social, governance) certification options designed for freelancers, solo proprietors, micro and small businesses

Responsible Business Standard Certification

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We are the only organisation in the UK offering broad, comprehensive certification based on the principles of ESG (environmental, social, governance) adapted specifically for small businesses.

ESG is imperative for a small business.

To thrive, you should be merging an efficient, robust internal system with a commitment to making a positive impact on people and the planet.

We are proud to have been ahead of the curve: we proposed this better way of doing business in 2008.

We lead the field in declaring the immense value of micro and small businesses.

Our certification gives that recognition - it's the right fit for smaller sizes.

The Responsible Business Standard is unique


SEEING SPECIFICS  Our auditors are trained to look beyond set parameters and take a subjective approach, tailored specifically to small businesses. We never penalise companies for sections or questions that don't apply. We don't just ask you to tick boxes; we ask for your unique, specific responses to each question and require evidence to substantiate.


BROAD  The Responsible Business Standard is designed to cover all aspects of your business operations. We take a broad approach to responsible business, focusing not just on social and environmental impact, but also on efficiency, legislation, internal and external communications, and appropriate processes.


CLEAR  Our certification is specially designed for small businesses, including micro businesses with no employees and freelancers. It's a big, robust course and certification process, written in plain English without any complex statistics or analytics.


YOURS  We believe that "one size fits all" doesn't work. That's why we adopt an approach we call ASTI: Appropriate to the Size, Type, and Impact of the business.


THOROUGH  Our online processes are rigorous and evidence-based. Additionally, for businesses with 5 or more employees (excluding owner directors), we offer an on-site visit. This provides an added layer of authenticity and peace of mind for all stakeholders. Experienced auditors can sense the culture of an organisation almost as soon as they arrive, which is why an on-site visit is so valuable.


OPTIONS  In addition to the full, Responsible Business Standard, we also offer two 'lighter' options: Monitored Self-Certification and Social Value (Community) Certification.

 Certification Options

Monitored Self-Assessment

This is the true 'preparation' stage. If you feel that your business has reached a sufficient level after working through the course, you may apply for Monitored Self-Assessment Certification. This process requires you to consider your performance for each topic and give yourself a score and a brief comment to validate that score.

The certification is an excellent starting point if you want to take higher levels of certification like our Responsible Business Standard, B-Corp or CSR-A.

After submission and review, applicants are required to book a 1-2-1 Zoom call with the assessor to discuss the results before the application is approved.

To achieve this certification, complete the course parts that are appropriate to your business. You may skip the Workplace section if you have no employees, but consider specific questions in the Workplace section if you have volunteers or contractors.

You must submit the full self-assessment spreadsheets and ensure your overall score is at least 60% with no section less than 45%. You must also sign a pledge confirming that you operate your business in an ethical manner, consider people and the environment when making business decisions, and strive to make a positive contribution to the community.

Monitored Self-Assessment Certification is overviewed by an internal ORB moderator. If approved, a certificate will be issued together with a year-dated Responsible Business Self-Assessment logo.

NOTE: This certification is a self-assessment process that is not evidenced or audited, and achieving it does not indicate that you have received external recognition of responsible business practices.

Social Value (Community) Certification

Anyone operating a responsible business should, by default, be providing social value — the level of commitment, support and engagement is required at a higher level in the Social Value (Community) Certification.

As with all our certifications, it is essential to work through the Responsible Business Course first.

Social Value (Community) Certification is a two-step process. All the necessary forms are available on purchase of the certification option.

The first stage is to complete, certify and submit a self-assessment covering all areas included in the course.

Stage two requires businesses to demonstrate a high level of commitment and engagement in supporting their local community:

Responding to the questions as per the Community Section of the course, you will be required to submit detailed responses and evidence of how you have engaged with and supported your local community over the last one, two or three years – you can choose which time frame.

Social Value (Community) Certification is excellent for any business wanting to improve its reputation by showing how committed they are to support the local community, but it is particularly important in the public sector supply chain.

Stage two submissions are assessed by an externally trained and certified auditor and overviewed by an internal ORB moderator, with certification awarded at BASIC or EXEMPLAR levels.

If the application is approved, a Social Value Certificate and detailed report will be issued, and Social Value logos made available.

Social Value Certification should be renewed every three years.

Responsible Business Standard Certification


You will be required to submit detailed responses and evidence in response to all questions in all sections.* RBS Certification is assessed and then overviewed by two trained and certified Responsible Business specialist auditors.

*You need not complete the Workplace Section if you do not have any employees, unless you work regularly with contractors/freelancers or, in the case of not-for-profit organisations, work with volunteers or other unpaid personnel, in which case just complete the appropriate questions.


If you have 5 or more employees (excluding Owner Directors) we will arrange a short onsite audit in order to view the premises and speak to various personnel. Costs will vary according to the size and location of the business.

For micro-businesses with 0-4 employees, this stage requires an hour-long Zoom call with one of the auditors at a minimal cost.

In both cases, the business should agree on a 3-year development plan with the auditor, either during the visit or the additional Zoom interview.

The full plan and yearly progress updates are to be submitted online by the applicant and assessed by us.


If the application is approved, a Responsible Business Standard Certificate with a full report will be issued and RBS logos will be provided.

  • If a sufficiently high score is achieved in the Community Section, Social Value (Community) Certification will also be awarded with a separate certification and logos as above.
  • Certification is awarded at BASIC or EXEMPLAR levels.
  • RBS Certification should be renewed every three years.
  • Membership of ORB is a requirement, at the published rates.
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