In Germany, the German Sustainable Building
Council launched its DGNB certification system in
According to CONJECT, a Munich-based real
estate consulting firm, DGNB commanded 80% of
the German market for green building certification
by May of last year. The core of DGNB is based on
existing European building standards, making it a
more attractive and potentially easier certification
for German and other European building projects to
achieve. Due to these factors, the potential for LEED
certification to spread further in Germany, similar to
in the UK, is limited, along with the market potential
for related US products and services.
International LEED certified
projects aim for higher
standard levels
The majority of certified projects in the top 10
international markets for LEED certification are ei-
ther Gold or Platinum certified, indicating an overall
drive toward high rating levels outside the US. This
trend suggests that smaller, later-stage US green
building products such as sustainable interior fur-
nishings, green cleaning equipment and other ancil-
lary products are well suited for export.
Of the top 10 international markets (based on
certified projects), India and Germany lead in terms
of rating levels, with over 85% of certified projects
in both markets at the Gold or Platinum level. Cer-
tified LEED projects in Spain, China, Hong Kong and
Finland also tend to be at higher levels, with over
of certified projects at Gold or Platinum in
those markets.
Certified projects in Canada had the lowest over-
all level of certification, with 69% of Canadian LEED
projects at the “Certified” level. This rate was largely
influenced by the LEED rating of 40 Starbucks cof-
fee chain locations in Canada in 2012 and 2013
only to the “Certified” level, however, suggesting that
US-based chains have a heavy influence on the
market for LEED-related green building products
and services in Canada.
Multinational companies
spearhead the spread of LEED
standard usage globally
Both US and foreign multinational companies
with multiple locations are increasingly implement-
ing green building standards as part of their sustain-
ability policies. This is good news for small busi-
ness, green building suppliers to these companies,
since they can piggyback on their customers to for-
eign markets.
Starbucks is the global leader in LEED projects
outside the US, with 107 LEED registered foreign
locations, almost half of which are in Canada.
Citibank, Coca-Cola, Bloomberg and PepsiCo follow,
all with at least 10 LEED registered foreign loca-
tions. Siemens tops the list of foreign-based compa-
nies pursuing LEED standards in their subsidiary
facilities around the world, followed by fellow Euro-
pean multinationals HSBC, Nokia and Zara. US
green building products suppliers that are already
serving these companies domestically thus have an
opportunity to utilize their existing relationships to
expand export sales.
In conclusion, there are a number of markets
and strategies that Illinois companies offering green
building supplies and services can focus on to ex-
pand their global reach. The Indian market might be
a good long-term target for export while the high
certification rates in other Asian markets such as
Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan suggest the forg-
ing of strategic partnerships. The slow growth in
sustainable standards—despite a booming construc-
tion industry—in the Middle East indicate that com-
panies can capitalize later on marketing now, before
the trend truly hits its strides in the region. Finally,
investigate how multinational companies implement
green building standards internationally, including
whether related products and services are sourced
centrally or locally in foreign markets; marketing di-
rectly to these companies could be the key to ex-
pansion into any region around the world.
Laura Flamm is Director of the Illinois SBDC
International Trade Center at the Industrial
Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC) and has
a background in international market research
and foreign market entry consulting. Funded
in partnership with the Small Business Admin-
istration and ICNC, the International Trade
Center is part of the state of Illinois DCEO
small business development network and is fo-
cused on helping local small businesses think
globally. For additional information, no-cost
consulting and further resources for interna-
tional expansion, contact the International
Trade Center at