All members of the ESI must meet the basic criteria of the program:
The Partner level is designed for adoption by a broad range of organizations that are interested in beginning the process of developing a systematic approach to improving their environmental performance. Partners must demonstrate a commitment to maintain compliance, and either commit to establishing an environmental management system or set long-term measurable environmental performance goals.
The Rising Steward level is designed for those organizations that have a mature EMS. Rising Environmental Stewards must demonstrate a mature EMS, set measurable environmental performance goals and demonstrate a commitment to go beyond compliance.
The Steward level is for those organizations that already display a commitment to exemplary environmental performance beyond what is required by law. Environmental Stewards must demonstrate: a mature EMS; aggressive environmental performance goals; a commitment to meet and go beyond compliance; an EMS that is integrated into the core business functions; and a process of communicating with the local community about program activities and progress toward performance goals.