Change and Opportunity

William Pollard was certainly an interesting guy. He started his career in the early part of the 20th century as a physicist and was asked to join the World War II Manhattan Project to help develop the atomic bomb. After the war, his life took a complete “u” turn and he became a priest.

What this man experienced during his professional career was a lot of personal change. But he welcomed change. He is known for saying:

Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.

I mention him because the professional cleaning industry, especially as it relates to Green Cleaning and sustainability, may be in for a lot of changes starting in 2017. This applies not only to environmental issues but also minimum wages, healthcare, job creation, tax policy, and immigration.

Please note: I never take a political stand on issues. However, I am a realist and the realities at hand starting this year are that the support for environmental issues we have enjoyed since the Clinton-era may be coming to an end. With a Republican President placing a low priority on many environmental issues and a Republican Congress seemingly ready to take his lead on many of these same issues, much of the progress we have made in the past 20-plus years are now in limbo.

This is the big change we are now confronting. But if Pollard is correct, and I believe he is, many in the professional cleaning industry are going to see this as an opportunity to improve their businesses, take a big step ahead of their competitors, and what might be most important, become the new leaders in the professional cleaning industry of the Green Cleaning and sustainably movement.

Change in Perspective

Before discussing these opportunities, we must take a look at the possible environmental changes that may arise due to the election in a broader perspective. Because much of the impetus for Green Cleaning/sustainability within our industry has been the result of Executive Orders enacted by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, it is very easy for the new administration to simply revoke those Orders.

But even if this happens, the Federal government, the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, has multi-year contracts with suppliers to provide among other things, cleaning products and paper products that are environmentally preferable and promote sustainability. This will delay any “quick” change back to traditional cleaning products, should that even happen.

Further, some states such as California, New York, and others, as well as scores of school districts around the country, have recently enacted new laws, regulations, and requirements raising the bar when it comes to environmental, Green, and sustainability issues. And because the states together actually purchase more products than the Federal government, manufacturers will of certainly want to address their purchasing requirements. This will likely minimize any big changes made by the Federal government when it comes to the environment.

The Opportunity

However, while it may be delayed, we must assume change is coming and that is where the opportunity arises for our industry and industry members. I would like to suggest a number of steps the professional cleaning industry can take to not only advance the need for Green Cleaning and sustainability, but re-emphasize the importance and value of cleaning overall.

For instance, should a distributor’s customer now be wavering about the need for selecting environmentally preferable cleaning products, I suggest distributors prepare PowerPoints and information packets on all of the benefits that have been derived from Green Cleaning over the past two decades. Scores of studies indicating that student and worker absenteeism has declined and morale has been lifted when Green Cleaning strategies have been implemented are available. Re-educate your customer about these benefits and commit to reminding your customers about this at every opportunity.

I also suggest that our entire industry get involved with children’s health issues. After all, our top goal is to protect the health of building users and what group should we be most concerned about other than children.

Further, many people are unaware of how important it is for children to wash their faces. Kids are constantly touching everything in their world and, according to some studies, touching their faces about 16 times per hour. This makes it a hop, skip, and jump for pathogens on their hands to reach their faces and from their faces, children’s eyes, noses, and mouths. This is cross contamination and this can be the cause of childhood illness. Let’s develop cost effective, health preventive strategies to remind our customers of our industry’s commitment to protecting health.

Finally, Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. I have seen many jansan distributors actively promote Green Cleaning and the use of Green Cleaning products, particularly to schools, on Earth Day. Now we need more to do so.

All of these items – Earth Day, children’s health, and re-educating our customers on the value of Green Cleaning and cleaning overall – are opportunities that call out for individual leadership. As Pollard suggests, become creative and innovative. Opportunity is calling you and our industry to continue our Green Cleaning journey, protect human health, and the world we live in.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for promoting sustainability. He is also CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is the coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies