How Can Distributor Help Make Facilities More Sustainable?

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A quick flashback: It’s 2006, and facility managers, cleaning contractors, and in-house cleaning professionals are finding that more of their customers and building managers are serious about adopting a Green Cleaning program in their facilities. While contractors and in-house pros have certainly heard of Green Cleaning, implementing such a program and understanding all that it entails is not quite on their radar screen.

So what do they do?

What happened a decade ago was that managers, cleaning contractors, and in-house cleaning professionals turned to their distributors for help. Distributors were the ones with the “green” products; they were the ones taught by manufacturers how to use these products; and, in most cases, they were the ones that had attended the early seminars on how to design and implement a Green Cleaning strategy. At a time when many distributors were uncertain about their industry’s viability, the advance of Green Cleaning strategies was one of the best things that ever happened to them and their industry. It convinced many distributors, especially those involved with national sales and marketing organizations, that their business model and role had changed, from product seller to cleaning advisor.

Now let’s fast-forward 10 years. It’s 2016, and building managers have already adopted an effective Green Cleaning program. Today the goal is to go a step further and incorporate sustainability into the mix. Similar to how implementing a Green Cleaning program a decade prior wasn’t on the radar screen of cleaning contractors and in-house cleaning professionals, helping a facility reduce its environmental footprint and become more sustainable is more than likely something few cleaning professionals have thought about.

So once again we ask, what do they do? Managers and cleaning professionals are now turning to jansan distributors for advice and direction in implementing a sustainability program for the facilities they clean.

No Blame

In all fairness to cleaning pros, whereas “greener” cleaning products and forms of Green Cleaning were implemented as far back as the 1970s, sustainability issues are relatively new. A perfect example of this is the fact that, just three years ago, only 5 percent of the S&P 500 companies included environmental and sustainability issues in their annual SEC filings; today, more than 25 percent include such information with their filings.

We should also note that the definition of “sustainability” has been evolving, causing some confusion. At one time, it just referenced the use of natural resources in such a way that their consumption today would not hinder future generations from accessing these same natural resources.

Today, sustainability has much broader interpretations. Not only does it concern protecting natural resources, but it also involves such things as how a business treats its staff; the role it plays in helping the community that it serves; and ensuring that profits are the result of responsible leadership, use of natural resources, and long-term strategies to ensure the viability of the company.

Sustainability Action Steps

For our purposes here, when it comes to sustainability, cleaning professionals are likely to turn to distributors for help with the following:
•Helping the facility clearly define what sustainability is, what it means in this specific facility, and exactly what the facility’s needs are as it pertains to sustainability and the procurement of sustainable cleaning products.
•Helping the facility select Green-certified cleaning solutions, products, and equipment; in most cases, Green-certified cleaning solutions are made from renewable resources.
•Assisting the facility in enhancing operational efficiencies and realizing cost reductions; often this is accomplished by streamlining product ordering, using web-based dashboard systems to compare products based on costs and cost-of-use, consolidating purchases, ensuring ordering accuracy, and other measures.
•Reducing the facility’s use of natural resources (e.g., water, electricity, fuel) and its overall environmental footprint by suggesting where consumption reductions are possible.
•Becoming a ready source of information, advice, and help on sustainability.

Steps in the Sustainability Process

Additionally, distributors can help facility managers and cleaning professionals incorporate sustainability initiatives using a step-by-step process. This process is very similar to how they helped cleaning pros transfer to Green Cleaning strategies a decade or more ago. In most cases, it involves the following:
•Forming a team made up of building managers, cleaning professionals, and building users, with the goal of defining what sustainability means for the facility and developing an action plan to ensure the sustainability program’s development and implementation.
•Communicating to all major stakeholders, such as building staff and users, why the program is being implemented and what it entails. The goal here is to get everyone on board with the sustainability program.
•Training cleaning professionals on the proper use of Green and more sustainable cleaning products along with cleaning procedures that help minimize the impact of cleaning on the facility, protect the health of the facility, and promote sustainability; most of these guidelines and best practices have been developed by ISSA’s CIMS-GB (Green Building) program.
•Helping the facility manager select product alternatives to the traditional cleaning and paper products used in the facility. In some cases, the distributor will have access to the web-based dashboard systems mentioned earlier to help facilitate this process.
•Verifying the performance of the cleaning products selected and continually looking for new products that may help promote the health of the facility along with sustainability.
•Having the team become stewards of the program, and ensuring the sustainability program is implemented, evolves, and changes when and where necessary.

We should note that, while a Green-certified cleaning solution is likely manufactured with renewable resources and does promote sustainability, there are other things to consider, such as the product container size. Most Green Cleaning solutions can be selected in larger, five-gallon sizes, making them much more sustainable than traditional cleaning solutions packaged in smaller containers. This is because the product is typically highly concentrated, so it lasts longer, which in turn reduces transport and fuel needs, lessens the amount of greenhouse gases released due to fuel and transport, and reduces the use of paper, plastic, and other packaging materials.

Additionally, a sustainability program will have guidelines designed to help eliminate cleaning solutions that are no longer used or needed. One way this can be accomplished is through a “consolidation” of purchases, referenced earlier. This is a process of selecting products that, for instance, can be used on multiple surfaces for the same purpose or for multiple purposes, eliminating the need for current solutions that serve just one purpose. In addition to enhancing sustainability, using fewer products can help reduce training needs, improve cleaning efficiencies, and promote safety, all of which fall under the umbrella of an effective sustainability program as well.
Stephen Ashkin is Chief Executive Officer of The Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC.   The Sustainability Dashboard is an advance reporting system designed for business owners, managers, and property developers to measure and monitor energy, water, fuel consumption and other metrics and is specifically designed to reduce environmental impacts, save money, and create a culture of sustainability.  He may be reached at