How Distributors Can Help Make Promote Sustainability

Promoting workplace sustainability is new for many cleaning contractors and facility managers.

Ten years ago, cleaning contractors and in-house cleaning professionals realized that more of their customers and building managers were serious about adopting a Green Cleaning program. However, while contractors and in-house pros had certainly heard of Green Cleaning, implementing a Green Cleaning program and all that it entails was not quite on their radar screen.

So what did they do? They turned to their distributors for help. Distributors were the ones with the “green” products; they were the ones taught by manufacturers in how to use these products; and, in most cases, they were the ones that attended the early seminars on how to design and implement a Green Cleaning strategy.

Now let’s fast-forward 10 years. It’s 2016, and customers and building managers have already adopted an effective Green Cleaning program. Now they want to go a step further and incorporate sustainability into the mix.

Similar to how, a decade prior, implementing a Green Cleaning program 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 also likely something few cleaning professionals have thought about.

So, again, what do they do? Cleaning professionals are once more turning to jansan distributors for advice and direction in implementing a sustainability program for the facilities they clean.

Defining Sustainability

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 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.

What Cleaning Pros Need to Know

For our purposes here, when it comes to sustainability, cleaning professionals are likely to turn to distributors for help with the following:

  • Clearly defining what sustainability is and what it means in their specific facility
  • Determining what their facility’s needs are as it pertains to sustainability and the procurement of Green and sustainable cleaning products
  • Selecting Green-certified cleaning solutions, products, and equipment; in most cases, Green-certified cleaning solutions are made from renewable resources.
  • Enhancing their facility’s operational efficiencies and realizing cost reductions
  • Reducing their facility’s use of natural resources (e.g., water, electricity, and fuel) and its overall environmental footprint by suggesting where consumption reductions are possible
  • Having a ready source of information, advice, and help on sustainability; a distributor can provide these benefits.

Steps in the Sustainability Process

Jansan distributors can also help cleaning professionals incorporate a sustainability program using a step-by-step process. In most cases, the process involves the following:

  • Forming a “sustainability team” made up of building managers, cleaning professionals, and building users
  • Communicating to all major stakeholders why the program is being implemented and what it entails; the goal here is to get everyone on board with the sustainability initiative.
  • Training cleaning professionals on the proper use of sustainable cleaning products along with proper procedures that help minimize the impact of cleaning on the facility; in many cases, this will involve learning the guidelines and best practices developed by ISSA’s CIMS-GB (Green Building) program.**
  • Helping the cleaning contractor or facility manager select product alternatives to the traditional cleaning and paper products used in the facility
  • 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 enhancing 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 when it comes to selecting more sustainable cleaning solutions, there are things to consider other than the ingredients—for instance, the product container size. Most Green Cleaning solutions can be selected in larger, five-gallon sizes, making them much more sustainable than solutions packaged in smaller containers. Also, selecting more highly concentrated cleaning solutions, which last longer and in turn help reduce 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. A distributor can help cleaning contractors and facility managers make more sustainable product purchases.

Moreover, a distributor can help cleaning contractors and building managers create 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. This is a process of selecting products that, for instance, can be used on multiple surfaces or for multiple purposes. The goal is to minimize the practice of selecting a product that is used for just one cleaning task. In addition to enhancing sustainability, selecting fewer products helps reduce training needs, improve cleaning efficiencies, improve safety, all of which help promote sustainability and fall under the umbrella of an effective sustainability program as well.

About Stephen Ashkin

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


*The Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 is a stock market index made up of 500 different companies. Their economic health is often viewed as a barometer for the entire economy.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings are reports on a business’s liquidity, profits, liabilities, corporate direction, and other information.

**Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) is a consensus-based