Measuring Sustainability in the Professional Cleaning Industry

A sustainable business involves the integration of social equity (people), environmental responsibility (planet), along with economic growth (profits).  In practical terms this means businesses must ensure that the products they manufacture or the services they provide are done in a way that is sustainable and simultaneously address all three components, known commonly at the triple-bottom-line.

And perhaps most important as the expectation for a sustainable company continues to evolve, it means that consideration must go beyond just the products and service themselves to include the operations of offices, warehouses, vehicles and other issues under a business’s control.

The major challenge businesses encounter in becoming more sustainable is first identifying the appropriate indicators or issues that need to be measured and then determining the metrics by which each indicator will be assessed.  Additionally, information must be easy to identify and collect, and output reporting must provide information that businesses can act upon.

For example, sustainability reports that are produced only once per year provides certain value to stockholders, employees and customers.  However, business management typically needs information on a much more frequent basis such as monthly, weekly or even daily for it to be most useful for managing and decision-making.

This in turn creates the ability to measure just how effectively the sustainablity transformation is proceeding.  After all, we cannot manage what we cannot measure. Unless we can quantify results, we don’t know if our efforts result in a business moving forward and becoming more sustainable, having no affect or taking steps backward.

Recognizing this problem, which impacts all industries including the professional cleaning industry, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) pioneered the development of a sustainability reporting framework, which creates reporting guidelines, measurements, and metrics that businesses can follow to determine their progress in becoming more sustainable.

Using the requirements of the GRI as its foundation, companies should assess their economic issues and profits, as well as environmental and social issues such as:

* Sales and profitability including percentages of sales attributed to Green products
* Operations and maintenance procedures including, but not limited to Green Cleaning
* Utilities consumed, including electricity, natural gas, and water
* Impact of transportation, including the use of company cars, delivery and service vehicles, and business travel
* Recycling and solid waste programs
* Wages, benefits, and training programs—the “people” component mentioned earlier
* Openness and transparency of communications to employees and customers
* Accountability to community—charitable contributions, pro bono, and volunteer work