Reprint: To Learn About Sustainability Turn To Your Distributor

The following is an article published in Cleaning Maintenance Magazine in Dec. 2016

Ten years ago, building service contractors (BSCs) 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 professionals had certainly heard of green cleaning, they were not intimately familiar with implementing a green cleaning program.

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

Now let’s fast-forward 10 years. It’s 2016, and many customers and building managers have 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 ago, BSCs and in-house professionals may not have had experience implementing a green cleaning program, few of them currently have the expertise to implement practices that would help a facility reduce its environmental footprint and become more sustainable.

So, again, what do they do? Cleaning professionals are once more turning to jansan distributors for advice and direction on how to implement a sustainability program for the facilities they service.

No Blame

In all fairness to cleaning professionals, whereas “greener” cleaning products and forms of green cleaning practices came on the scene as far back as the 1970s, sustainability issues remain relatively new. A perfect example of this is the fact that, just three years ago, only 5 percent of Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 companies—a stock market index composed of 500 different companies whose collective economic health serves as a barometer for the U.S. economy—included environmental and sustainability issues in their annual Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. Today, more than 25 percent of S&P 500 firms include such information in their sec reporting.

We also should note that the definition of “sustainability” has been evolving, which has caused some confusion in the marketplace. At one time, sustainability simply 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 a look at business practices, such as how a business treats its staff; the role it plays in the community that it serves; and ensuring that profits result from responsible leadership, use of natural resources, and long-term strategies to ensure the viability of the company.

What Cleaning Pros Need to Know

When it comes to sustainability, cleaning professionals may turn to their distributors for help with the following:

  • Defining sustainability and what it means in their specific facility
  • Determining their facility’s needs pertaining 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 savings as a result
  • 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
  • Providing a ready source of information, advice, and help on sustainability practices.

Steps in the Sustainability Process

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

  • Forming a “sustainability team” composed of building managers, cleaning professionals, and building users
  • Communicating to all major stakeholders why the organization seeks to implement the program along with its implications to achieve buy-in on the overall initiative
  • Training cleaning professionals on the proper use of sustainable cleaning products and proper procedures that help minimize the impact of cleaning on the facility; in many cases, this will involve learning the guidelines and best practices outlined in the Cleaning Industry Management Standard-Green Building (CIMS-GB) from ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association
  • Helping the cleaning contractor or facility manager select alternatives to traditional cleaning and paper products they may use 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’s implementation, evolution, and revision when and where necessary.

When it comes to selecting more sustainable cleaning solutions, purchasers may consider more than just the ingredients—for instance, the product container size. Most manufacturers offer green cleaning solutions in larger, 5-gallon sizes, which makes them more sustainable than solutions packaged in smaller containers. Also, selecting more highly concentrated cleaning solutions, which may last longer and in turn help reduce transport and fuel needs, reduces 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 to help eliminate cleaning solutions that they no longer use or need. BSCs and facility managers may accomplish this through a “consolidation” of purchases, a process of selecting products that cleaners can use on multiple surfaces or for multiple purposes. The goal is to minimize the practice of selecting a product that cleaners may only use for a single cleaning task. In addition to enhancing sustainability, selecting fewer products helps BSCs and facility managers reduce training needs, improve cleaning efficiencies, and promote safety—all of which fall under the umbrella of an effective sustainability program.

Stephen Ashkin is chief executive officer of The Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC. The Sustainability Dashboard is a reporting system that measures and monitors energy, water, and fuel consumption to help reduce environmental impact and cost. For more information, email