Steps to Sustainability and Savings

John Atkins, Director of Market Research for ISSA, announced in June 2017, that 20 ISSA members involved in the Association’s DEAL program had “collectively achieved $400,000 in savings.” This was the equivalent of $20,000 per company, by adopting sustainability initiatives into their business operations. For many distributors, these savings were a bit of a surprise. They assumed, as do many other business owners and building managers, that sustainability initiatives meant added costs, not added savings.

While many steps were taken to achieve these savings, the process was quite simple.  Ultimately, it was all the result of operating their businesses more efficiently, a key word when it comes to sustainability.

For example, installing energy-saving light fixtures that provide the same light –  if not more light – than traditional fixtures but using less energy is an example of using energy more efficiently.  In other words, same results but with less energy.

To get started on the sustainability journey, there are several steps distributors can take on their own or working with an expert in the field, to operate their businesses more efficiently. Among the those are the following:

Commitment – When I first started working with jansan professionals and building managers, helping them transfer from traditional to Green Cleaning, I realized early that if the commitment to the program did not start at the top, the success of the program was tenuous.  When it comes to sustainability, top administrators must play a leadership role.

In Writing – Written sustainability policies have much higher success rates.  Having the program in writing helps everyone understand what the program is all about, helps ensure accountability, and helps create what I call a “Culture of Sustainability.”

Engagement – Our next step is getting staff onboard.  This includes operations, marketing, sales, etc.  It is also a good idea, once the program progresses, to get vendors on board as well.  Sustainability is a team effort.  The chances for success are greatly increased when everyone, including outside vendors, believes in sustainability and have their own sustainability initiatives.

Measure – When it comes to water, fuel, or energy, all too often distributors have no idea exactly how much they are consuming. A key first step in the sustainability journey is being fully aware of not only consumption, but waste.

Monitor – “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” is one of author Peter Drucker’s most famous quotes, and it surely does apply to sustainability.  Our initial measurements of water, fuel, etc., become our benchmarks.  Monitoring them with sustainability dashboards, for instance, helps make sure we don’t backslide.

Goals – Monitoring also helps us meet our sustainability goals. Establishing reasonable goals as we begin the journey is crucial.  It is not good to overreach… but, do not under reach either.

When it comes to sustainability goals, very often, they are more easily reached than initially realized. Further, as we work to accomplish our sustainability initiatives, we often find new ways to reduce consumption, waste, fuel, etc.  This is when excitement in the program builds and the cost savings become most evident.

Finally, I always encourage my clients to start with low-hanging fruit.  Surprisingly, these can have the biggest payoffs. It helps prove to your team the value of sustainability, and encourages them to take more steps, helping to further reduce operating costs and protect our environment at the same time.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of the Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Green cleaning and sustainability.  He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF). He is also helping the professional cleaning industry turn sustainability into cost savings.  He can be reached at