Sustainability Puts Money in the Bank

Very often, when distributors think about Green Cleaning and sustainability, they believe they are pretty much one and the same.  They are not. In fact, the gap between them is expanding. However, there are similarities.  We likely should address those first.

Environmentally preferable cleaning solutions, for example, are normally manufactured without the use of non-renewable resources, specifically petroleum bi-products.  Further, many jansan manufacturers are now offering their cleaning solutions in higher concentrations and in bulk containers.

Delivering such products reduces fuel consumption, greenhouse gasses, and for the end-customer, there are typically cost benefits along with the fact that the product lasts longer.  In addition, many manufacturers are becoming more focused on their use of packaging materials; either they are using less, none, or selecting those materials that are made from recycled materials or can be recycled.

Taking such steps is a key part of sustainability. However, sustainability means something much more, which is just now getting added attention in the professional cleaning industry, especially among distributors. Sustainability is about reducing costs and incorporating ways to operate their businesses with greater efficiency.

Efficiency is a keyword in sustainability, and it is through efficiency that cost savings materialize. Possibly we can explain what we mean by this analogy:

When we conserve water, for instance during a drought, we are reducing water consumption temporarily. Invariably, once the drought is over, we go back to our old water-using habits.

But, when we use water more efficiently, we are taking steps to reduce water consumption permanently.  This typically reduces water and sewer charges – where our cost savings come in to play – as well as helping us protect this vital natural resource.

The cost benefits for distributors of sustainability and efficiency have already been realized by jansan distributors through the DEAL program, a program I structured for ISSA.  In June 2017, it was reported that after only one year, “collectively, the 20 participants [involved in the DEAL program] achieved $400,000 in savings.” That’s about $20,000 per company.

Further, it was highlighted that the “participating companies reduced their greenhouse gases by 1,550 metric tons, the equivalent of planting 40,000 tree seedlings and letting them grow for 10 years.”

Steps in the Process

Since these cost savings reports came out about this time last year, more and more distributors have been looking into ways they can incorporate sustainability into their business operations.  It’s not a difficult process, but it is a process. Steps must be taken, best in a sequence, to help ensure the program works and is successful.  Some of the first ones, which are key to the success of the entire program, include the following:

Getting leadership’s commitment 

For sustainability initiatives to succeed there needs to be a strong commitment from the top.


Engaging all departments

Sustainability encompasses all departments of a distributorship. This includes operations, sales, marketing, etc.  Engaging all departments ensures you have a united front and make sustainability a collaborative effort.


Setting goals

To have an effective sustainability program, goals along with measurable improvements need to occur.  This helps focus efforts and keeps the organization accountable.


Tracking Progress The distributors in the DEAL program and other distributorships now adopting sustainability initiatives, all used online sustainability “dashboard” systems to track their progress.  Metrics such as fuel, energy, and water consumption, are all stored in the system, usually using data provided by local utility companies.  These dashboards help distributors measure and monitor their sustainability efforts, helping to address what author Peter Drucker famously advised, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

We now have a better idea of what sustainability is all about and how it differs from Green Cleaning, So, our takeaway is this: sustainability is all about efficiency and the more efficiently your distributorship is operated, the more likely you will be able to reduce costs and enjoy other benefits.

And just to sweeten the pie, doors of opportunity may open for you as well. Many organizations now require that their outside vendors have their own sustainability initiatives in place, before they can even walk in the door.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of the Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Green cleaning and sustainability.  He is considered the “ 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