Stephen Ashkin

From Green to Sustainable

Green cleaning is now commonplace. Next comes sustainability.

The seeds for the Green Cleaning movement were planted in the 1980s and took hold in 2002 when the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its LEED Rating System for Existing Buildings (LEED-EBOM). 
The requirements spelled out in LEED-EBOMmade it easy to specify a comprehensive Green Cleaning program using third-party standards such as those from Green Seal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ISSA to address effective cleaning and the selection of green cleaning chemicals, sanitary paper products, plastic can liners, equipment and other supplies.

Other organizations such as the Healthy Schools Campaign went on to design policies, procurement language, training requirements, legislation and other issues specific for the unique challenges faced by schools and universities.

As a result, Green Cleaning products have grown to 30 percent of all cleaning product sales(Sanitary Supplies Distributor Sales, Sanitary Maintenance Magazine and ISSA, October 2015) and are estimated to be more than 60 percent among schools and universities.

What’s Next

To identify what’s next, it is important to look at changing requirements from large organizations such as Standard & Poor’s 500 companies.  More of these organizations are looking to buy green products from companies that operate in a manner that is sustainable and will be a driver of future requirements.

According to the Governance and Accountability Institute, “Sustainability reporting rose dramatically from 2011, when roughly 20 percent of [Standard & Poor’s 500] companies published reports, to 72 percent just three years later in 2013. From 2013 to 2017, the frequency of reporting has increased each year, now up to 85 percent of companies reporting in 2017.”

Just as LEED-EBOMwas used by customers to drive demand for Green Cleaning products, marketplace requirements for sustainability reporting are the next step for the professional cleaning industry.

How Is Sustainability Different from Green

Green applies specifically to a product or service. It does not consider whether an organization is in compliance with all laws, treats workers fairly, pollutes the environment or has other broad governance or operational issues.  Sustainability goes far beyond the products; it has a focus on how the organization itself operates. 

Sustainability is smart business because it reduces risk resulting from rising fuel and energy costs or a negative story in the media affecting a school’s reputation.

Buying Green Products from Green/Sustainable Suppliers

According to data from the Distributor Efficiency, Analytics and Learning (DEAL) program, there are only a few things that are meaningful to how distributors operate. 

The key metrics include efficiency and conservation efforts over time relative to energy, water and waste. This includes fuels used by the delivery fleet, energy and water used by offices and warehouses, and waste disposal. DEAL participants are saving 10 to 30 percent on these costs, which gives them a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Other metrics of importance to purchasers from a sustainability perspective include green product sales as a percentage of total sales, the number of custodians that have been trained per sales dollar, and finally a listing ofGreen building, transportation, sustainability, or other certifications.  One final requirement of all sustainability reporting frameworks is transparency and the need to disclose critical impacts. 

Leading schools and universities, along with S&P 500 corporations, are demanding to know more about the companies they buy from, and sustainability will light the way.

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