A Green Form of Capitalism

Defining sustainability’s role in industry profits and workers’ rights

A Green Form of Capitalism

With the rising awareness of the importance of sustainability, a new paradigm I like to call the “capitalism of sustainability” (also known as sustainable capitalism) has emerged within the global cleaning industry. This approach is driven by a complex and rapidly changing marketplace that combines economic success with environmental consciousness, social responsibility, and good management practices. As the industry employs millions of workers worldwide, understanding the impacts of this evolving capitalist model is crucial to long-term
business success.

Cleaning industry customers are driving sustainable capitalism. The industry is already responding to sustainability reporting requirements coming from four groups:

  • Investors seeking to reduce business risks
  • Regulators seeking to address social and environmental issues
  • Consumers desiring to align their personal values with their product purchases
  • Employees desiring to work for companies that support their well-being and their futures.

Improving efficiency through social responsibility

Sustainable capitalism focuses on the efficient use of resources and energy such as the use of fuels in sales and distribution vehicles. It promotes sustainable practices such as using green cleaning products and reducing water consumption. Its approach minimizes the industry’s environmental footprint while also increasing profitability, as using materials more efficiency directly improves a company’s bottom line.

Sustainable capitalism also encourages the adoption of socially responsible practices. It emphasizes fair labor conditions, workers’ rights, training, and community engagement.

Companies embracing this business strategy prioritize the well-being of their employees by ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, and opportunities for professional development. These benefits are critical for worker retainment during tight labor markets. Moreover, a sustainable capitalism strategy actively engages local communities by supporting social initiatives and education programs, as well as promoting diversity and inclusion.

Recognizing good management

Consumers prefer to support companies that don’t gain profits at the expense of their workers or competing businesses. Sustainable capitalism addresses unfair marketplace competition by shining a light on the companies that treat their workers poorly, pay them as independent contractors (often with cash “under the table”), or hire illegal workers to reduce labor costs. These tactics can give some companies an unfair pricing advantage in the marketplace while penalizing other companies trying to treat their workers the right way.

Another benefit of sustainable capitalism is that it puts a company’s management under a microscope. This clarity helps purchasers compare similar product offerings among companies, as even poorly run companies can produce authentically green cleaning products and programs.

Working out the kinks

Like all works in progress, challenges remain in sustainable capitalism’s efficiency. To address these challenges, especially for small- and medium-sized companies, ISSA has launched a global sustainability initiative, which provides tools to help its members respond to customer requests for information. To join ISSA’s Sustainability Initiative, fill out a short application at

The capitalism of sustainability in the global cleaning industry represents a positive shift toward economic success, environmental preservation, and social responsibility. By prioritizing greener practices, fair labor conditions, and good management practices, this business strategy improves the lives of the millions of workers in the cleaning industry and the families they support. This form of capitalism fosters a more sustainable, profitable, and inclusive cleaning industry. 

Learn more by watching this episode of Straight Talk! below.

Stephen P. Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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