Challenging times for the cleaning industry are forcing organizations to reevaluate how their operations align with their future goals and organizational values, especially those that save money. Sustainability operations offer one such opportunity for the following reasons:
- Sustainability generates real cost savings. The typical first step in any sustainability program is to reduce consumption through efficiency measures. For example, reducing the energy necessary to operate facilities will result in real bottom-line savings, as will reducing fuel for service vehicles. Other projects to conserve water and reduce waste will save money as well.
- Sustainability is important to clients and prospects. Even during a pandemic, organizations care about sustainability. The G&A Institute reports that 86% of S&P 500® Index organizations are now publishing sustainability reports. This is creating demand for the cleaning industry to report on their sustainability efforts as a means to attract business.
- Sustainability initiatives drive innovation. Innovation in the cleaning industry continues to accelerate. From energy-efficient powered equipment to certified products ranging from chemicals to mops and brooms, manufacturers are benefiting from their sustainability commitments, both from a cost and a quality perspective. This differentiation also is beneficial for distributors and service providers as they compete for business in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Identify the opportunities and gaps in your sustainability strategy. Begin by analyzing opportunities in a systematic manner using a comprehensive framework such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards. Framework components that most directly affect the cleaning industry include:
- Operations—Look at operational efficiency across the board and appropriately address measures that result in enhanced energy efficiency, reduced water use and waste generation, and improved vehicle mileage.
- Procurement and sales—Energy and water procurement are front and center of sustainability efforts for most organizations. But for those who sell or use products, it is important to address the sale or use of “greener” products from organizations that are committed to sustainability as an essential part of the program.
- Personnel—What differentiates a sustainability program from a green program is the focus on people. It is essential that our frontline workers in the cleaning industry are appropriately trained and compensated and that an organization’s commitment to the communities it serves is reported.
Cutting across the above three tenets are:
- Measurement and data—Accurate measurement of sustainability efforts including energy and water efficiency, waste diversion, fleet fuel mileage, and training are key.
- Communication and partner enablement—Internal communication to strengthen your organization’s culture as well as external communication of your sustainability efforts can be valuable differentiators and enablers
Sustainability sparks value and cuts costs—without reducing value. It’s good for the environment, your organization’s finances and performance, and your customers’ experience.