The following was written by Stephen Ashkin and published in FMLink


Today, articles on sustainability seem to be everywhere, reflecting the increased awareness of the issues that are facing future generations as a result of past and current practices. And while most industries are slowly adopting greener and ultimately more sustainable practices, the professional cleaning industry seems well on its way.

Led by the demand of facility managers to provide products that meet their cost and performance requirements, the professional cleaning industry has developed new products that truly reduce impacts on health and the environment. The industry includes the manufacturers of chemicals, paper, equipment, tools and other supplies

But the success of Green Cleaning has now lead to other opportunities and challenges as manufacturers mistakenly assume that sustainability is just another fancy name for Green Cleaning. But green and sustainability are two very different things.

For the professional cleaning industry, the major difference is that “green” is limited to the health and environmental impacts of the products made by the manufacturer, while “sustainability” is applied to the overall system and the impact of the manufacturer’s entire operations.

To make it easier for facility managers to make informed decisions, the following are 10 questions along with some tactics that can be asked to help identify more preferable manufacturers when it comes to sustainability:

  1. What framework or certification system are you using?
    Manufacturer should follow a “framework” such as the Global Reporting Initiative or the Natural Step; or one of the emerging certification programs on sustainable manufacturing from Underwriters Laboratories (ULE 880) or Green Seal (CS-01) when formulating a sustainability program. Preference should be given to those manufacturers using a recognized framework or certification system as compared to those following their own internal program.
  2. Have you published a Sustainability or Corporate Responsibility Report?
    Two of the most fundamental themes of sustainability are “transparency” and “reporting”. Manufacturers should disclose what they’re doing as compared to keeping it secret and expecting customers and others to simply “trust them”. Preference should be given to manufacturers who are disclosing their efforts as compared to those who are not. And some reporting is better than none at all.
  3. Have you set reduction goals?
    Once a manufacturer has started tracking and reporting its impact, the next step is to set reduction goals. Just keep in mind the old saying popularized by Mark Twain, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.” So don’t get hung-up on percentages or numbers, but rather think if the manufacturer is really working to improve. And with this in mind, give preference to a manufacturer that has set more challenging reduction goals compared to others who have more modest goals or none at all.
  4. Are you tracking, reporting and reducing your energy use?
    Climate change is one of the most serious problems that sustainability professionals are concerned with. Thus energy use and decreasing the carbon footprint is often step one. Prefer manufacturers who are tracking and reporting their energy use / carbon footprint and reducing it as compare to others who may not be tracking or reporting on their efforts. A specific example of this effort are joining EPA’s Energy Star or Climate Wise Programs, or participating in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  5. Are you tracking, reporting and reducing your water use?
    While energy is a global issue, water use is regional. Furthermore, some products require less water during manufacturing compared to others. Whether the manufacturer is in the desert Southwest or the Great Lakes Region, prefer those who are tracking and reporting with reduction goals compared to others who are doing none of these things. Examples to look for are participating in regional conservation efforts like the Great Lakes Compact and using low-water strategies in manufacturing as well as in fixtures, landscaping, etc.

Read the rest of the article here on FMLink

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