Sports, Leadership, and Changing the World

From the August 2016 Edition of Our Monthly Newsletter DestinationGreen

I want to quickly discuss leadership using the language of sports (especially since the Olympics just concluded), update the schedule from the Green Sports Alliance for the next Greener Cleaning in Sport Facilities workshops, and provide an update on the new sustainability program that ISSA is launching to help their warehouse distribution members.

Leadership:  Recently I had the honor of giving a talk on leadership at a meeting of the Leadership Institute hosted by the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC).  Check out some of my favorite sports leaders and quotes in the right hand column.

It was an awesome event with 80 attendees representing leaders in K-12 and higher education.  All shared the belief that children, regardless of their background, age, race, religion or affluence, deserve to go to school in a building that is clean, healthy, comfortable and safe.  Based on this, the group discussed what leadership truly and practically means – and how we can help all kids and institutions, including those still beginning their Green Cleaning journey.

My congratulations to HSC for demonstrating their leadership and willingness to think outside the box.  And as a reminder, HSC will be doing a two-day event during the ISSA Convention in Chicago on Green Cleaning in Schools.  So, if you work with schools, this might be a great opportunity for you.

Green Sports Alliance:  I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics.  While I would like to have watched more basketball (admittedly, I am a basketball junkie), it was a great opportunity to watch elite performers in so many sports – swimming and diving, track & field, boxing & wrestling, golf, equestrian and more.

Whether or not an athlete medaled, having made it to the Olympics is a true testament to the individual’s commitment, discipline, sacrifice, overcoming obstacles, mental toughness and more.  If more of us used this focus and effort, we could accomplish anything!

So, if you love sports like I do, I hope you’ll join us at one of the next three Greener Cleaning in Sport Facilities events.  The Colorado Rockies will be hosting an event at Coors Field on September 27 and the Washington Nationals will be hosting an event at Nationals Park on November 16.

And on October 27, there will be a special event hosted by ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association) during their annual convention, which will include a Greener Cleaning in Sports Facilities workshop. Attendees will have the opportunity to visit with over 700 exhibitors of cleaning products.  Please let me know if you want additional info on any of these events.

ISSA Sustainability Program for Warehouse Distributors: I have had the pleasure of working closely with ISSA for well over 20 years.  During that time, we have moved Green Cleaning into the mainstream and through the power of the marketplace, we have eliminated the most hazardous ingredients and products that adversely affected worker and building occupant health, and the environment.

Now we are launching a new program to help the 2,400 warehouse distribution members of ISSA operate more efficiently (be more sustainable).  The program is specifically designed to help them save money and reduce unnecessary consumption and waste, as well as to give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The program has three components:

1. Benchmarking of energy, water, waste, fuel and other operational issues to help them better manage their resources and identify opportunities to save money;

2. Educational sessions using world-class experts from USGBC, EPA and others to help the distributors actually improve their performance; and

3. Awards/recognition that will include being recognized before the opening keynote at the upcoming ISSA Convention.

Check out this short video of ISSA’s new Executive Director, John Barrett; I think he is awesome and ISSA is lucky to have him as our leader.  Together, I think we can make an important impact for these distributors, our entire industry, and all of the buildings and organizations that we serve.

If you have any questions about this exciting new program or anything else in this newsletter, please let me know.

Till next month,


PS: Enjoy Your Labor Day Holiday and getting back to school


1-02-13-p12-cleaning-300x200We’ve come such a long way when it comes to environmentally preferable cleaning that it is a bit astonishing to look back at its evolution. A decade ago, many jansan manufacturers were still a bit hesitant to jump on the “Green bandwagon.” Looking back now, this is understandable. Introducing an entire new line of cleaning products is costly, and there was concern about end-customer demand for those environmentally preferable cleaning products. What many jansan manufacturers decided to do was take a “wait and see” attitude…wait until it was clear that the demand for Green Cleaning products was real.

Now, in many parts of the world, and this is true in Australia as well, most facility managers, especially the managers of large facilities, are primarily interested in selecting Green cleaning products. They will select a traditional cleaning product only if there is no alternative…a situation we rarely see today.

Further, we are now witnessing another trend in environmentally preferable cleaning and that is the movement toward sustainability. Most likely you have encountered this already, and very soon more and more Australian building owners and managers will be as focused on sustainability issues as they were on Green Cleaning issues a few years back.

However, the first thing cleaning professionals need to know is that Green Cleaning and sustainability are not the same thing. And to add more confusion, the meaning of sustainability has been evolving and includes much more than it did 20 years ago.

Possibly the following definitions will clear the matter up:

Green Cleaning refers to the use of cleaning solutions, tools, as well as equipment that have a reduced impact on the user, building users, and the environment as compared to similar products used for the same purposes. We should add that an effective Green Cleaning program today involves how those products are actually used when performing cleaning tasks. That’s why ISSA’s CIMS-GB program was created; it teaches cleaning workers “best practices” as well as proper procedures when using environmentally preferable cleaning products.*

Sustainability originally just referred to reducing the use of natural resources so that they would be available for future generations. While that is still a key part of what sustainability is all about, and is often referred to as the “planet” component, we must add two other components: people, generally referring to the people working for cleaning contractors as well as their local communities, and profits. We will discuss these components in greater detail below.

The People Component of Sustainability

Back in the 1970s and 1980s in the U.S., it was primarily just the larger contract cleaning companies that had health care packages for their workers and paid employment taxes along with their portion of their workers’ social security.** What most smaller cleaning contractors did at that time is outsource cleaning work to what were referred to at that time as “independent contractors.” The meant the contract cleaning company was not responsible for providing health care or the other items just mentioned for these independent contractors.

While these practices may have helped the smaller cleaning contractor offer more competitive bids, it was not always beneficial for the cleaning worker. With no health insurance, for instance, what does a cleaning worker do if they are sick or injured on the job? Cleaning is considered a higher risk job in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Handling and mishandling powerful cleaning chemicals, as an example, can be potentially dangerous and has resulted in scores of injuries. If injured and faced with staggering health care expenses, many injured workers often have no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

A cleaning contractor with a sustainability program in place makes sure his or her staff is not put in such a difficult situation. Workers have health care benefits, are paid equitably, and treated fairly so that they can lead a healthy, dignified, and valuable life. We should add that this also means giving back to the local community. An example of giving back is Green Apple Day of Service. A cleaning contractor has the opportunity to provide cleaning or consulting to a local school or school district to help improve the health of a school facility.

The Profit Component

The first thing we must discuss about the profit component of sustainability is what it is not. A business is in business to make money, and this also means that a cleaning contractor employing sustainability initiatives is in business to make money. With that clarified, the profit component of sustainability includes such things as the following:

>Charging clients fair amounts for their services

>Ending practices, such as those discussed earlier, that are designed to focus only on profits, no matter how it impacts workers, the local community, or the cleaning industry in general

>Ensuring that the company remains profitable and grows

>Being transparent in business operations; one way some contractors do this is to include in their bid proposals how their charges are determined such as how much goes for workers, worker supervision, products, equipment, etc.

>Supporting local businesses to spread economic benefits within local the community

>Complying with all government regulations regarding professional cleaning and workers

Sustainability and a New Vision

When a cleaning contractor adopts these sustainability initiatives, they are actually creating a new vision for their companies. No longer is the focus just on profits, but all of the sustainability items we have just discussed. Visions serve many purposes, but most importantly they can define what your company is all about.

Such visions can inspire workers to support your company and become stakeholders in your business vision as well. This can result in greater staff loyalty, enhanced customer satisfaction, and less turnover…of workers and customers.

It also can set your business apart from your competitors. Just as Green Cleaning was used as a marketing tool years ago, a contractor that has adopted sustainability practices can use the change as a marketing tool today. And with sustainability likely to be one of the most important considerations in business operations in the future, it means many opportunities are likely to evolve.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for promoting sustainability. He is also CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is the coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies


Casinos, KPIs, Dashboards, and Sustainability Warriors

sustainablity dashboard toolYou can’t monitor what you can’t measure, and because few things in life remain constant—including your casino—what you can’t measure may be getting better . . . but it may also be getting worse.

But how would you know? If things are going downhill, such as gross intake, not only will you not know it but you won’t be able to take steps to turn things around. Conversely, if the money is just flowing in, how will you know and, even more important, how will you know why this happy set of circumstances is happening?

With many casino operators now becoming much more focused on sustainability—if for no other reason than to enjoy the cost savings it can provide—measuring and monitoring have never been more important. To help us in this endeavor, what has evolved in the past 10 years or so are web-based or computer-based “dashboard” systems designed to do the heavy lifting when it comes to calculating such things as energy use, water consumption, fuel consumption, waste, and a number of other “metrics,” as they are sometimes referred to when it comes to sustainability.

We also hear these metrics termed “key performance indicators,” or KPIs. A KPI takes measuring metrics a step further. With a KPI, we are looking not only for measurable values but goals and objectives…to see how effectively a facility, company, or, in this case, a casino is achieving its specific goals and objectives when it comes to sustainablity. For instance, if the goal in a Las Vegas casino is to reduce water consumption in 2016 by 15 percent, but we find in July 2016 that it has reduced water consumption by only 7 percent, then we know that we have a ways to go to meet our goal.

The History of Dashboard Systems

While sustainability dashboard systems are relatively new to casino operators as well as hospitality owners and managers in general, they have actually been around in one form or another for more than 40 years. Originally they were called business intelligence (BI) systems and were known best as data delivery systems. These BI systems were developed to provide top executives, such as those in a bank or at a stock brokerage, with up-to-the-minute computer-generated facts and figures regarding sales, costs, profits, cash flow, and so on.

They were considered very high tech in their day and looked very similar to the old room-sized IBM machines of the 1950s and 1960s. They were even featured in movies, most prominently in the original Thomas Crown Affair, with Steve McQueen.

The word dashboard did not come about until the 1990s. No longer were room-sized computers necessary; a desktop computer could do the job. Further, with advances in the personal computer industry, presenting information in a graphical format—instead of just numbers—was becoming more and more commonplace. Early developers likely coined the term “dashboard” because automobile dashboards were often used as a model for the software programs designed for these systems. The goal was to provide a quick and easy way to present a variety of information all on one screen.

How Dashboards Work

Earlier we referred to dashboards as data delivery systems. This is a fairly accurate description of what dashboards are and what they do. Data is delivered into these systems using a personal computer, tablet, or similar device. The type of data entered or retrieved includes the following:

  • Facility fuel and gas consumption (for HVAC systems, etc.)
  • Waste removal and recycling
  • Water consumption
  • Transportation costs (e.g., fuel used by company vehicles)
  • Amount of consumables used, such as paper products and ink cartridges
  • Number of cleaning items used, such as cleaning supplies and chemicals (most specifically, non-Green cleaning products because they can have the biggest impact on the environment)

When beginning the process, casino owners and managers should enter information not only for a month or two but going back two or more years. Why? Because this information will be used to create a benchmark for future improvements.

Also, it will “smooth out the data.” Often there are spikes or dips in, for instance, energy consumption. Data collected over a longer period of time will provide a more robust and accurate overall picture; data taken over only a short period of time may distort the metrics. Now that data has been inputted into the dashboard system, casino owners and managers can use these systems to compare, say, past and current electricity usage and related costs. And, for KPI purposes, also track their progress toward reducing that consumption and its expense

Additionally, an effective dashboard system allows users to do the following:

  • View current data. Using dashboards, owners and managers can access the most recent stats regarding resource consumption and related data. Some web-based systems provide this information graphically, numerically, as well as in detailed printed reports. Having up-to-date information allows owners and managers to see current trends and needs and to react sooner.
  • Track and monitor costs. Dashboard systems allow casino and hospitality owners and managers to track many of their operating costs in great detail. If costs in a specific metric—water consumption, for instance—increases dramatically on a month-to-month basis, owners and managers now have this information and can take steps to determine why it is happening and where there might be a problem, and then take steps to address it.
  • Provide environmental focus for staff. Using consumption information, casino and hospitality facilities that are trying to reduce their property’s environmental footprint can focus on those areas where problems can be addressed quickly, as well as make plans to address those areas that might take more time. Never underestimate the value of your staff when it comes to sustainability. They can become your “sustainability warriors.” They often have firsthand knowledge of how the property operates and can see quickly ways in which to cut consumption.
  • Create a culture of sustainability. Many facilities are now using dashboard information to create what is referred to as a “culture of sustainability.” Such a culture means that all casino staff members—and even vendors servicing the property—are focused on the many ways in which they can personally reduce property consumption and costs.
  • Compare data. Let’s say you have two or more comparable casinos. Dashboard systems can be used to compare multiple properties of the same size and use, by means of the data collected from the dashboard data for each property (In some cases, one dashboard system can be used for multiple properties). Why is, for example, property A using so much more water and electricity than property B? With the necessary data in hand, steps can be taken to answer this question and institute corrective measures. (See Sidebar: Tips on Using a Sustainability Dashboard System)

Marketing Sustainability

Interestingly, many hospitality facilities are now finding that operating their facilities in a Greener and more sustainable manner not only reduces costs and consumption but also can be used as a marketing tool. This can be true of casinos as well.

Operating in an environmentally responsible way tells patrons that the facility is more efficiently operated and that it is taking steps to ensure the health and comfort of guests and to protect the environment and natural resources, all at the same time. Further, it demonstrates that casino owners and staff are taking proactive steps to protect the health and welfare of future generations as well.


Stephen P. Ashkin is CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also the coauthor of The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.


Sidebar: Tips on Using a Sustainability Dashboard System

  • Select a dashboard system that is intuitive, easy to use, and cost effective; there are many systems available, and they can vary significantly in ease of use as well as costs.
  • Get broad stakeholder agreement on why the dashboard system is needed and the goals of the program: to reduce consumption and cost savings.
  • Make sure that staff and vendors are aware of the initiative and encourage their support.
  • Collect data going back 24 months or longer, if possible.
  • Sustainability goal setting is very important; set specific consumption reduction goals.
  • When first starting, collect data that is easily accessible, such as water or electricity use, to get to know the system and the information it can provide.
  • Designate an individual or team to input data on a set basis and be responsible for it.
  • Set specific deadlines; review data, for instance, every three months; check trends in consumption and whether these trends correspond with project goals.
  • Report data and accomplishments; make sure to reward specific departments if they helped the facility meet one or more of its sustainability goals.

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