Over the past few years environmentally friendly procedures and green initiatives have permeated just about every part of every industry. In this article CHT looks at how these trends have affected the cleaning sector
Rob Abrahams is senior strategic director at Office Depot. In his view environmental sustainability is a “key issue across a number of sectors, not least in the area of facilities management and contract cleaning. Businesses across the supply chain are demanding to see evidence of ‘green credentials’ from all their suppliers, pushing this requirement to the forefront of commercial operations.
“For many leading manufacturers, this pressure has resulted in a concerted effort to examine and assess the environmental impact of their products, ensuring that they are not only compliant with current regulation, but also that they are minimally damaging to the environment.
“To achieve ‘green credentials,’ cleaning products can be assessed from three separate angles. Firstly, the composition of the chemicals and ingredients used throughout the manufacturing process can be examined. Secondly, the manufacturing process itself can be reviewed. Lastly, the supply chain involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of the product can be brought into the spotlight. Carbon footprint is often used as a benchmark to measure how environmentally friendly a product is, and those with smaller supply chains that travel shorter distances are beginning to be seen as the ‘greener choice.’
“The responsibility for manufacturing and selling environmentally sustainable products is being felt across the whole supply chain, with many larger businesses selecting supply partners based on their ability to provide environmentally friendly products with suitable green credentials. The main challenge the supplier faces is managing a balance between green efficiency and cost of the products. Often, eco-friendly products can be more expensive. A way to reduce costs is for businesses to consolidate suppliers where they can, offering discounts in other areas and therefore balancing the increased cost for the green products themselves.
“For professionals working within the facilities management and contract cleaning sector, cryptic labelling can often be a barrier to truly understanding the nature of the products they purchase. With such a large number of different accreditations and certifications being applied to a range of products, from cleaning chemicals to paper towels, it is essential that suppliers effectively explain and clarify the meaning behind the various product marques and labels. For instance, the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) is a familiar sight on a vast number or products, but how many people truly understand what it means from an environmental sustainability perspective?
“Aside from understanding ‘eco-labelling’ and what it means for individual products, businesses should take an introspective look at their own operations when trying to bolster their green credentials. Organisations of different sizes require solutions of different scales, especially where cleaning products are concerned – dosing equipment serves as a good example for this. For a smaller business, ready-to-use chemicals may be the most cost-effective option, but for a larger business, buying chemicals in concentrated form is likely to offer the best value.
“Dilution control offers cost reduction in a number of ways. Dispensers can be set to supply the correct amount of chemicals, reducing not only the amount of concentrate needed, but also the amount of water used in the cleaning or washing procedure. Buying cleaning chemicals in a concentrated form also relieves pressure on the supply chain, potentially reducing the number of deliveries needed and the amount of packaging used.
“Aside from the chemicals and their individual composition, choosing the right cleaning equipment is also important for driving environmental sustainability. For instance, microfibre cleaning has been a long standing innovation which is constantly being reinvigorated and improved in an effort to move forward and offer a more ‘green solution’. This type of cleaning uses significantly less chemicals and water to achieve the same cleaning standard and can also can be laundered, meaning less wastage and less need for disposal of old products.
“There is no single key to environmentally sustainable cleaning and ‘green credentials.’ Establishing a commitment across the supply chain to provide the correct products with the correct eco certifications is only one side of the operation. Assessing need and scale on an individual basis is the other. There is unfortunately no ‘one fits all’ solution and many factors should be taken into account when trying to establish ‘green credentials.’”
Michael Maybury is marketing and IT director at Merton Group and also had some interesting views:
“Since 1978 we [Merton Group UK Ltd] have used our commitment to sustainability and greener solutions as a major driving force for innovation. We believe that it should be the cornerstone for any manufacturer. Why? Because making something successfully and economically, that can do a job better whilst improving its environmental impact, not only makes the customer very happy and ticks lots of boxes, it has also made us happy too. Our ISO 14001 environmental accreditation is helpful with tenders and new contracts, and the pressure on everyone to be ‘greener’ has inevitably grown over the years, but, it is a focus on our commitment to “cleaning and hygiene products that don’t cost the earth” that has continued to drive our success and make us feel good about what we do.
“Starting with recycled paper products all those years ago our focus on greener innovations has grown. The key to our approach has been reducing impact without inflating costs, this isn’t easy and quite often, ideas that improve impact have delivered negative effects on costs. This used to be part of the course with greener solutions but like most manufacturers we have strived to overcome what used to be the norm of inflated costs for greener products so they are no longer overlooked and can actually make a difference.
“Starting with an idea that will improve results or solve a problem is not always easy either, especially in an industry as old as ours. Technological advances are delivering interesting opportunities in the way we manufacturer paper products, and ensuring ethical sustainability throughout the chain of custody is much easier than it used to be. Plus, how we package, store and deliver products is always benefitting from new technologies which all helps reduce carbon footprints, but when it comes to true innovation it may be some time before something market changing comes along. Some of the most exciting results and biggest leaps forward in recent years have been made in cleaning chemical products. These innovations are now changing the way industrial products are being used in the market place.
“Chemical super concentrates have the potential to create a dramatic effect on the cleaning industries environmental impact and it is very easy to see why. The previous costly and cumbersome chemical dispenser systems have been replaced with smart bottles, and their ease of use coupled with achievable savings and comprehensive product ranges means they are extremely hard to ignore. We have supported some of the largest contract cleaning companies and FMC’s for many years and the introduction of super concentrates has made significant improvements to their green credentials as well as their profit margins.
“When it comes to ticking boxes and accreditation these innovations are making a real difference. To help understand the difference we always compare innovations to traditional products. With our super concentrates, to deliver the same amount of active product, you need 84 per cent less product (averagely across the range) when compared to 5 litre alternatives, and that means incredible improvements like 40 per cent plus reductions in packaging waste, 45 per cent plus reductions in space required and 65 per cent plus reductions in weight (average figures across the range). In some instances, (Multipurpose Cleaner for example) a single bottle of Ecodosing Super Concentrate would replace 15 bottles of product normally used undiluted from 5 litre containers which means those environmental improvements are quite remarkable; 90 per cent plus reductions in waste, 97 per cent plus reductions in storage space and 98 per cent plus in weight!
“We are very proud of our approach to greener solutions and sustainability and the results we have seen over the years is why it continues to and will always drive us. For Merton Group it is less about the need to comply but more about the desire to improve.”