You may be well aware of the benefits of green cleaning, choosing products with lower environmental and health impacts, and ensuring that they are used efficiently and effectively. But does your cleaning services provider know them?
How about the employees that work in your building? Even the best plans for green cleaning can be derailed when everyone is not on the same page.
Using ‘green’ cleaning products has a wide range of benefits. Such products contribute directly to the indoor air quality of a building, which in turn is linked to improved productivity, better health, and reduced absenteeism for the building occupants and cleaning staff alike. Having healthier, more productive workers translates into less money spent on sick leave or inefficient working processes. There are also obvious environmental benefits that contribute towards any sustainability performance requirements of the building.
But in order to fully reap these benefits, procurement and facilities management professionals need to not only select the right products in the right quantities for the building, they must also ensure those products are used correctly. And this is where things can get messy.
Despite an industry-wide movement within the cleaning services industry toward using lower-impact cleaning products, there can still be the issue of product substitution. In the built environment industries, this happens when architects specify a particular product for a project, but somewhere along the line a completely different product is used in its place – often with the architect unaware of the swap.
It’s a similar story for some cleaning services.
“Facilities management professionals and cleaning product manufacturers are very aware of the benefits of green cleaning programs – but unfortunately, the products that they might specify aren’t actually being used by cleaning staff in a lot of cases,” said Paula Clasby, Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA).
“Often it’s simply a case of a cleaning staff member not understanding the importance of green cleaning products, or perceiving them to perhaps be inferior to the conventional products they’ve been using for years already.
“We’ve heard stories of staff members adding bleach to cleaning units that are designed to use only water, or insisting on using bathroom cleaners with a strong fragrance because that’s perceived as an indicator of an effective clean. So it then becomes a matter of making sure that all cleaning staff understand what they’re using and how it will benefit them.”
Conventional cleaning products can contain potentially harmful ingredients, ranging from mild irritants to known carcinogens. For the people who use and handle cleaning products every day, it’s in their own best interests to switch to safer alternatives. By lowering their exposure to potentially hazardous substances, cleaning staff and building occupants lower their risk of experiencing any harmful side effects.
Facilities management professionals face the double challenge of making sure cleaning service providers are genuinely implementing a green cleaning program and knowing which products to procure in the first place. For someone without a background in the technicalities of what makes a cleaning product ‘green’ or not, it may be difficult to know which is the best product to use.
Standards and certification can provide an effective solution to both issues. Procurers can check for independent third-party certification to demonstrate that a product conforms to high standards for environmental and health impacts. Some cleaning services providers will also have certification for their business rather than just their products alone, and management professionals will know that these companies have had their products and practices independently audited.
It’s one thing to understand all the benefits of having a sustainable cleaning program – it’s another to ensure that everyone else shares that understanding. Thankfully, an increasing number of independently certified cleaning products and services are making it easier for facilities managers to give their buildings a truly green clean.