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Management And Training

Selecting The Right Standard Certification

September 19, 2010
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Editor''s note:

In a recent letter to the editor titled, "Selecting The Right Standard Certification," Bill Fellows offers tips to make certification work for your unique operation.

Fellows has been in the cleaning industry since 1966 and his resume includes building service contractor (BSC) owner, management and trainer of industrial cleaning operations across the United States, United Kingdom, China, Canada and Mexico.

He was also an internal International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Auditor from 1996-2000.

In addition, Fellows achieved the designations of ISSA Certified Expert (I.C.E.) as well as Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) Assessor in 2007 and CIMS-Green Building (GB) Assessor in 2009.

As never before in its history, the cleaning industry is experiencing pressure to meet higher standards in both operational excellence and environmental responsibility.

Building owners are demanding that in-house and contract cleaners comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for green cleaning operations.

Many companies want assurance that the BSC selected to handle their cleaning operations has more than simple references.

They want the BSC to utilize controlled processes to address environmental and fiscal responsibility, safety, regulatory compliance, operational standards consistent with the contract scope of work and bidding processes that are based on industry-recognized standards.

Enter third-party certification.

Green Seal Inc. offers the Environmental Standard for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services (GS-42) and ISSA offers CIMS-GB certification, both designed to meet or exceed the LEED/APPA requirements for environmental sustainability.

ISSA also offers CIMS certification, which is designed to ensure any cleaning organization, whether in-house or BSC, demonstrates consistent delivery of excellence in all areas of their business through a series of controlled processes.

But, which certification is right for your organization?

That depends on your company''s vision in each of the following areas:

  • Growth limitations. A company that wants to remain owner-operated with little or no use of employees will look at certification in a different way than a company that wants to grow, especially in the area of buildings that are or plan to become LEED-certified.

  • Budget restrictions. Margins for cleaning operations are lean at best, and certification fees are rarely underwritten by the customer, meaning your in-house organization or BSC will take the financial hit for the certification. Is there sufficient current business to support the cost against the margins? Will certification create opportunities for additional business that will distribute the cost across increased profits?

  • Current business status. If your company is just getting started, is relatively new or is lacking in detailed written procedures, becoming certified could be of great benefit and usually results in cost savings greater than the costs of certification.

  • Target market. A BSC that has established a target market needs to see if certification is justified for that market, even if the BSC operates in a manner consistent with standards such as GS-42 or CIMS-GB. For example, if the target market is hair styling shops, green cleaning will be appreciated, but becoming certified in either standard may not be as beneficial as it would be to a BSC with a target market of commercial properties likely to be LEED-certified or working in that direction.

  • Commitment to community. A company that has presented itself to be interested in community issues, especially those related to environmental responsibility, would generally consider certification to any standards as part of its commitment to the community, regardless of cost.

  • Customer requirements. Some customers will actually require one or more certifications as part of their request for quotation (RFQ). A BSC that finds itself in this situation needs to analyze the cost against the benefits before deciding to quote on that particular piece of business. It may also be possible that the certifications listed in the RFQ are more designed to meet another particular requirement, such as LEED/APPA, which the BSC, depending on the flexibility of the RFQ, may be able to achieve without the actual certification.

A more detailed comparison of these three primary standards will help with the overall decision to become certified under any or all of them.

You can receive your free copy of my detailed comparison "Selecting The Right Standard Certification" by simply contacting me at

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