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Seal of Approval: Q&A with Arthur B. Weissman

September 19, 2010
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Washington, DC-based Green Seal, Inc. has begun a scoping process to develop standards to provide commercial and residential building service contractors (BSCs) with Green Seal certification.

The proposed certification for contractors is driven by requests from the two entities seeking guidance and validation for their current green cleaning programs, according to Green Seal president and CEO Arthur Weissman.

Green Seal is currently seeking funding to develop and finalize the standard s environmental criteria.

Weissman estimates that within six to nine months of obtaining the necessary funding, the standard will be complete, thus allowing BSCs to seek certification.

Weissman recently talked with CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine about the ins and outs of Green Seal certification for contractors, and its potential value to their businesses.

Washington, DC-based Green Seal, Inc. has begun a scoping process to develop standards to provide commercial and residential building service contractors (BSCs) with Green Seal certification.

The proposed certification for contractors is driven by requests from the two entities seeking guidance and validation for their current green cleaning programs, according to Green Seal president and CEO Arthur Weissman.

Green Seal is currently seeking funding to develop and finalize the standard s environmental criteria.

Weissman estimates that within six to nine months of obtaining the necessary funding, the standard will be complete, thus allowing BSCs to seek certification.

Weissman recently talked with CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine about the ins and outs of Green Seal certification for contractors, and its potential value to their businesses.

CMM: How do you work to overcome some of the initial resistance or skepticism that accompanies a new standard, such as Green Seal certification?
Arthur Weissman: A lot of people said this is just what we need in the industry to help promote environmental responsibility in the industry, and it is a perfect complement to the work that we and others have already done in terms of setting standards for and certifying cleaning chemicals, and writing guidance manuals.

In our view, given that the standard has just been proposed, and although there''s been some publicity, it always takes time for people to really understand what''s being proposed and what it means.

CMM: A recent CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online® survey showed that few respondents believe they will consider certification under Green Seal s Environmental Standard for Green Cleaning Services. Of the nearly 400 respondents, about 90 percent said they will continue to operate without Green Seal certification. How will such resistance impact Green Seal s efforts?

(Disclaimer: The CM B2B Trade Group s online surveys are not scientific: The results simply reflect the opinions of those visitors to the CM B2B Trade Group websites  CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online, CM/Cleanfax Online, and Cleaning & Maintenance Distribution Online  who respond to the poll question on the sites.)
AW: I don t have any concern about the 10 percent who thought right now that they d be interested in getting certified because we have to keep in mind that Green Seal sets environmental leadership standards. What we are trying to do is to identify and promote the environmental leaders in the current and emerging market.

We don t want to set a standard that 90 percent of the service providers, in this case, could meet because that s basically saying what they do now (is fine).

CMM: Talk a bit about how the program will be funded and by whom.
AW: We are looking for sponsors to help fund the standard from the community of stakeholders  that does not include service providers who could be certified, due to a conflict of interest.

A number of potential sponsors have expressed interest & They are primarily suppliers, but not exclusively.

CMM: Will certification commence by way of training programs or courses?
AW: Typically, when we issue an environmental standard, we put notice in all the relevant communication channels and trade press. Eligible candidates can apply to have their products or service  depending on the nature of the standard  evaluated for certification.

When we issue the standard, any cleaning service provider covered under the scope of the standard can apply to have their service evaluated to get certified.

We have already started talking about the possibility of developing some courses or training programs to enable more providers to meet the standard, so that we are elevating the whole level of the industry in terms of its environmental performance.

CMM: When will the standard be complete?
AW: Standards can get very involved once you involve the stakeholders, and with issues and controversies about many different things, there is the potential for delay. Our hope is that it will be complete by the end of this year.

CMM: What are some areas the standard will cover?
AW: The actual scope of the standard will be determined in detail in the first part of development, which will involve stakeholders  input.

Going into it, we re expecting it will cover a range of different things that are involved in a cleaning service, such as chemical products, equipment, the procedures that are employed in the cleaning, training programs, and communications, both internally and with clients.

CMM: How can contractors be involved in the standard process, other than applying for certification?
AW: They can contribute ideas during the development of the standard, responding to the proposal as we develop the standard.

Once we have the funding in place and kick off the standard, we'' ll make an announcement in a place where people can make an indication that they re interested in participating as a stakeholder.

We ll involve people in a virtual way by sending out materials and getting responses and comments, so they will be involved in the scoping process right from the beginning.

We will proceed with researching the specifics of the different aspects within the scope and determining what a leadership practice is from an environmental perspective. In this research, we inquire with stakeholders for their expertise.

We will form a proposed standard that will go out for public comment, and comment by the stakeholders, giving interested parties a very formal opportunity to provide their written comments on the proposed standard.

CMM: Does Green Seal provide any level of assurance an auditing process to building owners that these certified cleaning professionals are complying with the program?
AW: We have a monitoring process. On an annual basis, any product or service we certify goes into our monitoring program to ensure it continues to comply with the requirements for certification. Regarding auditing or evaluations of a service provider for certification, I would expect we''ll be doing some actual auditing of their cleaning and seeing how they do things in the field.

We don''t want to put our name or give our certification mark to something that doesn''t meet our standards, so the entity will have gone through a pretty rigorous process. Occasionally infringements occur, and we take corrective action.

CMM: If clients have issues with a certified cleaner, can they take their concerns directly to your organization?
AW: Yes, although we don t want to be the ombudsman for every problem that arises in cleaning in America. But if a Green Seal-certified service provider is using a chemical in clear violation of the standards, we want to hear about it.

CMM: Regarding both BSCs and suppliers, how does certification change the competitive landscape of the cleaning industry?
AW: We ve already seen a pretty significant beginning to the greening of the cleaning industry, at least in terms of the chemicals that are used and some of the equipment.

There s been a real surge in the past couple of years, certainly in the hard- surface cleaners that are certified to our GS37 standard and probably, or hopefully soon, floor care products to the new GS40 standard.

What this new standard will do is put together the equipment with the procedures, and the training and communications, into an overall program to move the whole industry of cleaning in a more environmentally responsible direction.

And on the other side, it will also provide the procurers of cleaning services some guidance on what to look for, and those who can provide it. On the residential side, individual consumers will know where to buy services so they won t have such harsh chemicals in their households.

CMM: If the standard covers the residential side, might residential carpet cleaning be a logical extension?
AW: We may address that in the scoping, because there are a lot of services that are just for carpets. I think what we re talking about here is more general, comprehensive cleaning services like Merry Maids, not the specialty cleaning of carpets or windows.

We''re probably not going to have a standard for carpet cleaning services.

CMM: The way people tend to resist a standard is to just ignore it. How will you overcome those resistors in the cleaning industry?
AW: When you set a leadership standard, a lot of people the majority cannot meet it and cannot get certified.

Their response is one of several things: Apathy, interest in improving to achieve the certification, resistance, or outright hostility. All those things are possible, and the resistance or negativity is certainly a possible response on the part of some of the service providers.

Green cleaning is really taking hold in the industry, and I think they d be smart to take this very seriously and try to incorporate it in their own services.

CMM: Why do you think people will resist certification? Clearly, there could be monetary reasons for some of the smaller operations.
AW: That''s an issue we''re always sensitive to. We have a small business fee schedule and we always try to make things affordable —  we''ve done that on the product side and in other service sectors.

Cost has often been a red herring that people use to grab at something that will sound like a legitimate reason for resisting something.

CMM: How do you get industry veterans who say they don''t need certification to better an already successful business to change their minds?
AW: They certainly will change their minds when some of their old accounts say they want a more healthful cleaning service.

This is all a culture change, and it s going to take years, and there are going to be those who resist it.

CMM: Some states are mandating that cleaners use certified green chemicals. Is it your expectation that once these Green Seal standards are complete, states may require all cleaning contractors to be certified?
AW: In almost all of these cases, what they''ve required of bids is that the cleaning chemicals meet the Green Seal standard, not that they be certified.

The reason governments tend to do that is that they don''t want to favor a particular outside private program; they''ll use the standard of the program, but they don''t want to require people to procure the certification services of that program.

CMM: How many people will participate in the actual drafting of the standard?
AW: We''ll have a team of four to five people working on it. We re not a big organization, but we do have strategic partnerships that complement our staff.

We do get experts from within the industry itself, depending on what the standard is, and they can provide very useful advice; they are not part of the actual Green Seal team, but they are industry members and stakeholders.


Competition for Green Seal?
(OS1) Green Certified cleaning program differs from proposed Green Seal certification for BSCs in at least two ways: (OS1) covers in-house opps and is based on audited criteria.

Both in-house cleaning organizations and building service contractors (BSCs) can apply for green cleaning certification of their cleaning program by Utah-based ManageMen, Inc.

According to ManageMen President John Walker, the (OS1) Green Certified Cleaning Program certifies audited cleaning programs.

This certification enables cleaning organizations to document and recognize cleaning programs and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to being environmentally responsible, Walker said in a recent release.

To earn certification, cleaning services and contractors must meet the (OS1) standard based on a rigorous third-party audit. Auditors follow a process based on standards that have been in use for 15 years and performance data collected by (OS1) users.

The proposed Green Seal certification program slated only for BSCs — in the early scoping process of the standard, slated to be complete by early 2006 — proposes a looser auditing process.

Ben Walker, director of Communications for ManageMen, told CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine ManageMen’s green program was suggested by (OS1) users at a past symposium.

Walker said ManageMen’s program wasn’t influenced by the Green Seal certifications, but it made more of a case for the company to finalize the program.

According to Walker, the (OS1) green certification program not only meets, but exceeds LEED-EB (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings) criteria for sustainability.

Setting a green standard
(OS1) cleaning organizations have developed a leadership role in the green movement and an environmentally responsible approach to indoor environments; it started when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Illinois hired John Walker to present education programs about improving indoor environmental quality in the mid 1990s, according to the ManageMen, Inc. website.

The (OS1) process has since been recognized for its functional approach to green cleaning.

(OS1) at the core
The (OS1) program is the core curriculum of ManageMen, Inc’s Janitor University, a weeklong executive training course held in Salt Lake City several times a year. The basis of the (OS1) approach to green issues is stated in the Janitor University’s philosophy of cleaning to “minimize environmental harm.”

The (OS1) Program is a standardizing system for cleaning industry organizations. Its process, designed to help cleaning organizations save time and money while enhancing safety and productivity, focuses on the appropriate training, tools and procedures for maximizing any cleaning organization.

A.M.

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