The idea of business sustainability focuses on the triple bottom line concept.
Many refer to this interconnected idea as the three Ps of sustainability:
Human nature often compels us to look at the first two Ps — those with whom we work and our environment; but, we cannot ignore the third part of this idea: Profit.
In fact, profitability could be seen as the most critical component of sustainability; without it, businesses will abandon efforts to improve human or environmental conditions — lest risk becoming unviable themselves.
The truly successful business model is one which views sustainability as the bridge to profit, functioning to safeguard people and the planet in order to maximize earnings.
In the cleaning industry, we have focused initially on the planet-oriented aspect of sustainability, and there has been a large and successful movement in all aspects of the JanSan industry to be more environmentally conscious.
We have done this by using products and methods that are better for the environment and safer to the people who work with and are exposed to those products.
Unfortunately, these environmentally-focused actions have not always led to a healthier bottom line.
So, you might be asking, “How can sustainability principles build on these ideas and bring greater monetary gain?”
There are many ways that two of the legs on our stool — people and the planet — are addressed in sustainability principles.
Profiting From People
Your management style and company culture can be very effective in supporting a sustainable enterprise.
The use of effective communication will make every employee feel more connected to the tasks at hand and will allow for effective responses to customer needs.
A positive culture can actually minimize employee turnover.
Well-defined tasks and procedures, such as checklists for activities or manuals describing any necessary processes — in addition to cross-training for synergistic competency — will make for an effective team when challenges arise.
Encouraging a healthy workforce can also maintain your business in a sustainable manner.
A simple example of this is to encourage, or even provide, flu shots to all employees, staffs and other building occupants at your property.
We all understand that humanity-focused sustainable principles can make your business more efficient, but many overlook the fact that they can also minimize costs and, therefore, lead to greater profitability.
What would happen to your business if 20 percent of your workforce was sick with the flu, norovirus or some other ailment and could not work?
A sustainability-oriented business can minimize inefficiencies — and the diminishing profits resulting from those inefficiencies — by encouraging or providing influenza immunizations, by cross-training people in multiple activities, by having procedures in place to address a workforce change and by being able to communicate effectively with coworkers and customers.
Such measures can be implemented very cost effectively, with minimal expense and effort, and are basics to good business practices.
If your company has a plan in place to address these possible situations, you will minimize the disruption to your business and that of your customers.
In addition, you will retain customers, provide confidence and value to your customers and solidify the most important thing to any business: Relationships.
By making sure that those relationships are healthy and that the people with whom you work can serve your customers under any circumstance, you create sustainability for your business.
When all is said and done, you will minimize losses and, more importantly, generate greater profit.
Profiting From The Planet
The planet is another important contributor to sustainability, and there are many factors of environmental sustainability beyond the products that are used to clean and their effects on the health of a population and the quality of the indoor air.
For instance, energy conservation is critical, both the energy to produce the products and the energy needed to support equipment and infrastructure.
“Green” products often specify the use of cold water in the cleaning process, hereby avoiding the energy costs needed to heat the water, but it only paints part of the picture.
Additional considerations regarding how preferable your practices are include:
· Are the autoscrubbers, vacuums, buffers or other equipment energy efficient?
· What fuel does your equipment use and is it renewable?
· Are your machines powered with batteries, by electricity or via propane; is there an exhaust and subsequent emissions to consider?
· Is your equipment properly maintained so that it operates at its most efficient capacity?
· Do your staffs travel from one location to another, and do they need to bring equipment with them?
· Are there more environmentally preferable ways to move your people and your equipment?
How you address these questions will affect how the environmentally-focused sustainability principles increase or decrease your profitability.
As equipment need replacement, the use of efficient, lightweight and easy-to-transport tools will save energy and money.
The same can be said for considering the use of hybrid vehicles and sourcing recyclable goods and equipment.
All these factors can collectively help provide your business with a marketing advantage over your competition or help solidify your role in an organization.
Targeting planet-oriented sustainability, as opposed to focusing solely on people, can be a bridge to increasing your company’s profit.
Sustainability As A Profit Center
To show the importance of a sustainable mind frame, be it your perspective or from the eyes of your customers, let’s consider two different scenarios.
First, ponder a cleaning team arriving in an old, gas-guzzling van containing a propane-powered burnisher, buckets with stained cotton mops and corrosive chemicals with hazardous warnings all over them.
Next, picture a hybrid van containing chemicals labeled with an environmental certification, the use of microfiber textiles and a self-contained, cart-mounted cleaning system made from recyclable materials.
In this comparison, the advantages to the planet are clear, and it is not farfetched to assume our second example would have some distinct marketing advantages over the competition, which can ultimately lead to greater profitability.
People, the planet and profit are linked.
The most sustainable way to build profit is to engage your workforce with sound management principles that take into account environmental considerations as a bridge to profit.
In many ways, these are tried and true business principles simply being rebranded as sustainability.
To me, however, sustainability specifically suggests that focusing on two of the things that are very important to us all — the environment and the people with whom we share it — can be an effective bridge to every company’s goal: Increased profitability.