Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Are You Certifiably Green?

March 7, 2012

Because being "green" is perception-based, it has traditionally been quite simple for a contractor to claim he or she is greener than the next person with little to no evidence.

But, as the green movement matures and simply becomes the accepted way of operating a cleaning business, many building service contractors (BSCs) are seeking solutions that can help them be authentically green beyond philosophical assertion.

And, because the actions of a contractor can seriously affect the sustainable aspirations of a facility — either positively or negatively — it is of grave importance that you are as green as possible in every aspect.

Say you clean offices in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility or are bidding on such a contract.

Unless you have pre-qualifications through a program such as ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) — which independently assesses the primary characteristics of a successful, quality cleaning organization — you may have difficulty proving that you and your company "walk the walk."

According to ISSA, "CIMS is a way for cleaning organizations to set themselves and their green cleaning operations apart in the marketplace. Facility managers and others responsible for selecting a cleaning service provider can gain an increased level of confidence in their contractor by using CIMS and CIMS-Green Building (CIMS-GB) as a powerful pre-qualification tool."

Moreover, your actions as a BSC can jeopardize the LEED certification of a facility if you are not in adherence to specific protocols.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you are as green as monetarily possible — not only to ensure the facilities in which you clean remain green, but to differentiate yourself from the masses and position yourself as the green cleaning authority in your area.

"We, as an organization, have been investing time and resources into talking with our customers about how we can help them meet the higher bars that are being set by green certifications," says Roger McFadden, vice president and senior scientist of Staples Advantage.

What You Can Do

As a BSC, there are a whole slew of things you can do — large and small, inexpensive and costly — to be greener in your cleaning approach.

For argument''s sake, let''s say green cleaning covers all aspects of business operation, including the tools, equipment and chemicals used, training and education, workloading practices and customer service.

If you are only focusing on one aspect — green chemical formulations, for example — you are not truly green.

You may be using more environmentally preferable formulations, but other facets of your operation may not be "green."

The same can be said if you employ a teamwork approach to cleaning and strive for optimum customer service yet clean with caustic chemicals.

Being green does not pertain to one feature; rather, green is all-inclusive.

Common ways you can be greener in your cleaning operation include:

Purchasing tools, chemicals and equipment with third-party certifications

Such certifications verify manufacturers'' claims and make disseminating valid green claims from greenwash much easier.

However, because there are nearly 100 different green labels in North America alone, it is wise to choose trusted verifying bodies like Green Seal Inc., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing''s EcoLogo Program or GREENGUARD certification from Underwriters Laboratories Environment (UL).

If it all seems overwhelming, ask your green cohorts about the equipment they use and what certification bodies they trust.

• Workload effectively

As previously stated, green cleaning encompasses efficiency and time management.

Rearranging custodial crews to utilize a teamwork approach that maximizes resources with specialists — dedicated personnel for carpet care, hard floor care, restroom care, light-duty cleaning, etc. — is much greener than going at an area without a plan.

Effective workloading can drastically cut cleaning times while boosting morale and delivering ideal results.

• Place satisfaction at the forefront

You cannot please everyone, but if you strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction, the chances are good that you will satisfy almost all of your customers nearly every time.

Customers want clean, healthy environments achieved through minimal chemical usage and with as few interruptions to building occupants as possible; this is a realistic goal of a green cleaning program.

"Make sure everything is out on the table to avoid any misalignment," opines McFadden. "You do not want to contradict your customer''s green intentions by failing to comply with their goals."

Satisfaction should also be hoped for from your employees.

A satisfied worked is a compelled worker.

In other words, keep your employees happy and they will be more willing to go the extra mile for you.

This, in turn, will make for more satisfied customers — a win-win all around.

• Train for excellence

Training and education are often overlooked when going green or becoming greener.

Many in the industry see it as an expensive hassle rather than a cost-cutting necessity.

But, how else is one to understand the proper way of cleaning a restroom or removing a coffee spot from a carpet unless he or she has been instructed on the proper procedure and taught why it is done a certain way?

We are trained to do things from the day we are born; learning cleaning and maintenance techniques is no different.

Training can be something as simple as reading a trade magazine, viewing an educational webinar, completing a training course or going all out and partnering with a consultant to maximize your green efficiency.

As stated by Bill Griffin, president of the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) and owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc., "Training doesn''t cost; it pays."

Think about this situation: You present your green cleaning services to a potential client who eventually hires you and later discovers your employees are not using the formulations you said they would be and are doing a host of other things on the opposite end of the green spectrum that soil your good word in the eyes of that client.

Proper training could have prevented this situation and possibly saved the account.

Speak Your Mind

Aside from the actual cleaning and maintenance tasks performed, you have clout when it comes to making suggestions to building owners.

You are entrusted with the cleanliness of a facility and know the nuances of each area from your daily presence.

Who better than you, the knowledgeable BSC, to offer suggestions or tips on ways to increase the energy efficiency of a building or simple things building occupants can do to increase the greenness of an area?

"If the owner of a particular building you are contracted to clean hasn''t really come up to speed on the greening of their facility, you can alert the building owner to the idea that it is a smart economic thing to do, at the same time sending the message that you are aligned to provide services to green buildings," adds McFadden.

For instance, if you live in the South where the sun radiates heat all day, which drives up cooling costs, you can suggest the installation of window film to reduce the issue.

Or, if you are in the Southwest where sunshine is the norm, you can suggest the installation of photovoltaic solar panels to reduce energy loads.

"Some local utilities will even cover significant portions of the overall costs for energy efficiency upgrades," states Lawrence Constantin, Solar Gard''s director of sales for the Americas.

And, with your knowledge, you just might help your client achieve or increase their level of green certification — be it LEED, ENERGY STAR or something similar.