Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

CIMS-GB: The Sixth Dimension

September 19, 2010

In addition to a quality cleaning organization, building owners and managers want assurance that their cleaning service providers are capable of providing a sustainable cleaning service and can help them achieve points toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

In coming months, ISSA, developer of the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), will launch CIMS-Green Building (GB), a certification for cleaning organizations that want to help customers green their operations overall and secure LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) points.

Why Sustainable Cleaning?

The word "green" is tossed around so frequently and by so many organizations, both inside and outside the cleaning industry.

In our industry, we have "green" cleaning products, tools and practices.

I prefer the word "sustainable," which is often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable cleaning is an integrated system of cleaning that encompasses both sustainable practices and products and takes a holistic, life-cycle and cradle-to-grave approach to cleaning activities.

CIMS-GB was specifically developed with sustainability in mind.

Complementary to the traditional five management sections of the Standard, CIMS-GB adds a sixth dimension, focusing on sustainable cleaning practices.

The criteria are largely based on the sustainable cleaning requirements of LEED-EBOM — with some notable deviations — and contain many examples of holistic, sustainable cleaning principles, including:

  • Sustainable cleaning principle: Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the cleaning economy depends.

    • CIMS-GB criteria: The organization shall have a written plan that addresses its efforts to conserve resources, including cleaning materials, water, energy and transportation used during the cleaning process.

  • Sustainable cleaning principle: Protect humans before, during and after cleaning activities.

    • CIMS-GB criteria: The organization shall meet safety training requirements, including providing employees with training on the use and hazards of chemical products.

  • Sustainable cleaning principle: Make the protection of human health and environmental health the primary focus of cleaning.

    • CIMS-GB criteria: A minimum of 60 percent, by purchase cost, of the cleaning products provided by an organization and used in a GB-compliant building must meet applicable Green Seal® or Environmental Choice certification criteria or meet the requirements under the U.S. EPA''s Design for the Environment (DfE) Program.

  • Sustainable cleaning principle: Encourage proper disposal of cleaning products and the soils removed by them.

    • CIMS-GB criteria: The organization shall have a waste reduction and recycling plan that may include waste stream audit procedures and a commitment to the diversion of waste through an active waste reduction and recycling program.

Achieving CIMS-GB Certification

To achieve CIMS-GB certification, organizations are required to undergo a comprehensive onsite assessment that includes document review, interviews with personnel and customers and visits to individual customer sites.

Also, the organization must provide its third-party assessor with a list of buildings that are part of its sustainable cleaning program.

The assessor then randomly selects properties to visit to assess compliance to the CIMS-GB criteria.

CIMS-GB certification is an optional "add-on" to the traditional CIMS certification program.

CIMS-GB gives organizations of all types and sizes the opportunity to further distinguish their operations, especially in the area of sustainability.

Building owners and managers increasingly seek cleaning service providers that can assist them in meeting LEED-EBOM criteria as the LEED Green Building Rating System continues to penetrate the marketplace.

CIMS-GB provides assurance that the cleaning service provider is committed to being a partner in creating sustainable, healthy and safe indoor environments.

More information on CIMS and CIMS-GB is available at

David Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Science. AICS is the registrar for the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard certification program.