Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

How to write an environmental policy

September 19, 2010
Quality cleaning and maintenance services are safe, healthy and sustainable.

They should positively impact the built environment.

Thus, the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) includes health, safety, and environmental stewardship criteria, including a call for cleaning organizations to have an environmental policy.

Your organization may already have an environmental policy or sustainability statement on the corporate level — many organizations do.

However, it is less likely that the cleaning department within an organization has its own policy.

Whether your organization has an environmental policy or not, this policy is essential and fairly simple to do.

An environmental policy is a written statement outlining an organization’s mission in relation to managing the environmental effects and aspects of its operations.

The policy should clearly state the aims and principles of the organization with respect to its impact on the environment and should be appropriate to the nature, scale and environmental impact of the organization’s services.

All organizations and departments have an effect to a certain degree and the policy should recognize this.

Why write an environmental policy?
The cleaning department is at the epicenter of environmental issues, such as waste, indoor air quality, chemical management and more.

An environmental policy provides credibility to cleaning organizations and provides an opportunity for the organization to recognize itself and be recognized in regards to sustainability.

This written statement also helps assure customers of the department’s or organization’s commitment to demonstrating environmental management.

The policy is an example of good public/community relations and can help enhance the organization’s image and market share.

It can help improve cost control, reduce liability and safety issues, and conserve raw materials and energy.

Getting started
There is no formula or standard format for writing an environmental policy, but the style and content should reflect your organization’s culture.

It might be helpful to start by collecting and reviewing policies from other organizations to find a format and style that would work well for your organization.

If your organization already has a policy on a corporate-wide level, use it as a starting point and work on making it more specific to cleaning and maintenance operations.

A one-page, easy-to-read policy is perfect for a wide audience of readers.

Just make sure all statements are realistic and include achievable goals relevant to your organization.

Finally, illustrate upper-level support by having the document signed and dated by the CEO, managing director, or equivalent.

Policy contents
The cleaning department’s environmental policy should include three essential pillars: People, products and practices.

It need not be more than an outline of the department’s environmental commitment and sustainability mission.

Consider the following topics/statements:
  • Commitment to continual improvement
  • Recognition of third-party certification and compliance with legislation
  • Commitment to pollution prevention, including recycling and waste minimization
  • Commitment to efficient use of water and energy
  • Review of objectives and goals at least once every 24 months
  • Promise that policy shall be implemented and maintained
  • Communication to all employees and training on environmental issues
  • Availability to the public.
Choose statements that best apply to your cleaning department or organization and make them as specific as possible to the services provided.

To ensure your organization’s operations comply with its environmental policy, plan for regular review (at least every two years).

Amend the policy as business activities or operations change over time.

Use the document to keep your department in line with its environmental commitment, educate customers, and provide recognition to your cleaning organization and the cleaning industry.

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 Standards certification program.