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Management And Training

The Lowdown On Certification

April 14, 2011
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A healthy work environment doesn''t have a downside, and increasing numbers of companies and facilities are turning to the practice of green cleaning in order to show their customers, competitors and the world that they are serious about doing their part to preserve the fragile state of our planet.

But, how can you be certain that the building you work in is actually practicing what they preach?

Many in the JanSan industry are turning to third-party certifiers in order to say: This is real. We are accountable.

A number of green certifications began popping up: ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, Green Seal Inc., etc.

They are quickly becoming household names, but what exactly do they mean for green cleaning?

With so many green certification standards available, it is sometimes difficult to decipher which products and services are superior based on their certification label.

This can lead to confusion and opens the door to potential greenwashing.

Green Seal

Green Seal is a non-profit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world.

Products that bear the Green Seal mark have complied with “a rigorous set of criteria designed to achieve leadership levels in sustainability.”

Companies who choose Green Seal certification are establishing an ongoing commitment to health and the environment.

By choosing to certify with Green Seal, companies can:

  • Improve the environment by reducing toxic pollution and waste, conserving resources and habitats and minimizing global warming and ozone depletion

  • Increase the health and well-being of your customers, particularly those most affected by product choice, such as schoolchildren, service staff and the elderly

  • Demonstrate that environmentally responsible products and services can meet or exceed performance and quality expectations.

The use of Green Seal-certified products can also help a facility earn and maintain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

With Green Seal certification, manufacturers can back up their claims that their products are less harmful for the environment and the health of those who will come in contact with these products daily.

Green Seal certification can be achieved in the following areas:

Commercial and institutional cleaning services can also be certified by Green Seal through the new GS-C1 Pilot Sustainability Standard.

According to the Green Seal, the objective of the pilot certification program is to gain practical understanding about the GS-C1 requirements and procedures from companies that are going through the certification process.

Because the standard is still in the pilot phase, it is not yet available for all product manufacturers.


The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute was created to “protect human health and quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality and reducing people''s exposure to chemicals and other pollutants.”

GREENGUARD certifies products and materials for low chemical emissions and provides a resource for choosing healthier products and materials for indoor environments.

When choosing products that are GREENGUARD certified, you can be sure that all products meet strict emissions standards set forth by the Institute.

GREENGUARD offers three certification programs: GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified, GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified and GREENGUARD Building Construction Certified.

Indoor Air Quality Certified is a certification program for low-emitting building materials, furniture, furnishings, finishes, cleaning products, electronics and consumer products.

Children & Schools Certified is a certification program for low-emitting building materials, furniture, finishes, cleaning products, electronics and consumer products that are used in environments where children and other sensitive populations spend extended periods of time.

Building Construction Certified is a program for newly constructed multifamily and commercial properties that follows best practice guidelines for preventing mold and moisture intrusion during design, construction and ongoing operations.

Building projects are registered and must undergo review during design, construction and initial operational phases.


One of the more visible and all-encompassing standards, offered through ISSA, is the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS).

According to ISSA, CIMS is the first consensus-based management standard that outlines the primary characteristics of a successful, quality cleaning organization.

While certification programs like Green Seal and GREENGUARD are more focused on the products that will be used in an indoor environment, CIMS is also concerned with how those products are used.

CIMS is a standard that applies to management, operations, performance systems and processes.

According to ISSA, compliance with the Standard demonstrates an organization is structured to deliver consistent, quality services that are designed to meet the customer''s needs and expectations.

The Standard is divided in to six best practice areas:

  • Quality systems
  • Service delivery
  • Human resources
  • Health, safety and environmental stewardship
  • Management commitment
  • Green building.

CIMS is a program designed to save money.

CIMS helps facilities implement an effective management framework that allows for optimum operational efficiency, allowing better service to the end-user, which naturally results in cost savings.

According to ISSA, in order to achieve CIMS certification, a facility service provider organization must submit written documentation supporting their compliance with the requirements described in the five key sections of the Standard.

CIMS differentiates itself from other certification programs because the Standard applies to an entire cleaning organization, while other programs apply to people, products or cleaning procedures, separately.

The Standard does not recommend any specific product, equipment or procedures and, therefore, allows the cleaning organization flexibility to choose the best products, equipment and procedures for their organization, while still remaining compliant with the Standard.

CIMS certification is also a key for facilities that are looking to become, or remain, LEED certified.

Seeing The Difference

It is important to note that, at this point in time, no one certification program or system is all-encompassing.

Green Seal takes in to account the chemical composition of a product: If the mixture of ingredients in a particular product will have no adverse affects on those using the product or living and working in the environment after its use, then the product can become Green Seal certified.

GREENGUARD will take the safety of a product one step further and test it in real-world situations.

A product that is GREENGUARD certified has been used in the environment that will be cleaned and, after testing, has been deemed to be safe.

CIMS takes systems thinking in to account.

A facility that is CIMS certified not only uses products that are environmentally friendly, but employs other practices and techniques that contribute to the overall “greenness” of the facility.

There are other certification programs that consist of a mixture of all of the previously mentioned programs, but none are as highly recognized by the cleaning industry — yet.

Making The Choice

No matter what, the decision to be green has to be a conscious choice.

The decision to be certified green is an even more important choice.

No matter what certification you look at, there are rigorous standards that have to be met and upheld.

If you are looking to certify your entire cleaning operation, every single person has to be onboard.

Certification is a group effort.

If you are a company that chooses to have their products certified green, that, too, is a choice that should not be made lightly.

Consumers, both commercial and private, will look to your products as the top of the green industry.

Certification should not be undertaken simply to make you look good.

Certification can improve a company image, but it will also hold you to a higher standard.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; just think of all the good you''re doing for the environment and the health of others.

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