5 Reasons Why Sustainability Is Great for Cleaning Businesses

sustainability, environmentalism

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this month, let’s remember sustainability is not only good for our environment, but can also help our workers and improve our bottom lines. Let’s examine five reasons why sustainability offers a great business opportunity for your cleaning operation.

1. Sustainability makes money

In 2011, only 100 of Standard & Poor’s 500 largest companies published sustainability reports. Today, that number has increased to 430 companies. As their reports mature, these organizations will require reporting from their cleaning suppliers.

Cleaning companies that have addressed sustainability will benefit the most. As sustainability will be a differentiator, once large organizations choose a new supplier, they won’t be motivated to make another change. This benefits suppliers that switched to sustainable practices early in the game.

2. Sustainability is good for small businesses

Sustainability gives small businesses a good chance to compete for clients. Major sustainability reporting programs address impacts on the community(s) where the organization is located and encourages buying locally. This, of course, assumes that in addition to offering competitively priced products and services, small businesses are addressing their own sustainability initiatives. Unfortunately, being small or local is not enough without the bonus of sustainability practices.

3. Sustainability saves money

The first step on the journey toward sustainability is efficiency, which drives bottom-line savings. Consider ISSA’s Distributor, Efficiency, Analytics & Learning (DEAL) program that has documented more than US$1.5 million in savings with even the smallest organizations documenting tens of thousands of dollars in annual savings with minimal capital investments.

Because the average profit margin in the cleaning industry is about 7%, even a small annual savings of $20,000 is comparable to a sale of $285,000 and can be realized at the same time efforts are made to increase revenues.

4. Sustainability is good for people

The difference between sustainability and “green cleaning” is people. Sustainability involves social responsibility and specifically addresses issues like wages, benefits, training, nondiscrimination, and legal hiring and work practices. These honorable work practices prevent businesses that try to do well by their employees from suffering cost disadvantages because they don’t cheat.

Taking better care of workers will spark greater job satisfaction and reduced turnover, which will result in lowered costs for hiring and training. It will also decrease the number of customer complaints and improve client retention.

5. Sustainability is good for the environment

Green cleaning lays a solid foundation for sustainability. But sustainability goes beyond products and services to consider how the cleaning organization itself operates. It looks at how offices, warehouses, and manufacturing sites consume or produce energy, water, and waste and it considers the fuel used for deliveries and sales calls.

DEAL participants collectively reduced environmental impacts comparable to planting 40,000 trees and letting them grow for 10 years. If these results were applied across the entire cleaning industry, it is estimated that the savings would be 100 times larger and would truly be a boost for the environment. 

Stephen Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at

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