Change for Good, Change for Growth

Change for Good, Change for Growth

The World Economic Forum is an independent, not-for-profit foundation that strives to promote business interests around the world. It also provides insights into new and upcoming changes that are likely to impact both the public and private sectors.

In the recent white paper Two Degrees of Transformation: Businesses Are Coming Together to Lead on Climate Change. Will You Join Them?, the organization points out that in the 1920s, the average life span of a company listed on the S&P 500 index of leading U.S. companies was 67 years. Today that life span is just 15 years.

Several factors have combined to shorten the lives of these leading companies. However, two that have played a significant role are climate change and sustainability. According to the white paper:

Tackling climate change has created a wealth of opportunities for new markets. Many of them are challenging incumbent businesses to keep up with new ways of thinking. New products, services, and systems are forcing them to change. The companies that do not take notice of the shifting economy and the emerging opportunities for growth are likely to be the ones disappearing from the S&P 500 Index in the next decade.

In other words, companies and entire industries, including the professional cleaning industry, will need to continually make changes to their business models in order to survive and thrive. Moreover, the impetus for much of this change will be the need to adjust to climate change and to operate more sustainably.

Learning by Example

Whenever we hear the word “change,” whether it refers to changes in our personal or professional lives or in our businesses and industry, some consternation, if not actual fear, is our first reaction. However, as the white paper states, change can also be “for good and growth.” To illustrate this point, the white paper discusses changes made by a variety of companies and industries over the years. These changes have helped them become stronger and more viable, and at the same time, have reduced their environmental footprint and even cut product costs.

For instance, according to the report, cement production contributes about 5% of global CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions, an amount that is expected to rise in an increasingly urbanized world. Because of this, the white paper suggests that the cement industry has a significant and growing role to play in developing innovative ways to be more environmentally responsible. “[They are] conscious of their climate impact, and cement companies have for many years taken action to cut their carbon footprint.”

Pointing specifically to the company LafargeHolcim, a Swiss multinational that is one of the world’s largest producers of building materials, the paper states the company “does not just commit to lowering carbon emissions from production, but also develops and provides solutions to limit the carbon emissions of buildings and infrastructure.” By 2030, the company aims to reduce CO2e emissions per ton of cement by 40% compared to 1990 emissions.

Further, the company has partnered with other European companies and organizations to develop a compressed, low-carbon brick that will result in one-tenth the CO2e of standard bricks now being used. What’s more, these materials will be 20% less costly to produce and use. Traditional clay bricks need to be heated to temperatures as high as 300 degrees F to remove all water and make the brick permanently hard and durable. In comparison, this new type of brick does not need firing and will save vast amounts of energy, further reducing CO2e and greenhouse gas emissions.

Implications for the Jansan Industry

Major segments of the professional cleaning industry have already made significant changes in the past two decades that have helped them not only survive but become stronger and more successful. They have done this by addressing climate change and adjusting their business operations to focus more on sustainability.

However, although the industry is evolving, we still have a long way to go. One of the first steps we must take is knowing more precisely what our industry’s carbon footprint is. That was key to the cement industry making changes and it is key for our industry as well. Today, most industries and organizations turn to online sustainability dashboard systems to determine this information, using them to establish benchmarks from which improvements can be made. From here, we must take the following steps:

  • Define Our Terms
    Define what sustainability means for our companies and our industry, along with its benefits. Whether it involves developing new products or services or other changes in how we do business, sustainability must play a central role in our business and industry decisions.
  • Lead
    Encourage business owners and C-suite executives to play a leadership role in making sustainability and the reduction of greenhouse gases a top priority in our industry.
  • Establish Goals and Commitments
    Jansan organizations should have goals such as how much renewable energy they will use in coming years or the percentage of greenhouse gases they plan to reduce in their supply chain. Goals are required to make progress.
  • Monitor, Measure, and Track
    Central to the entire program is continually monitoring, measuring, and tracking our industry’s performance. Along with goals, these are the cornerstone of any change initiative.

Taking these steps will not only help our industry and the organizations that comprise it stay strong, but also help us to continue to be a sustainability leader—one that other industries will follow and admire. The most exciting part about this challenge to change is that I know we will step up to the plate and make it happen.

Source: Two Degrees of Transformation: Businesses Are Coming Together to Lead on Climate Change. Will You Join Them? from the World Economic Forum, January 2018.


Posted On September 9, 2019

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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