With a new president and administration in the White House, it is hard to predict how the next four years will unfold, particularly for our industry. However,
we would be naive not to assume the following:
- Changes are coming that will likely impact our industry; this could apply to cleaning worker wages as well as regulations impacting sustainability.
- Building service contractors and facility managers have to prepare for these changes and make a plan for how to deal with them.
- Industry professionals need to see change as an opportunity.
- As changes evolve, all segments of our industry must stay one step ahead of competitors to profit from these changes.
Of all these points, the one I believe is most important and actionable is to view any changes that result from the new administration as an opportunity. Those in our industry who take such an approach will likely reap the rewards.
The State of Sustainability
In 1993, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12873. This order directed the managers of federally operated facilities—about 100,000 worldwide at the time—to begin using sustainable products and methods. This order was honored and actually expanded by the incoming Bush administration, as well as the outgoing Obama administration. And because of the influence and purchasing power of the federal government, many schools, states, and other types of facilities from around the country adopted green cleaning products and strategies.
Further, as a result of the order, most manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry realized they had to get on the green cleaning bandwagon. They started developing cleaning solutions, tools, equipment, and products that would promote sustainability and meet green certification standards that were also developing at that time.
If these executive actions from our previous presidents were ever to be canceled, whether by the new administration or any other, federal facility managers would be allowed to select any type of cleaning product they want—green or traditional—and would not have to select paper products made from recycled content. Purchasing decisions could be made purely based on cost and little more.
Should sustainable cleaning requirements ever come to an end, we will need to remind ourselves about their importance, specifically as they apply to building occupant health.
Earth Day is just around the corner (Saturday, April 22, 2017). I encourage custodial departments throughout the country to actively promote green cleaning and sustainability issues by planning Earth Day celebrations. If your organization isn’t planning an event, encourage management to do so. We need to point out the many great accomplishments relating to sustainability the cleaning industry has achieved for schools, universities, and other buildings all over the country.
Ultimately, this is a call for leadership. We need people within our industry to step up and defend what our industry has accomplished, exalt the value of our industry, and wave the flag about how quickly and enthusiastically we changed and adopted green and sustainability issues.
Calling for Leadership
We must not view the potential for change in the current or future administrations as a political issue, but rather, as a challenge for all of us to remind ourselves about the value of green cleaning and sustainability. We must become our own lobbyists, for ourselves and our industry. This will help differentiate many in our industry from their competitors, making this a solid and successful business strategy, as well.