Third-Party Green Certifications Lead To New Opportunities
Building service contractors know that in order to stay competitive, they need to keep up with changing trends. As green cleaning has become mainstream for many BSCs and their customers, so have the opportunities for contractors to become certified by third-party organizations as green cleaning experts.
The most well-known green industry certifications include U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP); GS-42, or Green Seal's Environmental Standard for Commercial Cleaning Services; ISSA's Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB); and (OS1), a high performance cleaning management system run by ManageMen.
The LEED AP Operations and Maintenance (OM) credential provides a standard for professionals participating in the operation and maintenance of existing buildings that implement sustainable practices and reduce the environmental impact of a building over its functional life cycle. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) created this specialty credential to denote practical knowledge of the Green Building Operations and Maintenance LEED rating system.
Jason E. Lee, director of sustainability, for GCA Services Group, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is a credentialed LEED AP, with a specialty OM designation.
"Our company wanted to comply with these LEED facility certifications because we already embraced the concepts internally," says Lee. "We have a corporate social responsibility model, and integrated sustainability is an important part of that."
Lee also wanted to further his education as far as the accreditations that he felt were benchmarks within the industry and that were also important to the customers that the company services.
"It has helped us professionally, in that it has helped expand our business across all 23 market verticals," he says. "Meeting certain LEED building certification credits is now part of the suite of services that we offer. We have seen a nice growth in business due to visionaries and a proactive approach to everyday operations."
The certification has helped to retain existing business, with strong ongoing customer retention above 90 percent, he says.
It has also helped GCA become more cost-effective and labor-efficient. Since sustainability has been integrated throughout its operations, the company's employees experience fewer work-related injuries and illnesses, which is saving money for the company in terms of safety-related claims and improving work efficiency by not having to deal with as many injuries on the job.
The typical workers' compensation mod rate is about 1.0. GCA has some customers that require 0.9 or lower. Right now, GCA's mod rate stands at 0.79.
"Part of this, of course, is our safety and risk management program," he says. "However, our environmental commitment is another important reason, such as our green products, processes, tools and equipment."
The Green Seal Environmental Leadership Standard for Cleaning Services offers GS-42, a standard that establishes requirements for cleaning service providers. Green cleaning encompasses all indoor activities typically required to clean commercial, public and industrial buildings.
Executive Management Services Inc. (EMS), Indianapolis, Ind., achieved GS-42 certification after one of its major customers had a green initiative.
"They are a global company, and they wanted to do as much as they could to ‘green' their U.S. operations up," says Ray Mourey, executive vice president.
Mourey believes that certification was definitely worth the effort. The major customer that first triggered EMS' interest in GS-42 has its operations on a huge 21-building campus.
"When we first achieved certification, we took three of the buildings GS-42," says Mourey. "Since then, we have brought on the other 18 buildings. As a result, we have over a one billion square foot campus that is GS-42 certified."
This has strengthened a long-term relationship with a customer that EMS has been working with since 1993.
It also helps the company in other bidding processes.
"These days, every bid pack that we sent out mentions that we have GS-42 certification," he says. "Because of our green initiative, we have picked up several other rather large accounts."
These customers weren't interested in GS-42 in specific, but they are going for LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) certification, and a lot of what is required in LEED-EBOM are things that EMS would do for GS-42.
ISSA's CIMS is a consensus-based management standard that outlines the primary characteristics of a successful, quality cleaning organization. As a way to meet the growing demand for green and LEED certification, CIMS has been expanded to include new "Green Building" (GB) criteria and a new optional GB designation. This certification is closely tailored to provide customers with what they need to secure points for LEED-EBOM.
DMS Facility Services, Los Angeles, recently achieved CIMS-GB certification. The company already had CIMS certification.
"I was contacted by ISSA asking if we would be interested in seeking CIMS-GB," explains Manuel Quezada, vice president of safety and personnel development. "Since we had already been in the process of becoming more sustainable for a couple of years, we figured that the process to achieve CIMS-GB certification wouldn't be that difficult. For example, we already had a process in place to audit our practices. Part of this involved purchasing and using sustainable products."
Demand seems to be growing for potential customers that are seeking certified or sustainable BSCs, says Quezada.
Dan Wagner, director of facility service programs for ISSA, says CIMS-GB helps BSCs implement green cleaning programs in their buildings — which can help clients move toward LEED-EBOM).
"The criteria within CIMS-GB helps the contractor design and implement a comprehensive green cleaning program, especially one that is consistent with the green cleaning requirements within the LEED-EBOM standard, since LEED-EBOM remains the No. 1 driver of going green for facilities," Wagner says. "Green cleaning can contribute a significant number of points toward certification."
The management program laid out by CIMS provides the foundation for a successful green cleaning program, he adds.
(OS1) is a comprehensive high-performance cleaning management system offered by Salt Lake City-based ManageMen. It employs in-depth training based on standardized tools and procedures. The system is workloaded to teams, and each cleaning worker is trained and certified on specialized tasks. Workers are "kitted" with specific tools and chemicals for each job function, which have been benchmarked as the best practices by the (OS1) users.
"With (OS1), the contractors not only keep track of their own data as far as chemical usage and indoor environmental quality, but we also do a third-party audit of their program that provides them with these validations," says Ben Walker, director of special services for ManageMen.
Companies that receive a score of 80 percent or higher on their audit earn the (OS1) Green Certified Program Award. This designation demonstrates that BSCs are successfully managing their cleaning program, thereby reducing risks to both the environment and janitors.
When Russ Goldin, president of Eat My Dust, Inc., San Jose, Calif., learned that (OS1) is based on science and process engineered systems, he knew the certification was right for his company.
"The system does what it is supposed to do, which is cleaning," he says. "I have found that the system is more efficient and effective than other approaches. As such, given the equivalent hours and dollars that other companies will spend, this system removes more dirt and pollutants."
William Atkinson is a freelance writer based out of Carterville, Ill.