Goedendag from Amsterdam! I’m writing this from the show floor of Interclean Amsterdam, the largest cleaning industry event in the world — roughly 900 exhibitors spanning about 375,000 square feet. There are four separate stages that host more than 100 education sessions, along with co-located events specifically focused on environmental cleaning/infection control and contract cleaning.  

After three full days, my feet are tired and my brain is full. There’s so much to take in, but one obvious theme of the event is the focus on sustainability.  

Sustainable initiatives are far more advanced in Europe than they are in the U.S. For example, facility certifications and use of certified products is optional in the U.S. Meanwhile, European regulations don’t suggest, they require the use of products and processes that minimize their impact on the environment.  

That requirement is driving product innovation from global manufacturers — to compete throughout Europe, they must comply. These manufacturers won't change their formulas to do business in the U.S., so the same sustainability requirements will eventually make their way into our facilities, regardless of regulations or mandates.  

According to global manufacturers, the U.S. is behind the ball on the sustainability front, and they cite two main reasons. First, it’s not required. It seems to be an American trait that if we aren’t forced to do something, we won’t. Second, upgraded products that meet the European sustainability requirements are more costly. In the states, we still prioritize price when purchasing.  

For facility cleaning executives, this news might come as a double-edged sword. Creating a healthy and sustainable environment for building occupants is desired and will be a natural transition as these new products and equipment replace their older counterparts. That’s the good news. Meanwhile, though, the challenge will be in the budget.  

Manufacturing new products is costly, but so are the patents, certifications and legal fees associated with the development of these products. That will impact the final price point, which will be a burden on departmental budgets. To remain committed to sustainability, managers will need to justify their higher spending. 

Navigating this reality will be a challenge for facility managers, but it’s necessary for the betterment of our facilities, our occupants, our employees and the overall environment.