Over 400 facility cleaning managers share their thoughts on products, certifications, training and branding when it comes to green cleaning and sustainability.

As the benefits of green and sustainable initiatives become more apparent each year, reasons to avoid such practices in facility cleaning programs are few and far between. Cost-efficient equipment, reduced worker absenteeism and improved public opinion are just a few of the reasons why 77 percent of respondents in the Facility Cleaning Decisions 2019 Green and Sustainability Survey do whatever they can to incorporate green certified products into their cleaning program — a 5 percent increase over last year’s results.

Responses from nearly 400 facility cleaning executives provided several key takeaways on program implementation, product adoption, adequate training and getting upper management on-board with initiatives. While plenty of room for improvement remains, the foundation for green and sustainable efforts appears stronger than ever.

Leading The Charge

As expected, the majority of departments with successful green cleaning and/or sustainability programs in place are spearheaded by managers dedicated to the consistent improvement of everyday procedures — supported by like-minded staff unafraid to take on new initiatives. According to the survey, facility executives and their frontline staff are usually the driving force behind the proposal, implementation and execution of these plans. A notable number of departments also received support from administrators, vendors, consultants and executive management.

A willingness to heed advice from vendors and consultants is an especially encouraging trend, as the product expertise from vendors can help departments with any questions on the functionality of green cleaning equipment. Consultants can provide unique insight on product and equipment decisions, as well as procedures that best fit a certain facility type based on successful experiences with other clients.

Converting to greener products and equipment is an easy first step toward sustainability. In fact, a wide range of responses were received across 17 green/sustainable product categories currently in-use by departments. The usage of most equipment types increased year-over-year, making it safe to assume that product innovation — combined with the promotion of environmentally-friendly initiatives from manufacturers — had a positive influence overall. Even with usage up, 47 percent of facility cleaning managers plan on implementing products that contribute to sustainability in the next 12 months.

Autoscrubbers stood out as the biggest individual category jump, with 61 percent of respondents incorporating the machines in 2019, compared to only 46 percent in the 2018 findings. Key to the rise in popularity are recently-released innovations that allow the same functionality as previous models while requiring less usage of water and chemicals.

Managers continue to value a practice-what-you-preach approach when it comes to sustainable product usage, with 79 percent of respondents expecting their manufacturers and distributor partners to embrace sustainable initiatives in their own processes.

The reason, managers say, is “it means they care about the environment and the people who live and work with these products every day.” Another manager works with like-minded partners because, “they know the green requirements and you do not need to research every product on your own.”

Training And Education

The majority of respondents believe training is essential to the advancement of green and sustainable initiatives across all positions. The sentiment rings especially true for facility cleaning managers (88 percent) and their cleaning staff (93 percent).

Company handbooks and powerpoint presentations are a conventional and often-necessary part of the custodial training puzzle. Yet when it comes to fully understanding procedures, the implementation of interactive activities such as videos, product testing and manufacturer tutorials tend to have a longer-lasting impact. These types of activities also do a better job of conveying why certain tasks need to be completed in a particular way, giving janitors a greater sense of pride and less of a temptation to cut corners. Equally important to the initial training of employees are routine follow-ups and easy accessibility to materials for periodic review.

When it comes to industry education, it can be challenging to decipher legitimate resources in an overwhelming sea of information. Cleaning managers/staff looking to build or refresh their knowledge base on green cleaning can turn to several dependable avenues. Distributors are a reputable source of statistics and research when it comes to proving the potential return on investment (ROI) for different products and equipment. Industry events, including trade shows, summits and conferences, allow for otherwise unlikely opportunities to hear from other managers firsthand about their successful strategies on sustainability — with little concern about receiving biased opinions on product selections or protocols. For managers seeking more budget-friendly solutions, online YouTube channels from verified and respected consultants, manufacturers or fellow managers can prove to be a worthwhile click. Facility cleaning publications also routinely provide online webcast opportunities, giving users often-free access to presentations and/or direct Q&A forums.

Conveying The Message

Even if facility cleaning managers and staff understand the benefits of a green cleaning program, little progress can be made toward implementing or improving procedures without getting executives with control of the budget on board. Fortunately, 64 percent of survey respondents excel in communicating green cleaning successes and ROI to upper management — a 6 percent improvement from 2018.

Several factors play into this encouraging trend. One contributor stresses the importance of available data to illustrate the cost and health benefits of sustainable initiatives. With the help of a monitoring program, managers can collect data over time on indoor air quality, savings on equipment, reduced usage of water and chemicals, reductions in worker injuries through safer cleaning protocols and more.

“We utilize a life-cycle cost analysis, and the results of the green products are equal or superior to the traditional products,” says one respondent. Another participant says, “Savings can come from cost of product, time saved or less use of water and chemicals. Green products also reduce the risk of employee injuries due to falls, spills or improper mixtures.”

Having this information on-hand not only bolsters a presentation or company newsletter spreading awareness, but it can boost morale among custodians, executives and even the employees who work in the facility. Information sharing communicates that environmentally-friendly efforts are in place.

“As a school, we feel that it’s important to reduce our carbon footprint, and assist in teaching our youth and employees the ways to do so,” says one respondent.

The results of this survey provide further context on the types of green and sustainable initiatives cleaning managers have in place, along with which trends they believe hold value for the future.

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Survey Identifies Tips On Maintaining Green Cleaning Initiatives