American businesses want to clean up their act when it comes to environmental responsibility, but a perceived lack of information and credible resources are holding them back, according to the “Business Cleaning Sustainability Study” conducted on behalf of Procter & Gamble Professional.

The online study was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, on behalf of P&G Professional. Businesses were surveyed on their sustainability knowledge, product purchase decision-making process and cleaning habits to gauge perceptions, attitudes and behaviors about topics related to sustainability. Survey respondents included cleaning product decision makers in four sectors: lodging, foodservice, health care and commercial cleaning industries.

“This survey really hits home that while businesses want to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible, a lack of in-depth knowledge and structure is holding them back from achieving their goals,” said Chris Vuturo, external relations manager, P&G Professional. “In fact, when sustainability guidelines are not in place at a business, decision makers behave in similar ways to the typical consumer, where a personal sense of responsibility is the main driver. Countless green labels and varying definitions regarding what it is to be ‘green’ makes the process very confusing for purchasing managers and decision makers.”

Overall survey highlights include:

  • A Lack of Guidelines: Less than a quarter of respondents reported that their business had sustainability guidelines.
  • Green Confusion: Nine out of 10 respondents believe sustainability and environmental responsibility is important for their business, but only 42 percent report being very or extremely well informed about the topic. In fact, one-third (33 percent) openly admit to being outright confused at some stage regarding what it means to be green.
  • In the EPA We Trust: Contributing to the state of green confusion is the wide variety of seals, labels and green standards that have 51 percent of the respondents finding it difficult to differentiate which products are actually respectful of the environment. When it comes to trust, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) certification led the way with more than 33 percent of respondents saying it was the most-trusted product certification on the market.
  • A Desire for Information: There is a definite hunger for more information, with 85 percent of respondents saying they are interested in obtaining knowledge and resources about how their business can be more environmentally responsible.
  • Performance and Price Prevail: Despite interest in environmentally-responsible products, product performance (61 percent) and price (52 percent) are the top two factors impacting decision makers and their selection of cleaning products. These findings are similar to consumer attitudes and habits when making cleaning product purchases for the home.
  • Can Green Still Clean? For half the respondents, “green” and “effective” can go hand-in-hand, but for nearly one third (30 percent), these qualities were mutually exclusive (20 percent were unsure).
  • A Bright Spot: Recycling (75 percent) and using energy efficient light bulbs (67 percent) are the two main steps taken by businesses to be environmentally responsible.

P&G Professional solicited feedback on the survey findings from sustainability expert, Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, executive director of the Green Cleaning Network and coauthor of The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.

“Green cleaning is coming of age – P&G Professional’s latest survey reveals the progress the cleaning industry has made since I started in this trade in the early 1980s, when the topics of ‘green’ and cleaning were rarely discussed in the same conversation, let alone involved in a decision-making strategy,” said Ashkin. “My lifework is to educate organizations and individuals on socially and environmentally responsible practices, so I am enthusiastic to learn that the cleaning industry is in the right mindset, having the pervasive interest in green. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, but I think this industry is headed in the right direction.”

Lodging Industry Leads the Pack
Of all the industries surveyed, incorporating environmentally-responsible practices resonated most with the lodging industry, which includes hotels and motels. In fact, 30 percent of lodging respondents have sustainable guidelines, as compared to just 18 percent of the health care sector and 17 percent of the commercial industry. Other interesting lodging survey results include:
• When it comes to motivations for purchasing green cleaning products, client preferences (26 percent) are more important for the lodging industry than in the foodservice (eight percent), health care (10 percent) and commercial (11 percent) industries.
• Corporate guidelines or corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies (23 percent) are more likely to motivate those from the lodging industry than those from the health care (nine percent) or commercial (eight percent) industries to purchase green cleaning products.
• The lodging industry is more likely to rely on third-party certifications (21 percent) as an important factor when deciding if a product is respectful of the environment than the commercial (11 percent) and foodservice industries (10 percent).

Health Care Industry Findings – Highs and Lows
The health care sector, which includes hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities, reported being the least inclined to demonstrate attitudes and behaviors related to the adoption of sustainability practices.
• With health and safety as their biggest priority, health care cleaning decision makers were least interested in receiving more information about sustainability and environmental responsibility (41 percent as compared to the lodging industry at 55 percent).
• Where health care ranks highest is skepticism: 42 percent are unsure about which entity to trust as compared to the lodging industry (22 percent) and commercial industries (27 percent).

Green Confidence in the Commercial Industry
Those decision makers surveyed in the commercial cleaning industry, which includes building service contractors, education facilities, manufacturing facilities, office buildings, retail establishments and warehouses, are more likely to say they are at least somewhat well-informed about environmentally responsible practices for their business (97 percent) than those from the lodging (90 percent), health care (84 percent) and foodservice (81 percent) industries. When purchasing cleaning products:
• Impact on the environment (31 percent) is a more important consideration for the commercial industry than it is for the foodservice industry (16 percent) or the health care industry (13 percent).
• Ease of use (31 percent) is also more important for the commercial industry than it is for the health care (18 percent), lodging (18 percent) and foodservice (18 percent) industries.

Foodservice Industry Highlights
Interestingly, those surveyed within the foodservice industry, which includes grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and school cafeterias, along with the lodging industry, are more likely to mention government certifications as a factor they consider when deciding if a product is respectful of the environment – 25 percent as compared to those in the commercial cleaning (19 percent) and health care (13 percent) industries.