Avian Flu: What Distributors Can Do
Avian flu pandemic. The possibility of this event occurring has much of the world, including the United States, stuck in a holding pattern. Will it actually spread to the United States, and if so, what is the potential impact on our population? Are we ready to handle this virus? These are some of the big questions that do not yet have answers.
Instead of sitting idly by while avian flu strain which is officially known as H5N1 may or may not make a move, the government is encouraging businesses to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic.
Executives from NISSCO LLC, a buying group out of Dulles, Va., and DEB SBS, a soap manufacturer based in South Stanley, N.C., recently held an informational teleconference for jan/san members. The intent of the conference was to bring distributors up-to-date on the state of the avian flu as well as to get them thinking about what steps need to be taken to protect their businesses.
Throughout the conference, speakers made it clear that the jan/san industry has an even more important role in these times because not only do they have to protect their own businesses, they have to prepare their customers’ businesses as well.
In opening the teleconference, Keith Marcoe, president of NISSCO, said, “In the news every day, more and more is being written about the potential impact of avian influenza. Much of it is factual, much of it is just supposition, but one thing is for sure, as business leaders in the sanitation industry, it is important for all of us to have current, factual and pertinent information on several fronts so that we can be proactive.”
Phyllis Ellen Kozarsky, M.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine, Public Health, then discussed the main concerns associated with the virus, how it has affected birds and humans and how the United States can prepare for the possibility of the virus’s arrival.
Protecting oneself with preventative measures such as hand washing, using tissues and disposing of them properly are obvious to most people. However, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is encouraging businesses to go beyond implementing these controls. It is informing businesses on what measures need to be taken to protect workers from the virus. More information from the CDC on avian flu can be accessed through its Web site, www.cdc.gov/business.
In mid-July, the National Governors Association released a report intended to guide governors and state leaders on protocol for dealing with the avian flu. The 23-page report notes that state leaders have to make sure the public is prepared, must set limits to control the spread of the virus, and have to work with the business community especially jan/san businesses.
In addition to establishing policies, educating employees and allocating resources to protect their own employees, jan/san distributors also have a unique place in others’ business plans, because there will be an increased demand for cleaning products. “Unlike most other companies where there will be a decrease [in sales], yours will have an increase,” said Kozarsky.
The jan/san distributor is all about consultative selling, explained Allen Soden, president of DEB SBS. The possibility of a pandemic creates a perfect opportunity for distributors to help their customers.
“This is an opportunity … to really have senior sales management make key sales visits to very important customers,” said Soden. “This is not something that you should just allow your salespeople in a sales meeting to go to, and have them come back and say to you, ‘No one ever asked me about [measures to prevent avian flu.]’”
It is not too early for distributors to begin planning for avian flu; some companies have already prepared a plan and have begun storing cleaning products. Sectors that have already displayed a high level of demand include financial institutions, universities, jails, the travel industry and office buildings.
There are other public places that are in need of sanitary supplies, such as in churches, where communal activities are common. “I urge you to take this seriously as an opportunity to truly build on your great local relationships,” Soden said.
Also, visit local municipalities to make sure they have the products to protect their first responders.
Soden said that according to a study he recently read on avian flu, only 15 percent of American companies have a preparedness plan, so a great need still exists.
While the American public is not immune to the possibility of an avian flu pandemic, jan/san distributors can help ease the impact of the virus by providing the products that stop its spread.
|Jan/San Industry Well Informed On Avian Flu
In a recent survey of jan/san manufacturers, distributors and facility service providers, 46 percent of respondents said they have a clear understanding of the avian flu, while 36 percent said they are “somewhat” aware, or know little about it.
The poll, conducted by Enviro-Solutions, Peterborough, Ontario, also found:
• 58 percent said their customers consider an outbreak a “serious threat.”
• 82 percent believe if there is an outbreak, it will pose serious danger to the United States and Canada.
• More than 70 percent believe there are ways to minimize the effects or prevent a pandemic.
• 90 percent said the jan/san industry will play a role in “minimizing the consequences” of an outbreak.
• 54 percent think an avian flu pandemic would not have a negative effect on the industry.
Employers Seek Health Care Answers
As U.S. health insurance premiums increased by 9.2 percent in 2005, a new survey by Supply House Times reveals that jan/san wholesalers’ premiums skyrocketed to nearly double-digit increases, averaging 13 percent.
When surveyed, 666 employers revealed that they were spending over $243,000 in health coverage, or an average per-employee cost of $6,750.
Employers are now looking for alternatives to cope with the rising health care costs. The survey reports that 42 percent have changed insurers in search of lower rates, while 58 percent were forced to increase deductibles and 42 percent raised employee co-pays.
As for other choices, such as health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, the survey revealed that 17 percent were currently offering these alternatives to their employees. Almost 5 percent reported they were unfamiliar with those options.
Unisource To Launch ‘Green’ Product Line
Unisource Worldwide Inc., Atlanta, an independent distributor of facility supplies, announced in July its plans to begin working with manufacturers on a line of Green Seal-certified products. The company’s new product lines, “Respect” and “Size is Right,” are arriving on the coattails of increased global awareness of environmentally responsible cleaning.
The line has already found approval with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI). The new lines will also assist existing buildings in obtaining LEED Certification.
“With our green solutions, we will help customers achieve LEED designation, which is becoming an increasingly more important factor in assessing a facility’s market value,” said Nancy Geisler, director of Unisource’s Respect Program.
Global Outlook 2006: Sanitary Paper Products
Research and Markets, a Dublin, Ireland-based international market research and data company, recently released a study on the sanitary paper products industry. “Sanitary Paper Products Global Outlook 2006,” uses information from 146 companies as the basis for the research paper.
The study focuses on several paper product categories, including toilet tissue, facial tissue and paper towels and provides a collection of statistical anecdotes, market briefs, and summaries of findings.
The study is intended to give readers a cross-sectional comparison of top international players, outline key trends and reiterate recent mergers, acquisitions and corporate developments.
For more information on the report, visit www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c39972.
Policy Stresses The Importance Of ‘Clean’ Over ‘Green’
The Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) recently issued a formal position statement on green cleaning. The policy makes clear that the CIRI board of directors supports green cleaning solutions, but cleaning for health and hygiene take precedence.
“We commend the advocates of green cleaning for what they have done for our industry,” said Jim Harris, CIRI chairman. “However, we are concerned that there are times when decisions are made to go ‘green’ that can have an impact on the actual cleaning process, resulting in a less healthy environment.”
The board of directors pledges to follow the green-cleaning trend closely, and plans to set its newly established Science Advisory Council to work with CIRI’s members in studying the science and technology related to green products.
Paper placemats and tray covers are found to be a reliable and sanitary defense against bacteria and other microorganisms, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh reveals.
The study focused on 50 facilities, including restaurants and lodging facilities, but found that day cares benefited the most from the protective barriers.
“The small expense of using these products is likely outweighed by the public health benefit gained from their use,” said associate professor of microbiology Dr. Gregory T. Kleinheinz.
A Magic Carpet Ride
Carpets designed to stop the spread of the avian flu virus will be installed in the Doha International Airport in Qatar.
The “antiseptic carpets,” which are being selected according to strict standards, will be a required pit stop for all incoming passengers.
The hope is that the virus, which may be carried on passengers’ shoes, will be eliminated once in contact with the medicated carpet.
Consolidation Picks Up
Global merger-and-acquisition transactions in the facility services industry reached $20 billion in 2005, according to a new report by Robert W. Baird & Co. Analysts say the report illuminates the global trend of consolidation in 2006, which is being fueled by outsourcing and market growth.
The global economy is expected to weaken over the next year, according to a survey of global fund managers conducted by Merrill Lynch.
The survey revealed the most negative reading in the survey’s history, with a net 60 percent of institutional investors viewing the as economy weakening.
Rising energy prices and higher interest rates are being blamed for the pessimistic outlook.
The EcoLogo Program, formerly known as The Environmental Choice Program, is increasing its monitoring process to ensure companies who have the EcoLogo label comply with the programs requirements.
Ecologo creates incentives for companies who utilize green-certified products, then works to regulate the companies’ compliancy. But after various reports of non-compliancy, the group decided to implement unannounced audits to ensure protection for consumers, the environment and the value of the EcoLogo Program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently fined Envirosystems, Santa Clara, Calif., over $16,000 for allegedly selling and distributing antimicrobial disinfectants that failed effectiveness testing.
To ensure that a disinfectant meets the claims on its label, a company is required to first register it with the EPA. “If the EPA finds that a product fails testing for product effectiveness, the company can expect significant penalties,” said Enrique Manzanilla, the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division director.
The company has since voluntarily recalled its product line and pulled the line from its distributors. The responsibility of customer notification, however, fell in the laps of the products’ distributors.