A dollar sign covered in images that demonstrate sustainability

Selling green cleaning products didn’t always come easy for Iowa-Des Moines Supply, and its push toward sustainability is more of a recent priority. Despite the late jumpstart, the 81-year-old distributor of jan/san supplies based in Des Moines, Iowa, is now shining in both of these arenas.

The distributor started offering green products to its customers 15 years ago at the advice of a manufacturer. While this supplier was encouraging the sale of something many would eventually desire, the place and time made green cleaning supplies an extremely hard sell for Iowa-Des Moines Supply.

Servicing The Hawkeye State out of its capital city, Iowa-Des Moines Supply does business in a region that is usually at least months behind the coasts when it comes to trends, says Todd Weidmaier, CEO. A product built on environmental awareness was going to take even longer.

“These efforts were way ahead of anyone in the Midwest and couldn’t get traction,” he says.

The company’s sales of green cleaning products have increasingly improved over the past decade, as environmental consciousness has extended from homes to the public and private sector. Now, Iowa-Des Moines Supply’s passion for sustainability and green cleaning is shared by many throughout its home state.

For example, the Des Moines Arts Festival is a 60-year-old celebration with an average attendance of around 200,000. The festival takes great pride in its sustainability efforts, claiming to have created a grandiose, long-term sustainability plan designed to develop procedures that will reduce waste during the annual event, according to its website. Three years ago, one of Iowa-Des Moines Supply’s sales representatives introduced the festival to the business, and eventually the company became a member of the event’s sustainability plan.

During its first year, Iowa-Des Moines Supply joined several other distributors in providing compostable items to the event. After a good showing, the festival decided that the affordability of Iowa-Des Moines Supply’s products, along with the quality of the product and service it provided, proved the company should be the sole distributor of compostable items for vendors at future events, says Daphne Dickens, production and program manager for the festival.

The Des Moines Art Festival has been striving for a Zero Waste event, meaning no waste ends up in the landfill. In years past, this has been difficult due to compost contamination. This year was different; 2.16 tons of clean compostable material went through the event, which made up 83 percent of the waste diverted from the landfill. Dickens says the compost material recovered from the 2018 festival was much cleaner than in years past, a change she credits to the education Iowa-Des Moines Supply team members provided leading up to and at the event, helping vendors and guests understand the concept of composting.

After festival season, sales representatives can always speak to the company’s involvement in sustainability efforts at the well-known festival, demonstrating that the company is really about sustainability.

“The thing that was always in the back of my mind is we are asking people to use green products, but what are we doing around here to make sure we’re walking what we talk,” says Weidmaier.

In an effort to better walk the walk, Iowa-Des Moines Supply decided a few years ago to join DEAL, a program he credits with helping the company take its sustainability practices to the next level. Short for Distributor Efficiency Analytics and Learning, DEAL was developed by ISSA and Sustainability Dashboard Tools as a solution to some of the financial problems distributors are facing due to facility and fleet costs.

DEAL accomplishes this through a three-part approach involving learning, analytics and awards. Analytics help distributor’s track their successes and identify areas for improvement. The positive figures also serve as a tangible point of reference that distributors can share with potential customers — it helps them to convey how well they’re doing. The “learning” portion of the approach involves educational sessions that teach participants how to better improve their efficiency using practices developed by groups like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first improvements implemented are the most affordable, creating a smoother transition. Finally, the awards approach teaches distributors how to write press releases and share their accomplishments, so that they can market their sustainability success.

“DEAL is just one more way to differentiate ourselves,” says Weidmaier. “We’re always looking for the smallest of details that separate us from our competition.”

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