My history teachers always told me we studied the past so we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. But we can also learn how to handle what may seem like unfamiliar and challenging territories.

In preparation of this 70th anniversary issue, I spent the past few months poring through our extensive archives. While the cleaning industry may not be exactly the same as it was 70 years ago, history does have a way of repeating itself and we can use the past as a guide.

For example, how should distributors be handling C. diff, CRE and other rampant hospital-acquired infections? Well, sanitation concerns are what put the cleaning industry on the map in the 1940s. The importance of cleanliness in military camps during World War II proved that janitors and their product suppliers could be an asset in the fight against disease. Many distributors launched their successful companies on this fact. This message should be the same today; maybe customers just need a reminder.

With today’s shaky economy, the green movement has taken a backseat to distributors’ bottom lines. But can committing to green products and sustainable practices actually be a way to grow business? In the 1970s, the cleaning industry made national headlines for participating in anti-litter and anti-pollution campaigns. This proved that protecting the environment made a good marketing strategy — and it still is today. Distributors who recently implemented sustainable initiatives despite a recession are discovering financial benefits from going green.

Just as we studied our country’s history in school, as members of the cleaning industry we shouldn’t shy away from our past either — there’s a lot we can learn from it. I know I did.

Thank you to all the distributors, manufacturers and other members of the supply chain who shared their photos, letters and bits of history with us. I hope you have as much fun reading this special anniversary issue as we did putting it together.