The issue of product substitution can be a big problem in the built environment industries. Architects will specify one particular product to go into a project, but then somewhere along the line, a different product gets used instead – and often the architect or developer is unaware of the swap. This can be especially problematic where a product with strong environmental or health credentials has been specified for use in a project and if the product doesn’t make it into the final project, the goals of the architect and developer are compromised.
We’ve heard similar stories from the cleaning services and facilities management industries where cleaning products are concerned. Despite an industry-wide progression towards using cleaning products with lower environmental and health impacts and a bigger focus on sustainability, sometimes the message doesn’t quite reach all of those involved. Implementing a green cleaning program means that everyone from the facilities managers, to the cleaning staff, to the occupants of the building need to be on the same page.
Green products need to be used with understanding
In order to reap the many benefits of green cleaning – the improved indoor air quality, healthier occupants, and the positive environmental impact – procurement and facilities management professionals need to select the right products in the right quantity for the building. These need to be used correctly, with cleaning staff following proper procedures and understanding the reasons behind choosing green products over conventional cleaning solutions.
Facilities management and procurement professionals face a dual challenge: procuring genuinely ‘green’ cleaning products, and ensuring that staff are using those products effectively. Documentation of a cleaning product’s sustainability credentials can be challenging to understand, and for someone who may not have a background in the specifics of sustainable cleaners, it can be a challenge to weigh up and compare all the available options.
Once procured, there’s the issue of checking that cleaning staff are not inadvertently using different products in their place. Some might not understand the importance of green cleaning products, or believe that they’re less effective, and therefore it becomes a matter of education and communication.
Standards and certification are the answer
Standards and certification provide an effective solution to both issues. Procurers can check for independent, third-party certification on products to show that they conform to high standards for environmental and health impacts. Similarly, facilities management professionals can rely on certification when choosing a cleaning services provider, knowing that their processes and products have been independently audited. GECA provides an example of such certification, with standards available for certifying cleaning products, as well as for certifying cleaning service providers themselves.
It’s one thing to understand all the benefits of having a sustainable cleaning program – it’s another to ensure that everyone else shares that understanding. Thankfully, an increasing number of independently certified cleaning products and services are making it easier for facilities managers to give their buildings a truly green clean.
Join Kate Harris in her panel discussion: ‘Do energy efficiency and sustainability still matter?’, featuring as part of the Speaker Series at Total Facilities 2017 on Thursday 30 March at 1pm.
About the author: Kate Harris, CEO of Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA)