THE CLEAN SWEEP
Welcome to The Clean Sweep, a monthly newsletter offering insights from the professional cleaning industry, resources on cleaning standards and best practices, and important news to help inform reopening strategies.
Even relatively small cleaning interventions in an office can make a major difference for worker health and productivity. Experts say that cleaning – including washing, wiping, and disinfecting – can reduce rates of cold, flu, and stomach illness by 80 percent. And, consistent access to hand sanitizer alone can reduce absenteeism by 13.4 percent and health care claims by more than 24 percent.
Rather than dismissing “heightened” cleaning all together, businesses need to embrace the public health lessons of the pandemic and adopt enhanced cleaning standards that reflect the latest federal guidelines and expertise from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the professional cleaning industry.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH BEAU DAANE, DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY, HARVARD MAINTENANCE
What would you say to smaller and mid-size companies or facility managers that do not have a sustainability program and are thinking of creating one?
- Think globally, act locally. Sustainability can be thought about as operating your business in a way that advances all three P’s: People, Planet and Prosperity. For business leaders that are weighing the cost-benefit of developing a sustainability program, they should recognize the business opportunity of being a sustainability leader. For perspective, over 80% of global consumers believe that businesses must work to address societal issues and over 70% of customers would consider switching brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. Additionally, advancing a sustainability strategy is a great way to attract and retain talent. Sustainability is just simply good business – and the right and smart thing to do.
For those companies that do not have a sustainability plan in place, what is the first step that should be taken to chart a path toward reducing carbon emissions?
- First and foremost, it is critical that companies evaluate their current state (“the baseline”) before setting specific carbon emissions, energy, waste/recycling, water, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement goals. After all, “what gets measured gets managed,” and only then can businesses effectively plan targeted and efficient interventions. For example, at Harvard we work closely with our clients to help them track key sustainability benchmarks and identify successful practices or areas for improvement that support their overall environmental goals. Once a company understands where improvements can be made, the next step is to make meaningful modifications. For example, one simple step may be to place additional recycling bins (with the proper lids) and instructional signage (and in person trainings) in areas of a facility that lack recycling participation. Or, if a review of cleaning products reveals that a large percentage of a facility’s cleaning products do not have an environmentally preferred label, work to replace those products with environmentally friendly products. Harvard recommends looking for cleaning products with “Green Seal,” “EPA Safer Choice,” or “EcoLogo / UL” third-party certifications. Gradual and meaningful modifications like these can have a snowball effect, leading to more concrete progress.
Reaching sustainability goals will require engagement from every employee at a company. How can business leaders earn the support of staff to reach key sustainability milestones?
- To institute an effective sustainability plan, there must be buy-in across the organization. In order to earn this participation or engagement, business leaders must create an environment where each employee feels like they can participate and contribute to the success of the business and are valued for their expertise, experience, and unique perspectives. One way to do this is to find out how your employees personally engage with sustainability (both at home and at work) through a survey. Employees may connect with sustainability in many different ways – from volunteering with a local charity, to growing some of their own food, to taking the bus or train to work, to recycling and composting at home, etc. The key is to understand how your employees connect with sustainability topics, then to link that passion to an area of the business. Beyond the workplace, it is also important for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to the community. Whether tied to Earth Day, Thank Your Cleaner Day, or a holiday ‘season of thanks,’ companies might consider donating to local charities, and volunteering at shelters, food banks and other organizations. Efforts like these bring home the triple bottom line of sustainability: advancing People, Planet and Prosperity.
QUICK FACTS: ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANING
Green initiatives are exploding across the country and are proven to help companies better protect their employees, consumers, and the environment writ large. Specifically, eco-friendly cleaning uses products, tools, equipment, and methods that protect the health of building occupants, lower the total cost of cleaning, and prevent environmental damage.
For cleaning to be considered eco-friendly or “green,” the products must effectively remove pollutants and pathogens from the building without introducing new risks. Green cleaning must also consider the fate of the chemicals used during the process and ensure that the disposal and recycling of those materials do not harm the environment.