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Looking at the bigger picture

06 October 2014

The green movement has created a revolution in the cleaning industry. Companies nationwide are consequently well disposed towards cleaners that use eco-friendly chemicals or no chemicals at all. But green cleaning is not just about chemicals, Sarah Bentley, CEO at The Building Futures Group, explains

We all have a responsibility to the environment in which we work and live and our operations should in no way harm that environment or our natural resources. Organisations are becoming increasingly aware of considerations within a cleaning contract impacting on a site’s overall environmental footprint. 

Whilst most of our members’ clients focus on the more obvious issues - used water quantities and chemical content - they do often fail to factor in the potentially more significant and indirect operational factors that affect environmental performance. These include the workforce travelling to and from site, lighting and heating utilised during operations, sourcing equipment and chemicals and environmental costs.     

In consultation with Bullough Cleaning Services, we at The Building Futures Group recommend a systematic and objective approach, which includes performing an aspects and impacts analysis at the start of every new cleaning contract. Forming part of ISO14001:2004, this analysis (the environmental management system) allocates an impact value to each aspect identified.

Ranking by positive or negative impact, items can be either totally removed or marked for improvement. After completing an aspects and impacts analysis, cleaning companies are often surprised to find that the major items identified are not necessarily issues connected to the cleaning service provided, but more indirect products of the service. For instance:

• Is segregation of waste (by the client onsite) being carried out in the most efficient way?

• Are general waste bins actually necessary or can they be removed, substituted by recycling units?

• Can cleaning staff walk or cycle to work? If not, is car sharing being encouraged and rewarded?

• Can site visits by area management be rationalised with some information obtained remotely? 

• Could micro fibre technology be used to achieve high cleaning standards without chemicals? 

Case study – Bullough Cleaning Services

Bullough Cleaning Services, a member of The Building Futures Group, is a great example of a cleaning company that has taken positive steps to implement green cleaning.

Managing director Duncan Bullough says: "Within our own organisation, we have taken a number of steps designed to improve our overall environmental performance. Best use, routing and location of every fleet vehicle is monitored through real time tracking units.

"The tracker system issues a weekly report showing any excessive driving, i.e. speeding, idling, braking, poor route planning. Fuel use and CO2  emissions are environmental targets and we have shown a pro rata reduction of over 20% in both fuel and CO2  emissions by monitoring fuel usage figures and improving route planning with our drivers.

"It is important that companies take social and environmental factors into consideration alongside financial factors when making decisions on the purchase of goods. The decisions, wherever possible, should take into account whole life cost and the associated risks and implications for society and the environment. So often, a broad environmental agenda is approved at board level but then fails to permeate to all levels. However, where financial resources are properly allocated and supported by full and consistent training, cleaning operatives can implement the environmental policies that have such a crucial influence on performance throughout an organisation.

"Operatives need full training on the implications and impact that all cleaning activities can have on the environment and the essential role that their actions can play. This involves the efficient use of water, power, chemicals, waste segregation and waste treatment. It is of paramount importance that this training is not just given lip service but is carried out effectively and then put into daily practice.

"Environmental aspects and impact assessments are carried out on a six monthly basis on all the processes that our company carries out. During the most recent, general company aspects and impacts assessment, carried out as part of the ISO 14001 environmental management system, we discovered our company's most significant impact was created by the use of vehicles during day to day company activities - deliveries of product, transportation of staff, management audits, training visits, etc. The results enabled us to focus clearly on these environmental implications and take the necessary steps to improve our performance.”