Sustainability at your fingertips
01 June 2017
Careful selection of the types of hand hygiene products companies choose to use in working environments can not only improve the well-being of a workforce, but help reach sustainability goals, says Mike Sullivan, managing director of GOJO Industries-Europe
Taking action to drive a company’s sustainability agenda forwards doesn’t always have to involve big changes. A good place to start is to simply examine the green credentials of a facility’s suppliers. Making changes at this level can help get a company on the road to making a big difference.
Considering the whole lifecycle of a supplier’s product, from raw material through to disposal and recycling, is becoming more and more important to buyers. After all, products that have been developed with sustainability in mind can help contribute to a company’s overall green goals, while also reducing wastage throughout their usage, providing more value for money.
The first question to ask is whether a facility really needs the product in question. However, when it comes to hand hygiene facilities, the answer is obvious. Ensuring effective hand hygiene products are readily available and easy to use is an important part of an employer’s duty of care to staff, customers and visitors. The best manufacturers will have already carefully considered the lifecycle impact of their product, so what should buyers be looking for when it comes to sustainable hand hygiene?
Certification is a good start. The right accreditations and labels allow manufacturers to prove that their products achieve the highest environmental standards. A GEN number on a label is issued by credible third party organisations such as Ecolabel. The EU Ecolabel was established in 1992 in response to calls for a credible environmental labelling scheme that would be recognised throughout the European Union. Its flower logo is instantly recognisable – allowing buyers and consumers to make informed choices. All products certified to an Ecolabel standard must meet strict criteria from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal.
Other sustainability standards to watch out for include ISO 14001; an internationally recognised standard that helps businesses control the environmental impacts of its activities, products and services.
The best hand hygiene products will also be packaged in materials that can easily be recycled, and that feature a significant amount of recycled materials themselves. Lightweight, recyclable polyethylene terephthalate materials offer the same strength and robustness of standard high density polyethylene bottles, but they use 30% less materials in their manufacture, helping to save considerably on the volume of plastic used. Look out for information labels about materials used in packaging, and instructions for recycling and disposal.
Considering environmental issues at the design stage also helps and great care has been taken to reduce the amount of material used in the manufacture of products. At the same time, it is also important that hand hygiene dispensers are built to last. Robust designs, including reliable and efficient mounting accessories, should ensure a trouble-free performance, reducing the maintenance burden of a product and cutting the associated logistics, emissions and inefficiencies of fixing unreliable products.
The way that products themselves work can also help boost their efficiency and minimise wastage during usage. Sustainable features include portion-controlled dispensers - models which release just the right amount of product for each usage - ensure that resources are not wasted, and the correct amount of soap or sanitiser is released to allow for effective hand hygiene.
It is important that companies claiming to pursue a green agenda can back up what they say with regular, transparent reporting. Reputable companies will publish sustainability reports on their corporate websites, outlining what specific measures their commitment to sustainability entails, and how they plan to measure these.
Ultimately, understanding the priorities of buyers, and helping them work towards achieving their own green goals, can also contribute to stronger commercial relationships. Sustainability goals don’t stop with one company – the best hand hygiene experts will strive to go beyond their own operation and reduce the environmental impact of their entire supply chain.