Cleaning on a new level

14th of May 2013
Cleaning on a new level

German reporter Thomas Schulte-Marxloh brings news of latest sustainability initiatives in the sector.

It is hard for ‘sustainability’. It is a nice little word, no doubt, neither a beauty, nor a monster. However it has to compete with terms like ‘economy’, ‘growth’, ‘maintenance free’, ‘convenient’, ‘buy’, ‘new’, ‘sales’, not to mention ‘luxury’, which seem to be so much more attractive in the still existing disposable society.

Today parts or devices get replaced, not repaired. Smart phones (formerly known as telephones and used for decades) are usually replaced after a couple of years. You cannot simply exchange a broken bulb in your car - today it needs repairmen to exchange a complete ‘unit’ or, deploying specialised tools, replace the bulb at the most inaccessible place in the engine compartment.

Some consumers even believe that the industry delivers products with so-called ‘planned (or built-in) obsolescence’, ie, design their products to last not as long as they could.  If you hear ‘die-hard’ you rather think of Bruce Willis than of a durable product; a concept which died out long ago.

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development recommended “sustainable development, which implies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs...” The commission believed sustainability should “become a central guiding principle of the United Nations, Governments and private institutions, organisations and enterprises“.

The German contract cleaning association BIV  recently presented latest initiatives and co-operations, such as participation in the European project LIFE+ Cleaning Industry Sustainable Development Programme which is a financial instrument “to provide specific support for developing and implementing community environmental policy and legislation”.

LIFE+ has co-financed about 3,708 projects and spent 2.8 billion euros on the protection of the environment. One objective of this programme (initiated by the French association FEP and joined by Belgium, Italy, the UK and Germany) was to introduce the topic ‘sustainability’ to SMEs and develop tools to evaluate their status in terms of sustainability.

Online portal

For this purpose an internet portal – accessible this summer – will present 39 criteria regarding social, ecological and management aspects (ie, qualification, integration, equipment, energy/water consumption, code of behaviour, communication, etc) allowing companies to assess how fit they are. Subsequently, the company can develop adequate actions to improve their sustainability awareness and to prove it to their customers.

The BIV and the Association of Cleaning Technology also launched their initiative ‘Energie minus 15.2 per cent’: apart from the implementation and realisation of a sustainability management scheme, participating companies aim to save at least 15 per cent energy within a year.

Moreover, contracting in governmental and municipal areas is also affected. On behalf of the German government, the Federal Environment Agency and some BIV experts have developed the guide Sustainable Acquisition of Cleaning Services and Supplies. Sustainability in terms of maintenance has always been a basic aspect of the cleaning industry. Today it must learn to integrate economical, ecological and social aspects to meet customer demand. It’s a challenge but at the same time the opportunity to lift services to a new level.


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