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EFCI conference focuses on CSR and public procurement19th of October 2012
Contract cleaning associations from throughout the European Union gathered in Rome for the 2012 conference of the European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI). The themes were Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainable Development in Public Procurement.
EFCI president Hans Simons from the Netherlands opened the event. "The themes for today are so important for a broad range of activities in our society - social and environmental responsibility and the potential for public procurement."
Private industry must focus on how they can operate in a more responsible way in terms of planet and people. And for most businesses, it's not just a matter of ‘doing the right thing', it's a matter of necessity - not only in Europe but all over the world."
Erich Peterhoff, managing director of cleaning company Gebaüdedienste Peterhoff in Germany, then gave his perspective on public authorities as clients there. He explained that 35 per cent of his company's turnover is in the public sector and there is huge potential for outsourcing because the market share in the cleaning industry of public contracts is between 35 and 40 per cent.
He continued that public sector contracts tend to be long (three to five years), but the margins are fairly low. "However public contracts do offer the advantage of long-term security and the payment terms are very good at 30 days."
While price still plays a significant role in the awarding of public contracts, Peterhoff reported that factors such as sustainability, training, the environment, staff turnover and reaction times are increasingly being taken into consideration.
Details of the proposed new EU public procurement directive were then presented by Alessia Centioni from the European Parliament. There is an increasing need for standardisation across the EU member states, she said, and less fragmentation in how laws are enforced. "Public procurement is a key instrument for economic recovery and public contracts are a necessary element of prosperity. This makes it vital that the playing field is level so all players can play by the same rules."
There will be a vote at the European Parliament on December 18 about the proposed changes, which aim to simplify procedures and establish a clear regulatory framework. Another important objective is to facilitate better access for SMEs.
"In order for public procurement to be sustainable, we must no longer award contracts according to lowest price - the best value offer must be accepted instead," Centioni explained. The new directive, therefore, will incorporate strict rules on very low bids and on sub-contracting. Social criteria will also be introduced into the decision-making process.
The programme then moved on to the sustainability agenda, with a presentation by Philippe Jouanny, managing director of French cleaning company Neova. Neova uses a sustainability programme developed by the country's contract cleaning association, FEP, which is now available throughout the country. This covers social aspects, transport, sourcing of ‘green' cleaning products and reduction of carbon footprint.
"Overall this programme has had a very positive economic impact on the company," Jouanny concluded. "Some of our clients have also signed a sustainability pact and we are no longer considered as service providers, but partners."
Two representatives from FEP who are responsible for running the sustainable development programme - Laurence Acerbo and Isabelle Perru-Poupon - then explained then thinking behind it. FEP believes cleaning companies have a responsibility to be involved in sustainable development because of the nature of the business. That is why it helps its member companies to implement and maintain such a programme.
Covering all aspects of the typical cleaning company, the programme offers a sell-assessment and reporting tool online and interestingly there is also the facility to measure return on investment (ROI). Currently 300 French cleaning companies are involved, representing more than 140,000 employees. Most of the businesses taking part in the scheme have fewer than 50 employees.
Finally, president of facilities services provider ISS in Spain Joachim Borrás Ferré offered his viewpoint on what corporate social responsibility (CSR) has meant within that business. He argued that CSR brings growth. "There is real profit to be had in engaging employees," he explained. "This brings increased productivity, less absenteeism and lower turnover of staff. And it's also an important differentiation factor from our clients' point of view."
He concluded: "If CSR doesn't bring profit, it will not work. We are not non-profit organisations and while we may all want to do the right thing, it has to make business sense. The good news is that many of our clients are now buying into our core values so we are sharing the responsibility."