Green cleaning - the jolly green client

17th of March 2016
Green cleaning - the jolly green client

The wellbeing of customers and end-users is an important part of any green cleaning policy. But truly sustainable companies will do what they can to enhance the lives of their employees and the wider community as well. Ann Laffeaty asks companies in the sector how they go about this.

The terms ‘green cleaning’ and ‘sustainability’ have generally become used to denote concern for the planet, nature and ecosystems. But the people who inhabit the planet are another vitally important consideration - and no business can be sustained if its clients or end-users are unhappy. Similarly if employees are dissatisfied with their lot they are unlikely to perform to the best of their abilities and this could have a negative impact on productivity.

And if a company is at odds with the local community, too, this will potentially lead to costly and time-consuming disputes. So it is important that companies keep all their stakeholders happy where possible. In fact personal wellbeing is possibly the most crucial aspect of any sustainability policy according to Kärcher’s head of sustainability management Andreas Mayer.

“Health is man’s most valuable asset which means that any products, services or working conditions that can help to preserve health are all very important,” he said. “Companies should do what they can to improve the safety and the working lives of their stakeholders since if personal wellbeing cannot be ensured, one of the most important drivers for sustainability will be missing.”

He says customers and end-users should expect companies to do everything possible to develop products and services that cause no harm to health. “This covers essential EU health and safety requirements as well as bans on specific substances such as those required in the RoHS directive, for example,” he said. “In terms of employees’ occupational health and safety, ergonomic workplace design also needs to be considered.”

Kärcher has set global targets to improve the safety and daily lives of its employees, customers and end-users, he said. For example the company intends to reduce the number of occupational accidents to fewer than five per million working hours by 2020. “This goes far above and beyond the legal requirements and forms part of our commitment to corporate responsibility,” said Mayer.


Besides cooperation with organisations such as SOS Kinderdorf and the Global Nature Fund, Kärcher also supports many clubs, schools and other organisations with donations of money, products, giveaways and other services.

“For example we had 1,400 requests for donations and sponsorship in 2014 and we granted more than 50 per cent of them,” he said. “This shows our strong social commitment outside the company and towards the wider community.”

Marketing and CSR manager of cleaning service provider Nviro Carl Robinson believes the social dimension of sustainability to be equally as important as its environmental and economic aspects. “As an employer a company has a responsibility not just to promote the health and safety of its people, but also to care for their wellbeing,” he said. “This makes sound business sense as well as being good ethics.

“The same applies to a company’s duty of care towards its clients and customers whether they are office workers, students, staff or visiting members of the public.”

Sustainability is about providing ‘future-proof’ products and services, says Robinson. “Since it is people who provide the services and create the products - and also, people who employ those services and who buy those products – it is fundamental to any effective sustainability policy to take people’s needs and interests into consideration at each stage of the business process,” he said.

He considers health and safety to be key to a company’s duty of care and to its corporate responsibility. “Recognition of the importance of occupational health and employee wellbeing is growing and employers increasingly see these as moral responsibilities with business benefits,” says Robinson.

For example, he believes the use of hazardous cleaning materials should be minimised in the workplace and that employees should be provided with appropriate equipment plus the training to use it safely.

“As an employer, too, any flexibility that allows employees to balance work with their domestic commitments can improve their working lives,” he said. “Regular communication with lone workers at remote sites is also essential if they are to feel involved and engaged as a part of the wider team. And open channels that allow employees to give their views and to influence personnel policy and ways of working can be mutually beneficial both to the employee and the employer.

“People also appreciate feedback on how they are doing which means that systems need to be in place to recognise effort and talent and to develop staff through training and by rewarding exceptional performance.”

Nviro has a ‘coaching culture’ that provides tailored support for employees’ personal development plans. The company also recruits workers from the local community and uses non-toxic chemicals in all its operations. “It’s better for the cleaning staff if they are not working constantly with noxious substances and we don’t want to expose our customers to anything that could adversely affect their health,” says Robinson.

Metsä Tissue’s UK and Ireland sales director Mark Dewick agrees that the wellbeing of people is paramount in any organisation. “If you look after your staff they will look after your business,” he said. “Creating wellbeing is one of our four core sustainable themes and it is important to us that our employees come to work healthy and leave work healthy every day.

Fewer accidents

“Safety at work is an integral part of our day-to-day management and everyone is responsible for following instructions, identifying defects and eliminating the causes of hazards. As a result our accident frequency continues to decline and our goal is to reduce the number of accidents by 10 per cent every year.”

He says customer wellbeing can only be ensured when all products in the company’s supply chain are safe. “Delivering safe and sustainable products requires fulfilling high safety standards, and this is particularly important in products that are used in human or food contact such as packaging boards, cooking and baking papers as well as tissue papers.”

He says the company’s new Katrin Handy Pack is an example of a product that has been designed to improve staff safety. “The plastic casing is lighter than traditional cartons and the packs have softer edges which eliminates the danger of cuts from sharp cardboard,” he said. “They also have handles to make them easy to carry, and these allow them to be easily hooked on to the cleaning trolley as well.”

According to Dewick, Metsä generates significant employment opportunities in rural areas. “In 2014 we offered 900 young people the chance to gain work experience while a further 50 were enrolled in an apprenticeship programme,” he said.

Corporate communications director at Sealed Air Diversey Care Rafael Echevarria describes personal wellbeing as the real power behind sustainability. “Companies need to work with customers to create healthy and clean environments, expand food security and promote resource conservation to improve the lives of people all over the world,” he said.

As an example he refers to Sealed Air’s Soap for Hope programme. “We partner with our customers to gather soap from hotel rooms that would otherwise be discarded and we teach local communities how to reprocess them into new, sanitary bars,” he said.

“These new bars are then distributed to people who might not otherwise have had access to soap. These communities then benefit not just from increased access to basic hygiene but also from the new job opportunities created to train local people in the soap-making process.”

The health and wellbeing of people is core to SCA’s sustainability policy according to  sustainability communications director Marita Sander. “As a result we have set up health and safety targets and we reduced our accident frequency rate by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2014,” she said. “We also try to facilitate customers’ everyday lives with our hygiene solutions.”

She cites Tork Easy Handling packaging and Tork Easy Cube as examples of sustainable solutions that have been designed with people in mind.  “Cleaners – our end-users - have a tough working environment with a higher rate of sick leave than other professions,” she said. “Therefore we continuously work with cleaners to develop solutions that can improve the cleaner’s working environment.”

Easy on the cleaners

Tork Easy Handling packaging has been designed to make product boxes and plastic packs easier to carry, store and discard than conventional packaging systems while Tork Easy Cube provides cleaners with real-time data relating to refill levels and visitor numbers.

“Another product designed to make life easier is our new foam soap dispenser that requires a low push force for dispensing while also being easy for cleaning staff to open and refill,” she said.

People as assets

The company also strives to help the local community. “We run about 300 community relations projects annually - mostly in the health and hygiene area,” said Sander. “This is about building trust and reputation while also acting as a responsible corporate citizen.”

Facility services provider Facilicom views people as its prime assets according to UK managing director Jan-Hein Hemke. “By treating our staff well and by paying them fairly we improve not only their lives, but those of their families and their wider communities,” he said.

Customer satisfaction can be secured with the aid of loyal, contented staff, he adds. “Long-term relationships are an important aspect of sustainability both from the customer and personnel perspective,” he said. “We want people to have lengthy careers with us so that they have a
strong understanding of our work practices and ethos as well as of our customers’ requirements.

“Having a core of people with that understanding means that knowledge can be built up over years and passed on to new recruits when they join us. This means we can offer a better quality and a more consistent level of service to our customers.”

Facilicom rewards its loyal staff with long-service awards in recognition of their contribution. “We want our employees to feel valued and appreciated which means that their personal wellbeing is central to the way we operate,” said Hemke.

“Treating people with dignity and respect – including paying a fair wage – means that they will be more loyal, more motivated, better trained and have greater experience. And this in turn
leads to them being better placed to understand, influence and implement our sustainability policies.”


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