ECHA winner Dominic Ponniah - leading change

23rd of September 2022
ECHA winner Dominic Ponniah - leading change

Environmental innovation, fair pay and better business – this is the ethos that helped Dominic Ponniah, ceo and co-founder of Cleanology, to win the Leader of the Year award. He says winning was right up there in his top five career highlights.

Cleanology in the UK has come a long way since its launch in 1999 as a mother-and son operation with just one client and one cleaner. It is now a thriving business with a 700-strong team and annual sales of more than £10 million. And the qualities of sustainability, fairness and community support are right at the heart of the company’s ethos according to ceo and co-founder Dominic Ponniah.

“Cleanology was the first cleaning company in Europe to introduce portion-controlled, bio-technological cleaning sachets,” he says. “This has saved a total of 16,092 litres of chemical each year - a staggering 99.4 per cent reduction. We have also cut annual plastic bottle usage from 21,600 to just 600.”

He says Cleanology is committed to new ways of working using radical new systems and products. For example, in 2020 the company pioneered the introduction of ‘”fairwear” staff uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton. “We were the first company in the industry to do this,” says Ponniah. “Since then we have kitted out all our cleaning operatives with 100 per cent sustainable polo shirts and branded sweatshirts.”

This move is said to have saved 7,000 bottles from landfill in 2020 while also reducing the amount of resources and energy required to manufacture new bottles and clothing.

Meanwhile, the company has also been taking steps to reduce its car emissions and has this year switched to a 100 per cent electric van fleet. Ponniah claims this will save 5,000 litres of diesel per year – equivalent to 13.5 tonnes of CO2 from diesel fuel.

And Cleanology has also been promoting fair pay among its clients through awareness-raising events and annual reviews.  “A Real Living Wage option is included in every new bid and we make it clear that this is the preferred way of working,” said Ponniah. “Ninety per cent of bids now include the Real Living Wage as a mandatory element, and we ourselves have almost doubled the number of our employees receiving the Real Living Wage since 2017.”

Cleanology was named the 2021 winner of the Recognised Service Provider category in the Living Wage Foundation’s annual award and Ponniah has now been asked to join the Living Wage Foundation’s Recognised Service Provider (RSP) Leadership Group. “The group acts to encourage a wider take-up of fair pay and to make the accreditation scheme more effective,” he said.

Retaining a family feel in a business that has grown exponentially has been tricky, says Ponniah. “Our office communicates with our employees by name and not by employee number, and we use personalised emails, site visits and social media to foster a deeper connection with our team,” he said.

“Investing in staff is the way to build a contented workforce so we offer English classes and counselling for those who need it, while our recognition scheme allows staff to earn points towards rewards such as cinema tickets or an extra holiday.”

The company has also supported the Hygiene Bank since 2020 in a bid to tackle hygiene poverty in the UK. “We’ve organised various fund-raising activities and have now established an annual auction and raffle,” said Ponniah. “The launch event in 2021 raised £14,000 and we already have sponsors on board for 2022 and plan to beat this figure.”

Cleanology is constantly reviewing, evaluating and improving its processes, he says. “You can’t do everything at once but if you focus on continual improvement, the speed of change can be electrifying.”

According to Ponniah, Cleanology has been recognised in the UK for many aspects of its work. “However, to be judged against the best in Europe - and to win our first ever European Cleaning & Hygiene Award - is a pinnacle of success for us.”

“It is easy to think that one’s own initiatives are innovative and that they help to drive change, but nothing beats external recognition. The other finalists were worthy and deserving winners, and sharing experiences with the finest people in our sector at the event was a privilege that will stay with me for a long time.“

He says the company’s current and prospective clients have been very impressed by the win. “It has also made my team feel part of a special company,” he said. “It is a massive personal achievement for me and one I was absolutely not expecting. It is up there in my top five career highlights.”


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