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Sustainability - much work still to do, says Ecolab’s Storinggaard10th of March 2014
Christian Storinggaard, vice president of facility care for Ecolab, the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, tells ECJ that sustainability is here to stay and must come higher on the list of priorities for every industry.
The professional cleaning sector as a whole must cooperate more effectively in order to establish a common sustainability framework that enables not only the industry to reach its goals but also helps its customers to do the same.
That is the view of Christian Storinggaard, vice president of facility care in Europe for Ecolab – a company that provides sustainable cleaning, sanitising and water treatment solutions on a global scale.
“As a term sustainability can become quite vague very quickly,” he tells ECJ editor Michelle Marshall. “What we’ve seen in recent years with regard to sustainability is a focus on labelling, classification and restriction of what’s in the bottle or in the cleaning machine. It’s time we take a more holistic view of sustainably and agree on more consistent terminology that will drive greater understanding and adoption of sustainability in the sector.
“For example, ‘biodegradable’ can be a very confusing word, one that is often used incorrectly. Biodegradability is only defined for organic substances -those that contain carbon. Inorganic substances are, by definition, not biodegradable. And technically, biodegradability is defined for single substances - single raw materials - and not for mixtures.
“Most cleaning solutions are a mixture of a number of inorganic and organic substances, so it would be inaccurate for most to claim that a product is 100 percent biodegradable.”
One area where the industry has performed fairly well is with regard to ‘green’ labels, Storinggaard believes, but again this is not going far enough. “We are not focusing enough attention on the bigger picture,” he says. “The total processes that cleaning products influence are what we must examine more closely.”
More cooperation across the industry is crucial, he says, in order to establish a common framework. “The need to provide solutions that enable businesses to operate more sustainably is an issue that is much bigger than any single company, and we all must play our part – not just in achieving our own sustainability goals, but in enabling our customers to achieve their objectives too.”
For Ecolab, sustainability is a primary focus. “Our customers have sustainability goals and need quantifiable data to measure their progress,” Storinggaard continues. “Our process involves analysing our customers operations as a whole, implementing innovative solutions and quantifying the impact using a framework that we call eROI which measures the exponential value of improved performance, reduced cost and greater environmental efficiency. eROI measures impact across indicators, including safety, water, energy, waste, air and assets.”
With its sheer scale and reach Ecolab is confident it can make a significant contribution in this regard.
“This is where the added value lies,” believes Storinggaard. “Our customers can go to any supplier if they just want to buy cheap products, but they likely would not get the expertise they need to improve operational performance and reduce environmental impact. We provide a combination of systems, optimisation processes and expertise which can span a customer’s entire operation.”
He is also convinced that we will see much more focus on water conservation in all areas of life. “There are more people in the world than ever, people are becoming richer and the demand for food is growing - and with it the need for water. Earth’s freshwater resources are very limited and becoming more stressed every day. Therefore the aim must be to reduce the use of water in all areas of business: whether it’s the food industry, hotels, or any large facility.
But are customers actually open to using new technologies that offer better sustainability credentials? “We are seeing more and more customers pursue sustainable solutions,” Storinggaard replies. “We encourage our customers to look at the lowest environmental impact, not simply the lowest price as this actually provides much more value to the customer - it helps reduce the entire cost of operation, your P&L, and does not just optimise a part of your procurement budget.”
All too often, however, decisions are driven by price. Storinggaard concludes: “Some companies will pay more for more sustainable, safe and ergonomic solutions – some will not. Price per kilo or per unit is still a driving factor for many so we still have more work to do.”