Cleaning companies seek ecolabels

16th of January 2023 Article by Christian Bouzols
Cleaning companies seek ecolabels

Christian Bouzols in France explains how many firms in the sector are achieving ecolabel accreditation.

Their logos are well known and it’s common to see packaging with the Ecolabel name and its flower design or showing the Ecocert designation inside a red circle. These labels are present everywhere. Ecolabel was launched in 1992 and Ecocert one year earlier. They were soon applied to many sectors, including cleaning products. Their aim was to help consumers identify products that were environmentally conscious.

“The EU Ecolabel, which was created by the European Commission, measures various criteria such as product efficiency, toxicity in water, biodegradation, restriction in the use of hazardous primary materials, etc. The manufacturer must present a dossier to AFNOR, the French standards institution, for an audit to be carried out every three years,” explains Virginie D’Enfert, representative of the French association of detergents, maintenance and industrial hygiene industries (ALISE).

As regards the Ecocert label, which was created by a French company, it is backed by a schedule of met quality requirements and an audit. It has also been widely recognised. “The difference between the two labels is that Ecocert insists on the use of raw materials of natural origin and their proper exploitation. It also allows for the labelling of disinfectants, which is not possible under the Ecolabel,” adds D’Enfert.

Beyond products and services, a company itself can be evaluated - to achieve certification, rather than labelling. For a long time, companies could demonstrate their competencies by submitting to ISO certifications. These are recognised worldwide and not specific to the cleaning sector. Each one is dedicated to a company process. Thus ISO 9001 concerns service quality and client satisfaction, ISO 14001 deals with environmental management, and ISO 45001 covers health and safety at work. The most recent, ISO 26000, rewards social responsibility.

Recent trade quality labels

In 2018 the European Commission launched the EU Label for the provision of cleaning services. This trade quality label was an adjunct to the Ecolabel covering products. Seven requirements have to be met and 50 per cent of products used (which means purchased) must have received the EU Ecolabel or an equivalent recognition. The cleaning teams then have to be given the means for the dilution and dosage of these products. The French cleaning federation (FEP) has launched its own trade label in order to help its members gain the confidence of their clients.

Social responsibility

In 2020 the FEP reached a new stage by creating a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) evaluation, the purpose of which was to bring cleaning firms, whatever their size, up to speed with the requirements of customers who want their suppliers to align themselves with their own CSR objectives.

Under the scheme the supplying companies can assess themselves under the three pillars of CSR: governance, HR and social commitment, and environmental commitment. At the last stage of the process, the applicant company submits to a field audit and obtains a CSR label.

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