The next big green ‘thing’

23rd of November 2023
The next big green ‘thing’

What is the main focus of companies’ sustainability policies today? And what will be the next big sustainability ‘thing’ as far as cleaning and hygiene companies are concerned? Ann Laffeaty poses these questions.

Green cleaning – like most things – is subject to trends. Over the years we have seen companies focusing on various aspects of sustainability including recycling initiatives, carbon footprint reductions, water savings and lowering emissions.

But what is the key sustainability issue of the moment? And how is this likely to change in the future?

The battle against global warming is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, according to Kärcher’s senior corporate sustainability management director Marie Kristin Schmidt. “Companies – as well as countries – need to play their part,” she says. “The fact our resources are finite means the need for eco-friendly products and materials plus resource efficiency in production are also important.”

All sustainability issues are interlinked, she says. “So it is crucial to view and address them holistically,” says Schmidt. “The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are an important guideline for us here. Our sustainability strategy makes a specific contribution to most of the SDGs and is structured in three core initiatives.”

Topics such as recycling, the need to reduce emissions and the move towards net zero are all crucial in her view. “At Kärcher we have three core initiatives: Zero Emissions, Reduce-Reuse-Recycle and Social Hero,” she says. “Thus the need for emissions reductions plus a move towards net zero are central topics while enabling a circular economy and social responsibility are other key pillars of our strategy.”

Urgent need

Kärcher offers a range of water-saving, energy-efficient and low-emission machines that use recycled materials in their production. The B 110 R ride-on scrubber dryer reduces water consumption by adjusting its water delivery to match driving speed, while the FlexoMate trolley has drawers and buckets made from recycled plastic. And Kärcher’s high-pressure cleaner eco!efficiency mode regulates water temperature and saves energy.

The issue of sustainability has gained in importance for society, says Losdi’s marketing and communications manager Pau Ortiz.

“Demand for environmentally-friendly products has increased considerably over the past few years, with electric cars and renewable energy being a perfect example,” he said. “Taking action to reduce pollution and over-exploitation is an urgent and much-needed measure today.

“However, a higher level of involvement from the industrial sector is needed in order to offer truly sustainable solutions to the markets.”

Offset carbon footprint

Losdi aims to improve production efficiency by creating zero waste, using recycled and recyclable materials and by offsetting its carbon footprint to alleviate climate change.

“We consider these three objectives to be equally necessary for achieving a sustainable growth model and have fully integrated them into our business strategy,” said Ortiz. The company’s Eco-Luxe line of dispensers is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

Greenspeed marketing executive Rosaliene Verhoef believes the need to transition to a circular economy is one of the most critical sustainability issues today. “The linear production model in which products are made, used, and disposed of as waste is no longer sustainable,” she said.

“Moving towards a circular model where waste is eliminated and where materials are continuously being reused is essential to minimise environmental impact and to create a more sustainable future. But it’s not just about resources – it’s also about the smart handling of energy and water usage.”

Sustainability is a complex topic, she says. “While climate change is undoubtedly a pressing issue we see various interconnected sustainability challenges that require urgent attention,” says Verhoef. “Water shortages, plastic pollution and the transition towards renewable energy are all critical aspects of the larger sustainability puzzle.

“And addressing these challenges collectively is crucial for creating a cleaner and healthier planet for future generations. We should always stay focused on the health aspect both for people and for the environment.”

Actions such as reducing emissions and carrying out recycling initiatives are also important when striving for net zero, she said. “However, it is crucial that all these measures are strategically planned because recycling alone isn’t the ultimate solution,” she adds. “We’re committed to making our products fit within the circular economy where the primary goal is to prevent waste in the first place. And if waste does arise, we turn to recycling solutions.”

Greenspeed offers a range of Cradle to Cradle-certified detergents based on renewable, plant-based ingredients plus the 100 per cent circular microfibre cloth Re-belle. And its Probio cleaning tabs incorporate plant-based ingredients and are said to eliminate the need for transporting unnecessary water.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly urgent in today’s world, says Verhoef. “As awareness of environmental issues grows, customers, businesses and governments demand more sustainable solutions,” she said. “Developing products and systems that meet stringent sustainability criteria is challenging, but necessary.”

Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of today’s key sustainability issues, says Essity’s sustainability communications director Renee Remijnse. “Many other sustainability issues – such as water shortages and plastic pollution – can be considered to be a subset of biodiversity loss and climate change,” she said.

Sustainability is no longer a “nice to have” and is increasingly being demanded by users, customers, employees and investors, she says. “Legislation in Europe such as CSRD and the EU Green Deal is also driving action.”

According to Remijnse, ensuring the efficient and circular use of resources along with emissions reductions and recycling all have an important role to play in net zero delivery. “Sustainability is core to everything we do and we have launched a number of initiatives designed to reduce our environmental impact on the planet,” she said. These include new Tork carbon-neutral certified dispensers for soap, toilet paper and hand towels and Tork PaperCircle, described as the world’s first recycling service for paper hand towels.

Service provider Cleanology’s commercial director Stephen Lynch agrees that climate change is a standout as the most urgent sustainability issue today. “Climate change is at the heart of a web of interconnected challenges including loss of biodiversity, pollution, poor health and poverty,” he said.

“Addressing climate change is paramount because it acts as a linchpin that when tackled effectively, can mitigate other sustainability challenges. Transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable economy not only mitigates climate change but also fosters biodiversity, reduces pollution, improves public health and lifts people out of poverty.”

Essential pillar

Recycling has evolved from being a commendable practice to becoming an essential sustainability pillar, according to Lynch. “As we confront the escalating issue of waste management and resource depletion, recycling has become pivotal in conserving natural resources, curbing pollution and reducing the carbon emissions associated with resource extraction and production,” he said.

And the need to reduce emissions - and greenhouse gases in particular - has become a frontline issue in the battle against climate change, he says. “Governments, businesses and individuals alike are recognising the urgency of transitioning to cleaner energy sources, improving energy efficiency and adopting sustainable practices,” he said.

Cleanology’s sustainability initiatives include supplying its operatives with uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles and maintaining an all-hybrid and electric fleet. The company also uses sustainable products and systems including portion-controlled cleaning solutions and tubeless toilet rolls to reduce waste and storage.

Hylab’s project and product manager Joshua Edwardes shares the general consensus that all sustainability issues are interconnected. “However, climate change is a particularly complex and urgent challenge that eventually affects the whole ecosystem, economies and our society,” he said.

“Companies need to minimise their environmental impact and implement sustainable practices across every area of their business to tackle global challenges including climate change, waste, energy efficiency and pollution.”

Hylab places recycling, the need for emissions reductions and a move towards net zero high on its own sustainability agenda. “We have an on-site recycling centre for the recovery and reprocessing of plastic waste and we re-grind and re-use these materials when manufacturing our Myriad Recycled dispenser range,” he said.

“And we recover and recycle other waste materials including shrink wrap, plastics cardboard, wooden pallets and electronics in conjunction with specialist recycling partners.”

Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most important sustainability issues facing the world today, says GOJO’s UK managing director Chris Wakefield.  “It’s clear from the freak weather across Europe this year that something has to change, and fast, to secure the future of our planet,” he said.
“Sustainable thinking is now a fundamental part of how companies behave, trade and grow – and it is expected from end-users too.”

He claims GOJO to be the first company in the hygiene sector to use 100 per cent post-consumer recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate in its collapsible refill cartridges.

So as challenges evolve and companies re-evaluate their sustainability strategies, what will be the ‘next big green thing’?

Greenspeed’s Rosaliene Verhoef believes it will be a widespread adoption of circular economy practices. “Emphasising durable and recyclable materials that fit within biological or technical cycles will be a major focus for the industry,” she said. “By embracing circular economy principles we can contribute significantly to sustainability goals and reduce the environmental impact of our products.”

Holistic approach

There will be no ‘one thing’ to address, predicts Kärcher’s Marie Kristin Schmidt. “From our point of view there should always be a holistic approach when it comes to sustainability,” she said. “In other words it is important to deliver products and services that produce as few emission as possible, that are transparent and that are sustainably manufactured under fair conditions and with long service lives.”

Essity’s sustainability communications director Renee Remijnse believes there will be an increased focus on the delivery of commitments to provide a net zero future during the next five to 10 years.
And Losdi’s Pau Ortiz believes new sustainability strategies will need to be sought to help ensure a safe and self-sufficient planet for future generations. “Our future does not simply depend on reducing negative impacts on our environment, but on reversing them and turning them into a positive impact for society and the environment,” he said.

Hylab’s project and product manager Joshua Edwardes believes the Internet of Things will pay a major part in tomorrow’s next ‘big green thing’. “Connected systems could give rise to predictive maintenance, usage pattern identification and ultimately environmental benefits,” he said. “But in the foreseeable future we will experience a shift towards more sustainable sourcing and an increase in the use of recycled materials with the aim of creating a true sustainability model throughout the whole product lifecycle.”


Related Articles

Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited