5 steps for a successful transition to green cleaning

by FM Media
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How can the transition from traditional to green cleaning be done successfully? BRIDGET GARDNER of Fresh Green Clean shares a case study that shows how to mitigate the risks of introducing green cleaning.

Simon Farrell, general manager of Rolfe Property Services (RPS), was in the audience at a Cleaning Trade Fair in Sydney where I presented a green cleaning paper in September 2010. I met him again exactly one year later when he attended a greenRclean training session I conducted for Lennox Institute.
In that period, RPS had developed and implemented a green cleaning program with several clients. I caught up with Farrell recently to find out about the company’s transition from traditional to green cleaning. The green cleaning transitional process comprises five steps:

  1. Investigate, conduct trials and document results
  2. Choose a client with a good relationship and communicate constantly
  3. Conduct a pilot trial on-site in a situation with a low impact
  4. Consolidate procedures and roll them out to other sites
  5. Present all green cleaning aspects as a packaged solution

Both Farrell and, director of RPS, Mark Rolfe believe that environmental sustainability represents the future for the cleaning industry, and thought that to maintain their good reputation they had to embrace green cleaning before it became mainstream.
It was imperative to find a product range that provided a genuine offer, however, rather than saving a few dollars and risking damaging their reputation – or losing a contract, says Farrell. He was “blown away” by the steep increase in green products available between September 2010 and April 2011’s trade show in Melbourne.
The common perception about green products is that they don’t work. Indeed, it appears that certain green products are simply rebadged traditional chemistry with their active and toxic ingredients removed.
To ensure they chose a good range of products, RPS undertook preliminary trials in a range of circumstances before deciding on a range that has three international ecolabel certifications and a wealth of environmental endorsements to support the claims made.

Initial trials aside, it is only through an extended implementation period that the true performance of a cleaning product can be ascertained. However, choosing a suitable site and client with which to go out on this limb was not easy, according to Farrell. Understandably, not many contractors are keen to turn valued clients into guineapigs any more than a facilities manager willingly risks the complaints that accompany poor performance.
An opportunity presented itself when RPS won the contract for a new site occupied by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), with whom they had established a long-term relationship. Farrell approached the facilities manager, Michael Forster, with a proposal to start their green cleaning program in this facility. There were four reasons why Forster agreed:

  1. Procurement of products with demonstrated low environmental impact met the government’s policies on environmental sustainability.
  2. Due to the trust their long-term relationship had engendered, Forster was confident that RPS’s investigations had assured the products’ sustainability credentials and cleaning capacity – thus eliminating risks and making decisions easier.
  3. As the cleaning standards had previously slipped at this site, the settling-in period also required bringing the building up to standard – not only did this allow the products to be properly tested, the occupants would be less aware of any teething problems or poor performance issues.
  4. Containing the trial to six months and one site limited the impact on the DIAC’s staff. Establishing effectiveness and consolidating procedures in such a scenario allowed for a streamlined roll-out to other DIAC facilities in the future.

Happily, the trial results were successful and RPS has now rolled out its green cleaning program to other clients. Importantly, this program includes a holistic package of waste management and resource minimisation strategies.
Testing the market late last year, Farrell sent a short survey to his clients. He received a 100 percent positive response when asked whether they would consider greener alternatives if offered. However, when asked if they would like more information, there was a stony and disappointing silence.
The conclusion RPS has reached is that busy facilities managers require a complete green cleaning package that is thoroughly investigated, has all operational aspects covered and mitigates all risks. As we say at Fresh Green Clean, green cleaning is a process not a product.

Bridget Gardner is the director of Fresh Green Clean, an independent consultancy in sustainable cleaning practices for the facilities cleaning and management sectors.

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