Take a Systematic Approach to Your Cleaning Program's Sustainability
By Lynne A. Olson RD&E Corporate Scientist, Global Sustainability, ECOLAB | May 28, 2017
The terms "sustainable" and "green" are both broadly understood, yet have no widely accepted or actionable definition. For example, if a guest inquires, "Do you have a green or sustainable cleaning program at your property?" there are at least two ways to respond:
"It depends, what is your definition of 'sustainable' or 'green'?" Once defined, you can respond by measuring your lodging cleaning program against the proposed definition. Or alternatively, you could say "yes," and then clearly explain your definition of "sustainable". However, this means you must have defined sustainability for your brand, or borrowed and adopted definitions from other reputable sources.
Over the last several years lodging properties have been driven to answer this kind of question and almost always borrow their definitions of a sustainable cleaning program from other sources. In North America, the most widely borrowed definitions for sustainability, in the context of lodging and facility cleaning, are adopted from the US Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) standard, which points to multi-attribute, eco-certifications (Green Seal, US EPA Safer Choice and UL) for guidance in selecting cleaning and janitorial products such as trash bags, toilet paper, hard surface, floor and hand care products. Trip Advisor has taken a similar approach to that described in the LEED standard, but implemented the guidance as a pared down, simplified self-survey.
During the past several years many corporations have implemented "sustainable" lodging cleaning programs leveraging borrowed definitions of sustainability. More recently, leadership organizations have started looking back and asking if these efforts are resulting in real, measurable improvements. If the key driver was to be able to consistently answer the "sustainable cleaning program" question, many of these initiatives have provided a response. But, has this approach lead to real, measurable results? Good question, but difficult to answer since in most cases results and impact reduction are not systematically considered in developing a sustainable lodging cleaning program.
To address this gap, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), a nonprofit organization, is devoted to simplifying and standardizing sustainable purchasing for the Institutional market. It does this by delivering the best available sustainable purchasing guidance to Institutional buyers within a process-based approach that ensures sustainable purchasing programs strategically identify, address and measure real results and impacts. Founded in 2013, the Council has already attracted 180 member organizations with more than $200 billion in collective purchasing power. Several hospitality organizations are involved as Council members, including Caesars, Hilton, MGM Resorts, Avendra and Vizient. As the Council's work spreads, clear purchasing requirements will reward suppliers that design effective products and systems with real and measureable benefits. That market demand will give suppliers the confidence to invest in sustainable innovation in a way that will take sustainability from "random acts of greenness" to business as usual.
To embark on a truly systematic sustainable cleaning program, it is foundational to identify the impacts that are relevant and specific to your property and brand aspirations. For lodging, potential impact falls into five main buckets: cleaning program performance, guest comfort and employee exposure, proper product application, solid waste and water.