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UL Study Finds Consumer Distrust of Cleaning Supplies

September 17, 2012

Says 65% of consumers believe cleaning products are no better than 5 years ago.

Aglobal study from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) contends that consumer distrust of household chemical manufacturers is as strong as the manufacturers' belief that they are delivering safe, reliable, and innovative products.

UL Environment, a business unit of UL, predicts that the consumer wariness revealed in the study will influence industrial cleaning practices in healthcare, schools, and other public buildings. The UL study, "Navigating The Product Mindset," explores the connections and contradictions between perceptions of consumers and manufacturers on issues of safety, innovation, performance, and sustainability. UL surveyed consumers and manufacturers in the U.S., China, India, and Germany.

"When 65 percent of consumers believe the cleaning products of today are no better than those of five years ago, those perceptions are going to spill over into industrial cleaning," said Mark Rossolo, director of public affairs for UL Environment. "With consumers becoming more knowledgeable about products used at home, they are bringing that knowledge to the buildings where they work, to the schools where they send their kids, and to healthcare facilities. And they're asking facility managers and other decision makers about the impacts of industrial cleaning products."
UL Environment does offer science-based sustainable product certifications, which it contends can help facility and procurement managers provide objective, verifiable, and meaningful data about the products they're using in public and commercial buildings.

"As a manufacturer of both commercial and residential cleaning products, we do see the interest in healthier, more sustainable cleaning solutions carrying over from residential sector to the institutional sector - namely, schools and universities," said Chad Nordhagen, director of marketing at Bona US."The B2B and B2C markets are distinct; yet, they also share qualities and, in fact, shape each other. For Bona, it's all about establishing trust with our customers with premium products that are also safe. That's why we've pursued and achieved third-party certification for both our commercial and consumer products. Credibility is credibility, any way you slice it."

Some key insights from the study include:
Household chemical manufacturers rank themselves at or ahead of the curve in product reliability, product safety, and product innovation; yet, consumers remain most concerned about product safety and believe products have not improved over the last five years.
Nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed do not believe manufacturers thoroughly test products before they arrive on store shelves.
On average, 73% of consumers do not believe that household chemical manufacturers have taken adequate steps to ensure that environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures are followed.
Household chemical manufacturers say it's their responsibility to communicate safety information to consumers. And 90% list product safety among the top three factors impacting their ability to effectively compete. Yet, 64% of consumers say product safety information is difficult to locate.
Household chemical manufacturers agree that consumers are becoming more empowered. For example, 81 percent agree that consumers are becoming more aware and better educated about products in general and 77 percent agree that consumers are demanding more eco-friendly products at the same cost as non-eco-friendly products.
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