Expert's Opinion

Considerations for a Sustainable Cleaning Program

By Craig Monsell, P&G Professional | March 9, 2010

Craig Monsell of P&G Professional says understanding how a product is used is vital.

Attempting to implement sustainable practices in the workplace can be confusing, as everybody has a different definition of sustainability and how it can be applied to their business. P&G embraces a holistic definition of sustainability, focused on ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come.

Understanding & Trusting What’s in the Bottle

At P&G, we believe that products should not require a trade-off between sustainability and the need for performance and value. So, we try to incorporate sustainability considerations into the design of all of our products, packaging and operations.

I highlight this because it’s important to understand the companies associated with the products you purchase. Many times, folks want to simply rely on a seal on the package. However, at P&G we are concerned that such seals may not be based on sound risk science, and may lack the scientific rigor and transparency we believe is necessary. P&G Professional is not against third party eco-labels; but we do try to be selective. We work with the EPA’s Design for the Environment program because we believe its government affiliation gives it both credibility and staying power. Trusting the manufacturer and understanding the eco-seal associated with the product is an important step in a sustainable cleaning program.

Product Usage & Effectiveness

Another big consideration is how products are used. Current findings show that how a product is used is often more important than production method in determining its impacts. Here’s a consumer example. According to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, over the life cycle of the average dishwashing detergent, 87.5% of the energy and 86% of the water consumption occurs during use by consumers.

So how you clean matters. Assess the tasks at hand and design a program that’s effective, minimizes materials usage and encourages staff efficiency. Proper staff training and cleaning protocols can often be the single biggest sustainability improvement a business can make with its cleaning program. If staff can get the job done right the first time and minimize the amount of product used, businesses will improve their environmental footprint, realize cost savings and facilitate a number of supply chain benefits including reduced packaging, fewer delivery trucks on the road and less solid waste.

We have a saying:“If it’s not clean, it’s not green.” If you have to repeat your cleaning and use more product, are you really doing your best for the environment?Understanding how a product is used is the real key to a healthy, sustainable work environment.

At P&G Professional, we work with our customers on these things, and encourage them to approach the topic with a holistic, end-to-end mindset. Simply put, sustainability is about more than purchasing a product with a seal or environmental claim. It’s important to remember that what’s in the bottle is not the end of the process but rather the beginning.

About the Author
Craig Monsell leads customer understanding and product development for P&G Professional, where he is a R&D manager in Foodservice Cleaners.Monsell holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from MIT.

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