Online Exclusives

Cleaning, Sustainably

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | August 19, 2013

US cleaning industry makes progress, according to ACI.

The US cleaning products industry continues to make steady progress in its efforts to produce products sustainably, according to the results of the American Cleaning Institute’s 2013 Sustainability Report.

Specifically, ACI found an overall decrease by member companies in four environmental metric points:
• energy use;
• greenhouse gas emissions;
• water use; and
• solid waste generation.

"As an organization representing the cleaning product supply chain, we are proud of our industry’s progress in sustainability and transparency," said Ernie Rosenberg, ACI president and CEO. "We continue to build the pathway for all ACI member companies to showcase sustainability successes and challenges that are integral to doing business in today’s marketplace."

In the most recent survey, energy use was received from 20 ACI member companies. Compared to 2009, energy efficiency improved 9%. The overall improvement was due to a 6% reduction in energy use per metric ton produced from 2009 to 2010 and a 4% decrease from 2010 to 2011. The decreasing use of energy in production illustrates that progress is being made across the industry toward improving energy efficiency, according to ACI.

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) was received or calculated from energy sources for 19 companies. From 2009 to 2011, there was a 7% decrease in GHG emissions. The emissions level rose 6% in 2010, but declined 12% from 2010 to 2011. Overall, the industry had a 7% decline from 2009 to 2011.

Twenty member companies supplied water use data. Over the three-year period, water used to produce cleaning products and their ingredients was relatively stable. Water usage declined 11% in 2010 and increased 6% in 2011. The cubic meters of water needed to produce a metric ton of cleaning product were 3.8 in 2009, 3.4 in 2010 and 3.6 in 2011. The cause of the fluctuation is unclear, according to ACI. But it may be due to facilities switching energy sources during the period. ACI notes that barriers to improving water efficiency need to be further explored.
Data from 19 companies was included in the solid waste metric. During the three-year period, solid waste generation per metric ton was reduced by 17%. A reduction of 24% in 2010 was followed by a 10% increase in 2011.

According to Brian Sansoni, VP-sustainability initiatives and communications and membership, through ACI’ssustainability metrics program, the sustainability report and other initiatives in development, ACI wants to provide a pathway for all of its membership to embed sustainability throughout their businesses.

“Sustainability-oriented questions, regarding sourcing, materials used, environmental attributes, etc., are becoming more of the norm in requests throughout the supply chain, especially from retailers and government purchasing officers in the I&I sector,” explained Sansoni. “With this new sustainability report, we want to showcase to lawmakers, policymakers, government officials and NGOs that the cleaning products industry is committed to increasing sustainability and demonstrating corporate social responsibility throughout the supply chain.”

Nine companies took part in the ACI metrics program when it was started five years ago. Last year, 24 companies participated and ACI expects that number to grow this year.

“Companies, particularly small and medium sized firms, are at various stages of their sustainability journeys,” explained Sansoni. “ACI realizes that sustainability isn’t just some esoteric, feel-good, fuzzy goal.”

ACI established a series of trainings and webinars to help companies develop and grow their metrics programs. A number of sustainability leaders within ACI membership have presented case studies explaining how they’ve embedded sustainability throughout their business, according to Sansoni, who noted that many member companies within the American Cleaning Institute have been leaders in the sustainability/corporate social responsibility space for years and said the industry is providing more information than ever about the science and safety behind our products.

“We are building upon decades of successful partnerships with organizations that share ACI’s goal of contributing to better living,” observed Sansoni. “We collaborate with organizations that use cleaning and hygiene products for positive social change. All of these efforts help us reinforce the message that cleaning and hygiene products enhance health and our quality of life and contribute to better living.”

More info: American Cleaning Institute,

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