How Sustainable Cleaning Products Reduce Risk & Boost Your Bottom Line

By Adon Rigg

Cleaning chemicals, although necessary, can cause health, environmental, and even profitability concerns for any business. Many cleaning products are dangerous – especially when concentrated – and lead to handling, storage, and disposal problems. To reduce health and environmental risks, think sustainability when choosing cleaning chemicals at your business.

Sustainability is crucial for any businesses wanting to remain competitive. Regardless of the product, service or industry, consumers want to do business with environmentally savvy organizations. Plus, employees at all levels want their employers to be as responsible toward their people as they are toward their profits. Therefore, a focus on sustainability is crucial for maintaining positive customer relationships.

Choosing environmentally preferable cleaning products will help your organization achieve numerous business benefits through the three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet and Profits.

The “People” Pillar

An organization’s people are its most valuable resource, and providing them with a healthy environment is crucial. Unfortunately, many facility managers are unaware of just how toxic cleaning chemicals can be. Besides being dangerous to a facility’s janitorial staff, cleaning chemicals often enter ventilation systems and linger within a building’s indoor air. Poor air quality contributes to immediate and long-term health problems of everyone in the building. Studies have shown that many cleaning products:

  • Contain ingredients that release low levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde as well as other carcinogenic impurities
  • Lead to elevated risks of birth defects in children
  • Cause asthma in people who are otherwise healthy
  • Lead to chemical burns
  • Promote numerous other allergies and health concerns

Green cleaning products are effective and less toxic than traditional counterparts. When your people are healthier and happier, they’ll also be more productive at their jobs and can help your business remain healthy and competitive.

The “Planet” Pillar

The cleaning chemicals your facility uses always make their way into the environment one way or another. For example, volatile substances evaporate and exit your building, or are rinsed down drains and eventually carried into the environment. These substances are toxic not only to human beings, but also to plant and animal life.

Using green cleaning products in your facility not only reduces the negative effects your business has on the environment, but also boosts your bottom-line performance. A healthier public image results from the positive branding your business gains as its environmental friendliness becomes more known to your customers.

The “Profit” Pillar

Obviously, a business must be profitable to survive and thrive. When the People and Planet pillars of sustainability are taken care of, the Profit pillar will also be healthier!

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) inside your facility lead to employee health problems, often causing your staff to work while sick. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, employees who work while sick cost the American economy $160 billion annually in lost productivity. Using green cleaning products can boost your business’ profits by reducing the costs of sick employees.

Businesses known for their positive stance on the environment also enjoy lower employee turnover rates. High employee turnover is a costly problem for any business. An organization’s total costs of losing an employee includes:

  • Termination costs
  • Interviewing costs
  • Lost productivity through an empty position
  • Lost productivity while new employees are being trained

Companies who care for their people enjoy higher profitability thanks to highly committed employees who work diligently, have fewer absences, and aren’t as likely to look for a new job.

The reduction of compliance risk is another way your business can achieve higher profitability through sustainable cleaning. Sustainable organizations can more easily manage risks associated with regulations that could impose costs on businesses. Also, think of how your business will profit from protecting itself from illness-related workers’ compensation payouts!

How to Choose Sustainable Cleaning Products at Your Facility

How do you know which cleaning products are as sustainable as they claim to be? One way to ensure that you get what you pay for is to choose products that have been certified by third-party verifiers, such as ECOLOGO or Green Seal. These organizations maintain certification standards for many categories of cleaning chemicals, including:

  • Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners
  • Degreasers
  • Disinfectants and Disinfectant Cleaners
  • Hard Surface Cleaners
  • Hard Floor Care Products (Finishes and Sealers)
  • Hand Cleaners
  • Hand Antiseptics
  • Laundry Bleach
  • Liquid Laundry Detergents and Fabric Softeners
  • Oder Control Additives

Another important way to be smart about your green cleaning purchases is to know a product’s LD50 count. “LD50” is an indicator of a substance’s toxicity. Short for “lethal dose 50%,” it is the dose that it would take to kill half of a group of test animals.

Median lethal dose is typically expressed as milligrams of substance per kilogram of body mass (mg/kg.) The smaller the LD50 value, the more toxic the chemical is because it takes less of it to be harmful. The larger the LD50 value, the less toxic it is. For example, water has an LD50 of greater than 90,000 mg/kg. Bleach, on the other hand, has an LD50 of 192 mg/kg.

Even though a product is “green,” it can have a dangerous LD50 count. Before purchasing a green cleaning product for your facility, read its MSDS and make sure the LD50 isn’t substantially lower than other choices.

The Time is Now!
By focusing on sustainability, your organization can set itself up for heightened employee productivity, significant cost reductions, and competitive advantages. If you’re concerned about potential consequences that could result from your business’ cleaning products, the time is right now to make positive changes! Don’t be one of the many businesses who find out the true costs of allowing dangerous conditions in their facility.



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