According to an undisclosed cleaning company, we are well on the way to gradually implementing sustainability in all (facility) organizations. And once that has been implemented, are we done with CSR? Doesn't seem like it to me. It's not a necessary evil or a monster we've brought home. No, it has become common practice on all fronts in the organization to show sustainability in all its capacity. Maybe in top gear, because it has to be! Our planet desperately needs this to guarantee its survival, not in 10 years, not in 50 years, no, in infinity.

So what does the large cleaning company say in favor of sustainability? What happened? What do they claim? Some starting points for practical implementation of CSR; I quote:

  1. "Energy. Cleaners often work after your own staff has already gone home. Cleaning is more intensive than desk work, so maybe the thermostat can go down even though the cleaners still have to get to work. Good light is of course important for cleaning, but you can only clean one place at a time. Lamps with motion detectors can already save a lot of energy.
  2. Waste. Separating waste is a relatively simple step in terms of sustainability, but the method of separation differs from company to company. Carefully coordinate where which waste stream is collected, so that the separated waste also arrives separately at the final processor.
  3. Water. Flushing toilets and watering plants with collected rainwater reduces the pressure on the sewer system during heavy rain showers and reduces the pressure on drinking water production during drought. Two birds with one stone."

Are we ready on the basis of these three great initiatives and results? No, it is a continuous process that needs to be expanded further. It has to be in the genes. It's not part of it; 'Oh yes, we also do CSR!'. No, from cleaner to director, everyone is involved in the chain and of course all stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, governments, local residents, etc.

But even in the tenders it is noticeable that a) a chapter is devoted to it that you as an organization have to demonstrate how it has been implemented or b) the entire tender is based on CSR. Then you are well on your way as a client.

Are all cleaning companies ready for this, I wonder? I'm afraid not yet. According to the research, 40% of the companies has not yet formulated a concrete policy for making the organization more sustainable.

There are local CSR initiatives, ideas etc. and yes we have a CSR policy statement, an annual report or biodegradable resources and recyclable toilet paper and bottles, but then it stops a bit. The focus is of course more on the operational organization.

But there are good initiatives to be found in North Holland where a well-known SME cleaning company has a 100% goal of delivering impact at all levels. They still mainly participate in tenders that go 100% for sustainability. They are in discussions with them and this results in great collaborations.

So what should we do as an industry? I think a lot! And what will it bring in the short and long term? These are all questions that must be answered quickly and adequately.

Continuously engage in dialogue with your clients, suppliers and employees. Form a chain with your most important stakeholders. What can we do together to make our processes more sustainable? Cleaning can play a major role in the chain of all collaborations. As far as I'm concerned a mandatory marriage in the near future. 1 + 1 = CSR!

Marcel de Jong
May 2021