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Integrating ESG Criteria into Janitorial Services: Moving Towards a Sustainable Real Estate Industry


Two people holding a small plant with soil in their hands, symbolizing teamwork and environmental care.

The importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in today's real estate industry is indisputable. With the growing need for sustainable practices, sanitary maintenance plays a crucial role. How can today's strategies contribute to more responsible real estate management, notably through the adoption of environmentally-friendly practices, the use of biotechnology products and building certification?



Water and Chemical Management: A Key Factor


The Commercial Cleaning industry is a heavy water and chemical consumer. Traditional cleaning methods often involve the intensive use of these resources, raising significant environmental concerns. Water consumption, in particular, is a critical issue, as cleaning processes such as scouring, rinsing and floor stripping require large quantities of water. Similarly, the chemicals used in these processes release harmful substances into the environment. Faced with these challenges, the industry is called upon to adopt more sustainable practices to reduce its ecological footprint.


The Benefits of Automatic Dilution Systems

To counter excessive chemical consumption, the cleaning industry is increasingly switching to automatic dilution systems. These systems enable precise dosing of the quantity of chemicals used, thus avoiding overdosing and reducing waste. Traditionally, employees diluted their products very roughly by eye, resulting in uneven and often excessive use of chemicals. However, the cleaning industry has evolved to meet environmental concerns, notably by adopting the use of ultra-concentrated cleaning products. These products enable a significant reduction in packaging, as a single concentrated bottle can replace hundreds of conventional bottles. This approach not only reduces packaging waste, but also makes the use of automatic dilution systems crucial. These systems ensure that highly concentrated products, which sometimes require 1:200 dilution, are mixed accurately and efficiently, guaranteeing optimum use of resources while minimizing environmental impact.


Redefining Floor Stripping Frequency

As part of the drive to reduce water and chemical consumption, the cleaning industry is focusing on practices that will extend the time between strippings. By adopting regular floor maintenance and less aggressive cleaning methods, it is possible to maintain the cleanliness and quality of surfaces while reducing the need for frequent intensive stripping. Recent improvements in floor maintenance equipment and processes have had a significant impact on reducing the frequency of stripping. For example, a proper maintenance program can extend the period between stripping operations to 24 months or more. It is advisable to clean floors more frequently, and only to use stripping when the finish can no longer be repaired by techniques such as deep cleaning and reconditioning such as spray buffing. The choice of chemical products and attention to their correct dilution are also two key aspects in avoiding damage to floors. This approach not only saves water and reduces the use of chemicals, but also contributes to the durability of floor coverings, reducing the industry's overall environmental impact.


Pre-soaking: Innovative Water-saving Solution

Pre-soaking is an effective way of reducing the use of water in cleaning operations. This method involves pre-soaking a specific quantity of cloths or flat mop pads in a cleaning solution. This technique represents a significant advance in reducing water and chemical consumption in sanitary maintenance.


The advantages of pre-soaking are manifold: :


  • Reduced physical effort by eliminating the need to carry heavy loads such as buckets and manual wringing.

  • Reduced consumption of cleaning/disinfecting products and water, contributing to more sustainable resource management.

  • Avoid re-soaking of mops in buckets of potentially contaminated water.


This method is based on the high absorbency of microfibre, and avoids the repeated use of soiled cloths or mop heads, thus limiting the proliferation of microbes. In addition, it offers significant ergonomic and ecological benefits, such as reduced musculoskeletal disorders, lower water and chemical consumption, faster drying of cleaned surfaces, and reduced chemical risks due to less product handling. This method is part of a more eco-responsible, cost-effective approach, reflecting the industry's commitment to more sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices.


Certifications and Biotechnology: Setting New Standards


In the cleaning industry, ecological certifications such as EcoLogo and Green Seal play a highly important role. These certifications attest to the compliance of cleaning products with strict environmental standards, ensuring their minimal impact on the ecosystem. EcoLogo and Green Seal certified products are designed to be effective while minimizing water pollution, toxicity to aquatic ecosystems and the production of hazardous waste. By choosing these products, cleaning companies demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices and their contribution to reducing the industry's ecological footprint. This approach is part of a wider trend towards environmental responsibility, offering consumers and customers the assurance that the services they use meet high ecological standards.


The evolution of cleaning products towards biotech solutions also offers an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional chemicals. Biotechnological products, such as those using bacterial cultures, enzyme extracts and other bio-ingredients, began to gain popularity in the late 1990s. Not only are these biotech cleaning products effective, they also offer the advantage of prolonged residual activity, acting well beyond mechanical application. They enable deep cleaning and biodegradation, reducing pollutant load and enhancing environmental performance. These biotechnological innovations represent an important response to the environmental and societal challenges associated with professional cleaning.


The impact of Building Certifications on Sustainability


LEED Building Certifications emphasize the importance of sustainable practices in building maintenance. They highlight several aspects, including energy efficiency, waste management, indoor air quality and responsible use of resources. Following LEED guidelines improves environmental performance and increases a building's attractiveness on the market. Specific property cleanliness credits can be used to earn points towards certification.


Green Cleaning - Custodial Effectiveness Assessment (1 Point)

This credit aims to assess the effectiveness of cleaning practices in existing buildings. It encourages the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning methods and products to improve indoor environmental quality and reduce environmental impact.


Green Cleaning - Products and Materials (1 Point)

This credit encourages the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning products and materials. It focuses on reducing harmful chemicals and promoting products that have a reduced impact on the environment and human health.


Green Cleaning - Equipment (1 Point)

This credit focuses on the adoption of sustainable cleaning equipment. It aims to minimize noise pollution, improve energy efficiency and reduce the ecological footprint of cleaning equipment.


First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space (1 Point Pilote)

This pilot credit focuses on safe cleaning and disinfection practices. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy environment while preserving the safety of occupants and cleaning workers.


These criteria reflect a commitment to safe and environmentally-friendly cleaning practices, in line with sustainable development objectives.


Minimizing VOC: A Priority in Ecological Maintenance


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are harmful to the environment and human health, contributing to air pollution and potentially causing a variety of health problems. In the sanitary maintenance industry, VOC reduction is essential to protect the environment and ensure healthy indoor spaces. Staff training and awareness-raising on the correct use of cleaning products and the importance of minimizing the use of volatile substances also help to reduce VOC emissions.


A Toronto study reveals the potentially dangerous effects of common cleaning products on ambient air quality. Published by the Environmental Defence group, the study, entitled "The Dirty Truth: How Toxic Cleaning are Putting Canadians at Risk", examines the impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by these products on human health. The report warns of increased risks of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, as well as potential effects on the development of unborn children and increased risks of cancer. According to Maggie MacDonald of Environmental Defence, as the majority of Canadians spend around 90% of their time indoors, ambient air quality is of paramount importance to health. The study involved 14 volunteers from the Toronto, Montreal and Cobalt areas of Ontario, who cleaned their kitchens for 30 minutes using different types of products. The results showed a marked increase in VOC levels in all homes after the use of cleaning products. The average increase was 120% with conventional cleaners, 100% with products claiming to be eco-friendly, and 35% with eco-certified products. A second study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (USA) and published in the journal Chemosphere highlights the risks associated with the use of common household products. Researchers tested 30 cleaning products and identified 530 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 193 of which are known to be potentially hazardous to human health.


Simple actions that make a big difference:


  1. Demand ecolabel-certified cleaning products. "Green" cleaning products emit up to half the VOCs of conventional products, and fragrance-free products up to eight times less!

  2. Avoid using aerosols at all costs.

  3. Adopt advanced cleaning techniques, such as steam cleaning systems or pure water machines, which reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals.


Commercial Cleaning: Innovation and Sustainability in Perspective


In a society where environmental issues are taking center stage, the Real Estate and Commercial Cleaning industries are at the heart of a fundamental change. Adopting sustainable practices and integrating ESG criteria are no longer options, but necessities that are a shared responsibility. The transition to environmentally-friendly products and technologies, the optimization of resource consumption and the reduction of harmful impacts on human health and the environment are essential steps. Studies underline the urgent need to reduce VOC emissions and opt for greener solutions. In this context, maintenance companies are called upon to play a leading role in promoting responsible property management. By implementing these sustainable practices, they not only meet regulatory requirements and consumer expectations, but also actively collaborate with major property managers in building a greener, healthier future. So the question remains: how can these companies continue to innovate and adapt to effectively meet today's environmental and social challenges?

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