The future of eco cleaning

The cleaning industry is undergoing a significant shift towards sustainability, driven by consumer demand and the need to future-proof businesses in the face of a net zero future.

Charlotte Cameron
Eco cleaning companies
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Eco-friendly cleaning companies – businesses who are focused on minimising their environmental impact – are seeing the benefits. Not only are these companies doing the right thing for the planet, but they are also gaining a competitive advantage, attracting new customers and improving their bottom line.   

For City & Essex, an eco cleaning company that has built its reputation on cleaning the premises of some of the country’s most recognisable brands, sustainability isn’t seen as a passing trend but a natural progression of a family business safeguarding its future. The company’s Marketing Manager Matthew Swift says that shifting their focus to sustainability “has a material impact on both the ethical growth of our business and the communities in which we operate.” 

“City & Essex has been at the forefront of responsible environmental practice for many years and are seeing our values become increasingly more aligned to that of our clients as we strive to deliver meaningful, sustainable solutions.” Matthew shared.  

Emerging innovations, practices and cleaning products are all helping to shape a sustainable future for the commercial cleaning sector. The integration of technology has become a driving force for all commercial cleaning innovations over the past five years, City & Essex commented. “A large part of our success has been down to our independence and our ability to source, create and quickly adopt these new innovations that enhance our service offering and reduce our environmental impact.” 

Planet Mark certification has given them the full picture of this impact and has created momentum for conscious change. “The Planet Mark team have provided us with the tools to improve our data capturing. As a result, we have been able to recognise areas to focus our energies to drastically minimise our impact.” 

Through identifying the most carbon-intensive aspects of their business, City & Essex have implemented initiatives that have helped to reduce their carbon footprint and have seen the business benefits that followed.   

Impactful initiatives for eco-friendly cleaning companies

Historically, the cleaning industry has faced sustainability barriers from the prevalence of harsh chemicals to a reliance on diesel and petrol fuelled vehicles. But new innovations and eco-friendly cleaning products have made it easier and cheaper for cleaning companies to minimise their impact on the planet and pass these benefits on to clients.  

“To us,” Matthew shares, “sustainability is more than just carbon reduction, it is a mindset. It is how products are sourced, packaged, transported, and disposed of and over the past 50 years we have formed unique relationships with our trusted supply chain in order to drive positive change within our industry. 

Employee travel and fleet

Like many companies in the sector, City & Essex identified that employee travel made up the largest part of their carbon footprint.  

From 2019 to 2022, the business has reduced its travel emissions from 32.5 tCOe to 20.5 tCO ₂ by transitioning 50% of their fleet into electric vehicles, with a phased approach planned for the rest of the fleet. They have also installed two electric charging points at their head office to allow teams to easily recharge their vehicles during meetings.  

Waste management

Waste management is another sustainability challenge facing the industry. Commercial cleaning companies should adopt a waste hierarchy that looks to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. By first focusing on reducing the consumption of chemicals, then looking to reuse or recycle items.  

City & Essex shares that “by correctly managing how we manage waste, we can drive measurable improvement and focus on changing long-term behaviour.” 

Initiatives such as their Think Green waste management system have helped both the business and its clients in their journey to net zero. When the company services multi-tenanted buildings, the challenge they face is understanding what each tenant is generating in terms of waste and therefore it’s difficult to create a long-term waste strategy plan that helps to change occupier behaviour.  

The Think Green system combats this by weighing and logging waste for single and multi-tenant buildings, giving managing agents the ability to monitor tenants’ waste, which is helping to drive improvement. This year in their first time entering the Tomorrow’s FM Awards, City & Essex came fourth place with this system in an award celebrating the most innovative solutions in the industry. 

Sustainable alternatives

 The business strives for solutions that allow its team and clients to reduce and reuse, and where possible has introduced eco-friendly products such as Aqueous Ozone to clean, sanitise and deodorise the building environment with the benefit of being harmless to humans and animals and effective against bacteria, moulds, and viruses. In addition, Aqueous Ozone reduces consumable usage and single-use plastics whilst eliminating unnecessary transport and packaging disposal.  

Supply chain

City & Essex, who are committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2025, are focusing on tackling their Scope 3 emissions.  

These are the emissions that a company is associated with by its upstream and downstream activities. In other words, their supply chain. It’s within the Scope 3 emissions where the most impact can be made as typically these emissions account for around 70% of a business’ carbon footprint.  

The company is now working closely with its suppliers, such as Vanitorials, to find and test the most effective and sustainable cleaning products on the market; leading to a change in their core cleaning product range in 2022. They also use energy efficient equipment that is manufactured with recycled materials to further drive this initiative. 

“Over the past year we have engaged extensively with our supply chain and we are proud to continue our long standing partnerships with companies that align closely with our own values and goals for net zero. Some of our supply chain have joined Planet Mark to make a conscious and measurable change, some are using electric fleets to deliver their services, some have waste to energy initiatives.” Matthew said.  

By embedding sustainability into every aspect of their business, City & Essex are not only supporting other companies in their net zero journey but they are seeing the benefits across many parts of their own business.  

Matthew shared, “Some of our most exciting self-developed innovations have been a direct result of incorporating sustainable strategies into all aspects of our business.”  

The business benefits

Companies within the facilities management sector must see sustainability as a business opportunity. As property owners and managers seek ways to make their buildings and processes more efficient, companies that can offer measured, sustainable, and quality services gain a competitive edge over the market. As well as doing right by the planet, measuring, and reducing a business’s carbon footprint is rapidly becoming an economic advantage.   

City & Essex have seen this with client retention. “A growing factor in our clients decision making is sharing in their sustainability objectives. Our innovations focused on reducing impact have been highly successful in winning/retaining work and have been proven to enhance decision-making for building managers and tenants.” 

The sector also plays a key role in the UK Government’s 2050 net zero emissions target, which stipulates that all UK businesses must meet the legal requirements of net zero by this date. 

“We have had some incredibly powerful discussions with Planet Mark over the past year, and it has inspired us to make changes across our business to minimise our impact and commit to net zero by 2025.” Matthew said. “We will continue to engage with our clients and share the benefits of our technologies whilst supporting them on their own sustainability journey.” 

As well as the regulations which will ensure companies across the sector achieve net zero by 2050, cleaning companies gain a competitive advantage by focusing on their sustainability as cleaning services come under the Scope 3 emissions for many companies. With an increasing number of companies heading towards net zero, cleaning companies that are able to demonstrate they are actively working to measure and reduce their emissions, will be the providers of choice. 

What is the business case for sustainability?

Thursday 21 February 2024, 1:00-2:00 PM

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