Sustainability in The Restoration Industry
Sustainability and Green are widely used terms in nearly every industry, including Restoration. But, what do they mean and how do they impact your business? Let’s break them down…
The most commonly used definition of sustainability came from The Report of the Brundtland Commission in 1987: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
It has also been described by three pillars – Social, Environmental, and Financial. Also know as People, Planet, and Profits.
Green Cleaning & Greenwashing:
Executive Order 13101 defines green cleaning as the use of those products and services that have a lesser or reduced impact on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.
How can you qualify companies or products that make ‘green’ claims? TerraChoice defines Greenwashing as the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Their 7 sins of Greenwashing include…
The Sin of Worshiping False Labels
- If third-party endorsement of your claims is important: Get it, don’t fake it.
- Favor eco-labels that are themselves accredited, and that address the entire lifecycle of the product.
The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
- Start with an honest understanding of all of the environmental impacts of your product across its entire lifecycle.
- Emphasize specific messages (particularly when you know your audiences care about those issues) but don’t use single issues to distract attention from other impacts.
- Don’t make claims about a single environmental impact or benefit, without knowing how your product performs in terms of its other impacts, and without sharing that information with your customers.
- Pursue continual improvement of your environmental footprint (across the entire lifecycle), and encourage your customers to join you on that journey.
The Sin of No Proof
- Understand and confirm the scientific case behind each green marketing claim.
- Make evidence readily available, or rely on third-party certifications whose standards are publicly available.
The Sin of Vagueness
- Use language that resonates with your customers, as long as that language is truthful.
- Don’t use vague names and terms (eg. ‘environmentally-friendly’) without providing precise explanations of your meaning.
The Sin of Irrelevance
- Don’t claim CFC-free, unless it is a legitimate point of competitive differentiation.
- Don’t claim any environmental benefit that is shared by all or most of your competitors.
The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils
Help each customer find the product that is right for them, based on their needs and wants.
Don’t try to make a customer feel ‘green’ about a choice that is harmful or unnecessary.
The Sin of Fibbing
- Tell the truth. Always.
Common Certification Organizations
Carpet Rug Institute (CRI) – www.carpet-rug.org
EcoLogo – www.ecologo.org
EPA DfE (Designed for the Environment) – www.epa.gov/dfe
GreenSeal – www.greenseal.org
What is the Impact on my Business?
If you market your products or services as sustainable or green, you should follow the guidelines above and ensure all of your suppliers do as well. Offering sustainable restoration programs means you have a responsibility for the health of the people impacted by your services (your workers and customers), a responsibility for the environmental impact of your products and services, and a responsibility to offer the most economical solutions for your customers and stakeholders.
It is not enough to say you are sustainable or green. You need to support that with documentation such as VOC’s in your products – how are you impacting indoor air quality. Are the products you use readily biodegradable? Do they use renewable resources? Are they packaged with materials using recycled content? From a financial standpoint, can I improve my processes or use products that reduce the time and cost to perform a job? Can I help my customers return to their home or business faster, thus reducing their expenses and inconvenience?
If no standards or certifications exist for your operations, document, document, document! And document items that are relevant, as noted in the Greenwashing information above.
For example, an environmentally preferable carpet cleaner to remove stains and odors is not enough. You need to document that your carpet cleaner is made from renewable resources (environment), contains no VOC’s (health/IAQ), and physically digests stains and odors with no hazardous byproducts. It is also packaged in containers made from 20% pre consumer waste and outer packaging made from 60% post consumer recycled content for example.
How Do I Ensure My Suppliers Help Me Become Sustainable or Green?
1. Partner with companies that have documented sustainable practices
2. Partner with companies that document their products’ health and environmental impacts, particularly with independent 3rd party certification
3. Partner with companies that go beyond 3rd party certification standards by using renewable resources and most environmentally preferable packaging for example
4. Partner with companies with technologies to improve your financial impact for customers – how can they help you work faster, reduce call backs, replace conventional higher cost methods to complete jobs with lower cost alternates
Sustainability and green practices are not easy endeavors if you want to them right. These are just a few examples of ways you can improve your company’s efforts in these areas.