Turning clean into green through sustainable procurement

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Turning clean into green through sustainable procurement

Corporate Environment Manager for Office Depot, Jackie Buckwell, offers advice on promoting sustainability when purchasing your cleaning & hygiene supplies.

Reducing everyday impact on the environment and achieving greater sustainability are among the priorities for most companies today. And the good news for anyone involved in the purchase of cleaning products, including facilities managers, is that relatively minor modifications in product selection and in the procurement process can deliver major advantages.

Quality and cost will always remain critical issues for buyers of cleaning materials and yet increasingly the choice of more environmentally-friendly products is now also a key focus. The move to a ‘greener clean’ must therefore include a regular assessment of your product choices in a constant bid to improve the sustainability of those cleaning items, and ensure that your business is minimising its impact on the environment.

Review the current impact of your product choices

In advance of making any changes, you’ll need to determine the ‘carbon footprint’ of your business to assess its current environmental impact. This review requires a complete inventory of product, delivery levels and costs in order to set an initial benchmark for future measurement of progress.

Consolidate your orders

One of the best places to start increasing efficiency is in the area of deliveries as these can, with a bit of careful planning and clear internal communication, often be easily consolidated, thereby minimising the number of deliveries and the quantity of suppliers. Look closely and you’ll find that smaller deliveries can usually be added into larger orders. You can also reduce deliveries to your workplace by placing your business with a smaller number of preferred suppliers.

Every order requires picking, packing and delivering. Restricting deliveries to once a week, or even once a month, will inevitably minimise packaging materials, reduce the number of vehicles required and, equally importantly, reduce your  order processing costs.

Your choice of a preferred supplier should really depend on your ability to forge a firm strategic partnership with a supplier that can offer professional consultation, including advice on environmental sustainability, as well as offering a broad range of suitable products.

With the right suppliers on board, you’ll be able to call on their experience and expertise in recommending greener alternativese and making sure that your buyers are kept fully informed about new and improved products as they become available.

Switch from standard products to eco-friendly alternatives

Some people still believe that the choice of ‘green’ products inevitably requires compromises in prices and reduced quality. And while there may have been an element of truth in this during the early days of green cleaning some twenty years ago, times have changed. Easy application eco-cleaning products are now available that incorporate high quality at comparable prices and are subject to stringent testing procedures before market release.

As a quick-fix solution to reduce environmental impacts, you can simply switch ready made solutions with concentrated products. For example, a mere 1.4 litres of super-concentrated cleaning solution can produce 350 bottles of diluted cleaning product. Naturally, you’ll be cutting down significantly on packaging and delivery while also achieving cost savings.

However, the end cleaning product will only be effective if the dilution process is controlled carefully. As in all areas, simply ensure that your H&S team provides employees with the correct instructions and the right training.

Another simple way to reduce waste and enhance efficiency is to make use of multi-purpose cleaners. By using just one liquid cleaning product to carry out a range of tasks, instead of several alternative products, you can reduce your costs while also simplifying your purchasing processes.

Communicate why you’re making these changes

Communication is key when any alterations are made in the selection of your cleaning products and that includes information relating to their purchase, delivery and use. Your staff must be made fully aware of how these items are to be used and the necessary training organised to make sure that any new cleaning products are applied safely and correctly.

Furthermore, staff should be invited to provide feedback on the quality and efficiency of these new eco-solutions so that the highest standards are maintained. Ideas and feedback from your staff are extremely useful when you wish to improve your purchasing processes, motivate your team and move towards a ‘greener clean’.

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