This month we sat down with our own Emily Gove, LEED AP O+M and BMS Corporate Director of Sustainability, to talk about Sustainability in the commercial janitorial industry and how she’s helping clients achieve their goals.
Why is sustainability important in the commercial cleaning industry?
Our industry affects the environment in numerous ways. It’s our responsibility to offset this however we can. Annually our industry consumes 6.2 billion pounds of mostly petroleum based chemicals. Additionally the industry goes through about 30 million trees of sanitary paper and one billion pounds of equipment. Not to mention a huge amount of packaging and equipment is disposed annually.
How do BMS’s sustainable initiatives affect the health and wellness of its clients?
The average American spends approximately 87% of their life indoors according to EPA. How a space is cleaned has a significant impact on healthy indoor air quality for our tenancy. By utilizing Green Seal, Ecologo certified products, CRI certified vacuums, microfibers – we are ensuring that quality. This results in less sick days and increased productivity.
Why is Sustainability important to you as a commercial real estate professional?
Working at the portfolio level, especially the size of Vornado’s tenant base, we have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact. I meet with 60+ tenants annually to discuss their internal sustainability goals and how we can align our companies to help achieve them together. We are reaching a wide audience when discussing topics like recycling and best practices for green cleaning – this has been rewarding.
Do you believe that the cleaning industry is keeping up with other industries when it comes to sustainability?
The janitorial manufacturing industry has impressed me. There is a wide range of product choices now that hold sustainable certifications. We are even seeing floor pads becoming Green Seal certified. This makes it easier for companies to make the transition because the products are cost effective and there is an abundance of options.
When and why did BMS begin its sustainability initiatives?
It’s been at least a decade, so well before my time here! We are lucky in that our leadership has built a strong culture of social responsibility, so this was a natural progression. For example, we have always been deeply involved in numerous charities not only financially but also through the giving of our time and our tools. Without a top down approach transitioning to sustainable products and methods would have been very challenging.
What changes has BMS made as a company in its efforts to “go green”?
The biggest changes have been within our supply chain, and replacement of products and equipment with those that meet our standards. Examples include dilution control systems that cut down on plastic packaging, equipment that converts tap water into cleaning solution by applying an electric charge, and HEPA filtrated vacuum systems.
We’ve also standardized our purchasing to mirror the latest version of LEED-EB and evolve with the rating system. Additionally, we are compliant with WELL Building Standard and monitor changes in the language to ensure we remain so. We’ve developed a BMS Green Clean program and policy which outlines our standards and procedures. We also maintain both CIMS Green Building and Green Seal certifications.
Are you finding that being “green” has an impact on your clients’ decisions to use BMS services?
It depends on the client. Every client has a wish list, and “green” is usually somewhere on the list. For some it’s at the top of the list and for others it isn’t. There is sometimes a perception that green is too costly, and not as high quality, which is not true! There is a cost effective “green” alternative to almost every product and we know from experience that we can deliver the same quality by utilizing green cleaning methods.
I honestly don’t know of many cleaning companies with two LEED AP’s and a WELL AP on staff. Our team is knowledgeable, experienced and ready to assist tenants with any certifications or goals our clients wish to pursue.
For those companies considering your service that struggle with “going green” how do you make a case for them to take to their leadership?
Be armed with information. Just saying our company is sustainable isn’t enough. Show them the results, statistics and impacts of a sustainable cleaning company. We must demonstrate our expertise and define sustainability goals that can be tracked and measured. For example, promise that 90% of all products used will be green. Also, demonstrate that being green doesn’t translate to significant cost increases.
How do you see BMS’s sustainability initiatives growing in the next 5-10 years as the impact of climate change become more apparent globally?
Now more than ever it’s important to source our supplies locally to cut back on transport emissions. I see even more focus on this in the future. I would like to take a deeper dive into the supply chain, tracking our emissions and seeing exactly where our products are coming from. This includes where the products are being manufactured and how are they reaching the warehouses of our suppliers (scope 3 indirect emissions). I think we will also need to green our fleet of vehicles.
I see LEED and WELL Standards evolving and we will make sure that we keep up. We want it to be seamless for our tenants and clients to pursue these types of certifications. I would hope to see increased regulatory and environmental standards related to our industry to help mitigate climate change.
Contact us to see how we can help with your sustainable goals.