Green Training, “Nutrition Labels” for Cleaning Products and More: New Developments for the Future o

October 20, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

Earlier this month HSC attended the ISSA 2009 conference for three days. For those not in the
know, ISSA is the international association for cleaning service
providers and manufacturers. And their convention is huge.

We started attending the ISSA conference five years ago, after we decided to launch our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning,
and this conference has changed a ton since then. It went from having
just a few boutique green products available to having green as the entire theme of the
conference. Of course, you have to watch for greenwashing, but that's what third-party eco-labels are for.

This
year was really interesting for us. We had a booth, gave two
presentations, and got to meet with our sponsors and allies in
the green cleaning world. But one of the most exciting things about
ISSA is the opportunity to hear about what's new, what's in development
and what we can look out for in the year ahead for green cleaning.

And
it looks promising: not only is the industry continuing to shift toward
healthier and more environmentally preferable products, but we're
seeing changes in the eco-labeling world. From my perspective, the two
most exciting opportunities are the CIMS-GB program, and the IBEL
eco-labeling development.

CIMS-GB

We know that green cleaning
is more than just better chemicals. It's about equipment, recycled
paper and plastic, and proper training. And of that list, training is
the hardest to quantify. Now ISSA is developing CIMS-GB,
a cleaning management standard for green cleaning that will offer a
level of assurance that a cleaning provider is trained and can provide
services for a green cleaning program. What Green Seal, Ecologo and the
EPA's Design for the Environment are for products, CIMS-GB may become
for cleaning programs.

IBEL

IBEL stands for Information-Based Environmental Label. This is an effort
to give chemical manufacturers a tool to communicate a broad set of
health and environmental attributes for their products, and to give consumers a set of practical facts to help inform purchasing decisions.

Up until this
point, manufacturers were limited to “green dot” programs; while
these programs take into account many attributes, they are one
dimensional because the entire product analysis comes down to an all or
nothing decision — you get the “dot” or you don't. Of course these
programs are a great help and have moved the industry forward
tremendously. But there is little opportunity for verifiable claims of
exceeding the criteria of existing green dots in their current form. The IBEL will
address this and many other issues.

The idea is essentially
a “nutritional label” for environmental attributes. Of course
a great deal of consumer education will be important to making these labels meaningful to a broad audience, but this type of labeling can provide consumers with enough information to make
fact-based decisions for their purchases. 

Here's a visual representation of the IBEL concept:

For the sake of full disclosure, I should add that HSC is on the core committee for the development team of IBEL.

I'm looking forward to seeing these program develop further in the year ahead.