WEB EXCLUSIVE: Cleaning For Environment And Health

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This Web Exclusive Q&A with Chris Brickman, president of Kimberly-Clark Professional, provides insight into how facility managers can pursue sustainability and health goals through their choice of cleaning products and practices.

Q: When it comes to cleaning products and services, what do you think that today’s facility managers expect from their vendors in terms of innovation?

A: Facility managers today want their business partners to create value by innovating on many fronts. Sometimes, innovations are not always perceived by the end user. For example, innovation in packaging and supply chain reduces environmental footprint and product performance improvements that lead to lower material consumption. These, of course, lower costs in addition to delivering an environmental improvement.

Chris Brickman, President, Kimberly-Clark Professional

User-facing innovation includes distinctive product introductions, new or enhanced user experiences, and service offerings. For example, since we are a manufacturer of products that can contribute points to LEED certification, our customers not only want to understand how our products can support their certification objectives, but they also look to us to help them understand the requirements of LEED. They expect us to bring them new ideas that help them improve their performance and solve their business challenges.

We find that facility managers also look for innovation that can make their jobs easier, make their facilities run more smoothly, and that “wow” their occupants.  By partnering effectively with facility managers and their distributors, we can bring new approaches designed to engage their occupants and other end users while optimizing operational efficiencies. An example is our Healthy Workplace Project which focuses on a broader approach to hygiene and a healthy environment.

Q: What kind of resources might facility managers expect from product and service providers that encourage sustainability practices like reducing natural resources and extending product life cycles?

A: Kimberly-Clark Professional has been communicating with its customers about the importance of reducing consumption of natural resources at every stage of a product’s life cycle. This has helped the sustainability conversation to evolve beyond the traditional “how much recycled content is in this product?” question to one that is more holistic and impactful. We also provide tools and information which help facility managers communicate to and engage with their employees and customers. This helps them communicate their efforts to provide a cleaner, greener, and healthier working environment. We also support them with our own internal expertise in the areas of energy management and conservation, occupational safety and hygiene, and health and wellness.

Q: Are you seeing a heightened demand for sustainable products from facilities managers?

A: Absolutely. The demand has continued to grow. Employees, customers, and occupants continue to show interest in environmentally responsible products and solutions, healthy environments, and gaining or maintaining LEED certification. From our vantage point, these have become important business drivers. Green buildings and proactive management garner higher rents and lower vacancy rates; we continue to educate and support our customers in these areas. We also see a trend toward facility managers viewing environmental footprint, green cleaning and products, and health and wellness as interrelated and approaching them more holistically.

Q: What does Kimberly-Clark Professional have planned in terms of furthering its relationship with facility managers?

A: We look for opportunities to celebrate facility managers and how they satisfy their customers’ needs.  Reduce Today Respect Tomorrow (our sustainability approach) and our Healthy Workplace Project (a portfolio of health and wellness solutions) are global campaigns that allow facility managers to go beyond the traditional message of “providing a service” to demonstrate how they’re truly adding value.

For example, our Healthy Workplace Project is a multi-pronged portfolio solution that seeks to reduce germ count across the workplace while keeping employees healthy, more productive, and engaged. It includes a site assessment of “hot spots” where germs concentrate and spread, actual measurements that show progress, and providing hygiene solutions where needed. This combination drives ongoing employee engagement. And occupants are responding enthusiastically about this new approach that facility managers are bringing them.

Q: Any additional insight about cleaning trends, technologies, and research?

A: Similar to trends across consumer industries, the green cleaning trend—which initially focused on avoiding harsh, damaging chemicals in cleaning solvents—has evolved to a broader set of concerns including environmental footprint, health and hygiene, and other factors. We are seeing facility managers look at the environmental impact of the entire cleaning process which includes water use, product selection, and waste disposal in addition to the chemistry concerns. Many of today’s facility managers and suppliers are concerned with how their buildings and services impact employee wellness. In addition to products, building managers and suppliers are offering protocols and programs that are intended to ensure that the work environment is hygienic, such as having hand sanitizers in high traffic areas like the elevator lobbies or break rooms as well as individual work spaces, educating the occupant population on hygienic habits, and scientifically measuring cleanliness.

Facilities managers are also increasingly tasked with business goals, such as ensuring that occupants and employees feel that they are receiving benefits that promote employee satisfaction and engagement. Examples include the hygiene educational efforts, visible sustainability initiatives, and facility community activities such as charitable giving or donation collection events. But in the end it’s all about simply and cost-effectively providing high value experiences for all users. At Kimberly-Clark Professional, we support that effort with our current offerings and a pipeline filled with innovative products and programs designed to make every workplace healthier, more sustainable, and more productive.

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