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Sustainability Efforts Derailed by Lack of Credible Data

A perceived lack of information and credible resources are holding U.S. businesses back from becoming environmentally responsible, according to a study from Ipsos Public Affairs. However, the survey finds that 85 percent of respondents are interested in obtaining knowledge and resources about how their business can be more environmentally responsible.

The report, “Business Cleaning Sustainability Study,” also indicates that recycling (75 percent) and using energy efficient light bulbs (67 percent) are the two primary measures implemented by businesses to become environmentally responsible.

Businesses were surveyed on their sustainability knowledge, product purchase decision-making process and cleaning habits. Survey respondents included cleaning product decision makers in four sectors: lodging, foodservice, health care and commercial cleaning industries.

Conducted on behalf of Procter & Gamble Professional, which services the foodservice, building cleaning and maintenance, hospitality and convenience store industries, the report shows that U.S. businesses want to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible but a lack of in-depth knowledge and structure is holding them back from achieving their goals, says P&G.

“Countless green labels and varying definitions regarding what it is to be “green” makes the process very confusing for purchasing managers and decision makers,” says Chris Vuturo, external relations manager, P&G Professional.

The survey finds that less than 25 percent of respondents say their businesses had sustainability guidelines. While 90 percent of respondents report sustainability and environmental responsibility is important for their business, only 42 percent report being very or extremely well informed about the topic. Thirty-three percent admit to being confused at some stage regarding what it means to be green.

A recent Deloitte report also finds that many U.S. companies have a gap between their leaders’ sustainability goals and the way that sustainability is enabled within their organizations. But, similar to the P&G study, most U.S. companies continue to be involved in sustainability, and see an alignment between sustainability and their overall business strategy.

The P&G study shows that 51 percent of respondents find it difficult to differentiate which products are actually environmentally friendly. More than 33 percent of respondents believe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) certification is the most-trusted product certification on the market.

Despite interest in environmentally-responsible products, product performance (61 percent) and price (52 percent) are the top two factors impacting decision makers and their selection of cleaning products, says P&G.

Fifty percent of respondents say “green” and “effective” can go hand-in-hand, but for nearly one third (30 percent), these qualities were mutually exclusive. Twenty percent were unsure.

When evaluating results by industry, the survey shows that 30 percent of lodging respondents have sustainable guidelines, as compared to 18 percent in the health-care sector and 17 percent in the commercial industry. It also indicates that client preferences (26 percent) are more important for the lodging industry than in the foodservice (eight percent), health care (10 percent) and commercial (11 percent) industries.

Corporate guidelines or corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies (23 percent) are more likely to motivate those in the lodging industry than those in the health-care (nine percent) or commercial (eight percent) industries to purchase green cleaning products.

The lodging industry also is more likely to rely on third-party certifications (21 percent) as an important factor when deciding if a product is respectful of the environment than the commercial (11 percent) and foodservice industries (10 percent).

The survey also finds that the health-care sector is least inclined to demonstrate attitudes and behaviors related to the adoption of sustainability practices.

With health and safety as their biggest priority, health-care cleaning decision makers were least interested in receiving more information about sustainability and environmental responsibility (41 percent as compared to the lodging industry at 55 percent), says P&G.

The survey finds that the commercial cleaning industry, which includes building service contractors, education facilities, manufacturing facilities, office buildings, retail establishments and warehouses, are more likely to be at least somewhat well-informed about environmentally responsible practices for their business (97 percent) than those from the lodging (90 percent), health care (84 percent) and foodservice (81 percent) industries.

What’s most important to them when purchasing cleaning products is the impact on the environment (31 percent) compared to 16 percent for the foodservice industry and 13 percent for health care.

Ease of use (31 percent) is also more important for the commercial industry than it is for the health care (18 percent), lodging (18 percent) and foodservice (18 percent) industries.

Respondents from the foodservice industry, which includes grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and school cafeterias, along with the lodging industry, are more likely to mention government certifications as a factor they consider when deciding if a product is respectful of the environment — 25 percent as compared to those in the commercial cleaning (19 percent) and health-care (13 percent) industries.

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5 thoughts on “Sustainability Efforts Derailed by Lack of Credible Data

  1. With well under half of the businesses surveyed working without sustainability guidelines, it makes sense to see so many companies confused about how to implement green practices in their organization. Parent companies need to work hire full-time sustainability employees or contract outside professionals to develop clear policies for their businesses to follow.

  2. Paths towards sustainability can be found most swift and accurate with creative use of Social Media tools. In-house social network type communications can foster comprehensive sustainability measures.

  3. It makes sense that people are confused about “what it means to be green.” We’re impatient for easy answers and it’s usually more complex. But if a “perceived lack of information” is stopping people from trying that is just a poor excuse. People need to do a little research for their industries. Collect your own data! If the answers were simple there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

  4. There are so many easy ways for businesses to develop their environmental competitiveness and build knowledge of the new markets in which they may wish to participate. One, for example, is for the CFO to require that procurement only takes place on provision by the seller of a carbon footprint (and perhaps also a water footprint) of the goods or service that are being sought. When companies start finding that they can purchase eco-superior products items with significant cost reductions and significant CO2 reductions they may begin to realise the lost opportunities that had been waiting for them. Once the lower-cost lower-carbon lower-water begin infiltrating an organisation (through procurement) the organisation will find that many new types of eco-intelligence begin to develop. It is through that development of eco-intelligence, which informs high-impact competitive positioning and business transformation that the company can break out of the lethargic markets.

  5. The sustainability in this article deals with internal sustainable items not sustainability beyond the everyday operations into the future. It address’ industry % of sustainability, a good approach. Industry needs guidence, inovative outlooks and technology deployments, especially with hazardous wastes.

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