While many industries will be impacted by the new green guidelines recently released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), few will be as affected as the professional cleaning industry. One reason for this is that the industry has wholeheartedly embraced green cleaning. In most cases, an environmentally preferable product is considered first, with a traditional, non-green product selected when a green alternative is not available or for some reason not cost or performance effective.
However, because the industry has jumped on the green bandwagon so enthusiastically, some of the environmental claims the industry has used to identify their products and services will need to be reexamined in light of the new FTC guidelines. Further, this will impact all parties in the industry—manufacturers, distributors, and you, the end customer—ultimately for the benefit of all.
Of the new guidelines, the first that building owners, managers, and purchasers should be aware of has to do with certification. The certifications and “seals of approval” found on the labels and marketing materials of many cleaning products, tools, and equipment fall into three categories:
- First-party certifications and seals are those that are created by the manufacturer of the product. Under the new guidelines, manufacturers must explain that the product has been “self-certified” and that this certification or seal has not been verified by an independent testing lab or similar organization. Of the three new categories, as owners, managers, and purchasers transfer to green cleaning strategies, this first-party form of certification may prove to be viewed as the least credible.
- Second-party certifications are those created by industry associations. At this time, ISSA, the leading association for the professional cleaning industry, is actively embarking on its own certification program. While this is certainly welcomed and will likely benefit the industry, products receiving such certifications will have to disclose this information, which may or may not be accepted by all purchasers of green cleaning products.
- The final category, third-party certifications, are considered the most credible. These certifications are earned after a product has been independently analyzed and meets the standards and criteria established by such organizations as green Seal, UL/Environment, and other respected enterprises.
Although it may seem easy to make a selection based on these categories—just look for a second- or, more likely, third-party seal when selecting a cleaning product—the FTC has made the process a bit more complicated.