An immersion into the world of sustainable cleaning
The second North American edition of the Sustainable Cleaning Products Summit took place in New York City this summer at the Park Central Hotel, bringing together a diverse collection of individuals from throughout the detergent & cleaning product industries. With a packed schedule of eleven lecturers and two panel discussions spanning the first day, attendees were quickly immersed in knowledge that connected sustainable movements and progressions from throughout the industry. As an active listener, it became easy to make new connections and associations that would not have been possible without such an immersive experience into the expanse of a single topic.
The first half of the day was focused around the idea of Sustainability Developments, and asked the question of presenters: How are leading operators approaching sustainability, and what are their key priorities? The keynote speaker, Dr. Steve Cohen, a Professor at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, responded by explaining that “the goal of sustainability management is to use technology and human ingenuity to increase the size of the economy while reducing environmental impact.” Steve Cohen added that, “Within a decade, the definition of effective management will include sustainability management. A well-managed organization by definition will be one that ensures that physical constraints, resource costs and environmental impacts are inputs to routine decision-making.”
Dylan Beach, the Sustainability Manager of GOJO Industries elaborated further on the subject of sustainability management when he explained his idea of the importance of focusing on developing “sustainable value” within a company. For Beach, “sustainable value” is created through a company focus on sustainable goals that then, in turn, creates more loyal customers, more motivated employees, supports innovation and growth, enhances the reputation of the company, establishes entryways to new markets, and allows for greater resource efficiency. This then not only creates value for the enterprise, but also for its stakeholders, supporting a more fully sustainable and circular value system.
Green Ingredients Update
During the second portion of the day, the topic focus shifted to a Green Ingredients Update. From a panel discussion around standards that included representatives from Environmental Working Group (EWG), Green Seal, and the USDA BioPreferred Program to presentations focusing on allergens and their management in cleaning products, a wide breadth of topics was brought forward on the subject of green ingredients.
Michael Tinati of Marcom Kinetics, representing the USDA BioPreferred Program, explained how the demand for responsibly-sourced products has grown exponentially over the years, with some studies suggesting a 17% annual growth in the U.S. biobased economy from 2014 to 2016, with $459 billion contributing to the U.S. economy in 2016. David Andrews of EWG added to this be explaining how much of the audience for their list of EWG verified products are women (83%) under the age of 35 (48%), and even more specifically between the ages of 25 and 34 (33%). This begins to paint a clearer image of the audience for green products, especially in light of the buying power of Millennials and Gen Z consumers today. Sourabh Sharma of Fig or out detailed that currently, Millennials have a buying power of $600 billion and Gen Z’s of $44 million, which dramatically shifts the market focus towards sustainable products. This is especially true in light of the knowledge that 87% of Millennials and 94% of Gen Z’s believe that companies should address social and environmental issues in some fashion.
With this in mind, the conversation within the cleaning industry quickly shifts from a discussion of whether a focus on sustainability is advantageous, to how to best compete in the vastly growing market of sustainable products. It then becomes clear that by the next North American edition of the Sustainable Cleaning Products Summit, the entire landscape of the sustainable cleaning product market will have shifted in focus and may look completely different from how it did in 2019.
By Alana Hippensteele, Editor, American Cleaning & Hygiene
 Golden, J.S., Handfield, R.B., Daystar, J., and McConnell, T.E. An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry. Washington, DC: USDA BioPreferred Program: 2018 Update.