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CSSA’s 2011 Sustainability Survey

The aim of this survey and report is to describe and analyse the sustainability priorities of the UK cleaning industry in Spring 2011. The information contained within this survey will be used to guide the future sustainability work of the CSSA, the leading industry trade body for contract cleaning in the United Kingdom.

This survey was undertaken online using the Survey Monkey website. The survey was open between 17th

March 2011 and 31st March

2011*. The survey was promoted to CSSA members by email and also via a number of cleaning industry specific LinkedIn groups.

Geography of Respondents Nearly three quarters of respondents came from the UK, with nearly one quarter coming from outside the EU and less than 5% from other EU countries, not including the UK.

Main Business of Respondents Just over half the respondents supplied cleaning or other services as their main line of business. The remainder were suppliers to the cleaning industry of chemicals, machinery, disposables or ancillary services.

Sustainability Priorities

of Respondents Respondents showed a clear preference for environmental issues when asked about their sustainability priorities. 57% said that the environment was the most important issue, with one third saying that business profitability was the most important and less than 10% seeing social issues as being the most important.

Analysis Respondents were asked to list their top three

environmental priorities, their top three social priorities and their top three business profitability priorities.

The survey results reveal a number of significant findings about the views of the cleaning industry with regard to sustainability.

Overall Priorities Perhaps the most startling finding is the low priority placed on social issues by the respondents. Less than 10% of respondents said that social issues were the most important sustainability issue. This would appear counter intuitive given that people issues are extremely important in the cleaning world. Cleaning is a personally delivered service, staffing accounts for some 75% of industry costs and there is worldwide concern about wage levels and employment practices in the industry.

The reason for the low priority placed on social issues is not immediately clear. However, there are two perspectives that may shed some light. The first is that environmentalism has become synonymous with sustainability. The green lobby has invested a lot of time and effort keeping the focus on environmental issues as the key component of sustainability. But social issues are equally as important too and there is a role for the CSSA in ensuring that the social side of sustainability receives due recognition.

Secondly, managing large numbers of relatively low paid people efficiently and effectively is a key differentiator of successful cleaning businesses. As a result, many may not see the excellent work that they do in reducing staff churn and asking for improved wages as sustainability, but rather as simply

SUSTAINABILITY 40 | TOMORROW’S CLEANING | The future of our cleaning industry

The sustainability priorities of the cleaning industry.

part of good management. There may therefore also be a role for the CSSA in improving the cleaning sector’s understanding of sustainability, so that they see good personnel management as part of the sustainability package, and not separate.

Click the tabs to the right to find out more about each sector, along with full graph representation.

Conclusion With regard to the future work of the CSSA, there are a number of conclusions that need to be drawn.

• The CSSA needs to stress the social side of sustainability, as it is not yet receiving the attention it should from the cleaning industry;

• The CSSA should continue to promote programmes to help members reduce their consumption of water, chemicals and energy, and also look at waste minimisation;

• The CSSA should continue to promote the improvements in employment terms, training and skills and the improvement of health and safety performance

• The CSSA should assist members to maintain good relations with their clients, to work to identify profitable additional services and give assistance on pricing issues (within the boundaries of Competition Law)

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