by Stephen Ashkin

GOogling “the Trump effect” — which is the effect this new administration may have on a number of issues and industries — produces more than 20 million results.

Narrowing these results down a bit to how the Trump effect might impact carpet cleaning yields more than a million results. While this narrowed search reduces the number of hits quite a bit, it’s still a very large number.

To be clear, these results cover a wide range of issues and topics with every possible slant: Pro, con, and indifferent. I want to add that I never take a political stand in my career. I remain an advocate for healthier environments and greener cleaning as well as a proponent of sustainability,* regardless of politics.

However, it is undeniable that an entirely new set of cards may be on the table for many industries as a result of the recent election. This makes it hard to believe the Trump effect will not have at least some impact on the carpet care industry.

What might change?

Almost immediately the new administration removed the climate change page on the White House website. With changes like this, where does this leave carpet cleaning business owners, specifically those who have embraced green carpet cleaning strategies for their own businesses and their clients’ facilities? Taking this a step further, one might wonder about those who incorporated sustainability initiatives for their own companies as well? What will change for them?

The answer is simple: Nothing and also everything.

For now, nothing will be changing, at least not in the next six to 12 months. In fact, when it comes to the selection of environmentally preferable cleaning solutions and other products now required on the federal level — which impacts government and business purchasing decisions in this country and around the world — it may actually take a couple of years before anything changes, if it does at all.

This is because the federal government, which has been required to select green cleaning products since President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order (EO) 12873 in 1993,** has signed purchasing contracts with many jan/san and carpet cleaning chemical manufacturers and distributors that continue for another one, two or even more years. So even if the new administration were to revoke this EO, as well as similar ones signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, it would not necessarily stop the flow of environmentally preferable cleaning products to the more than 376 million square feet of space in 9,600 buildings and in more than 2,200 communities nationwide that the federal government owns or leases.

The other side of change

While it looks like the Trump effect isn’t going to change things for the professional cleaning and carpet cleaning industries right now, there’s still a question of what will change a couple of years down the road?
Let’s hypothesize that those EOs requiring the selection of environmentally preferable cleaning products are revoked and government agencies — and, by their actions, governments and businesses around the world — are no longer required to select only green cleaning products.

Agencies and other organizations may select cleaning products based primarily on effectiveness and cost. Their impact on the environment and health may no longer be a consideration, or at least not much of one. Would this spell the end of green cleaning in both professional cleaning and carpet cleaning?

Not necessarily. We must always remember that the other side of change is opportunity. A change like this can provide a chance for carpet cleaning business owners to become green leaders within the industry.

My suggestion is for owners and managers to remind, and perhaps reeducate, clients about the many benefits of using environmentally preferable cleaning solutions for carpet cleaning. One way to do this — and one that may be required when responding to a request for proposal  — is to put together a simple and brief but educational presentation.

The power of presentations

Carpet cleaners may be in for a bit of a surprise when they respond to a request for proposal in the commercial arena. The written proposal delivered to the prospect is only the first step, albeit a major one, in the bidding process. Those who make it past this step are asked to deliver a presentation about their company. This is where carpet cleaners can shine by delivering information on the positive impacts of environmentally preferable carpet cleaning.

Your presentation should include the following:

  • Allergic and asthmatic reactions among children decline with green cleaning solution use.
  • Many green carpet cleaning solutions were more costly than traditional cleaning solutions 10 years ago, but this is no longer the case.
  • School attendance goes up when environmentally preferable cleaning products are used, translating into a better education for children.
  • Studies show the same positive results on office workers and staff employed across settings.
  • Be proud and proactive

Overall, the professional carpet and cleaning industries should be proud of the green cleaning and sustainability movements they helped promote. Over the years, we have helped to remove some of the most toxic ingredients found in cleaning solutions, become much more conscious of reducing waste, and promoted reuse and recycling initiatives.
Discuss the steps your company has taken in the name of sustainability — for instance, providing competitive wages, health insurance, and retirement plans. Over the years, many segments of the cleaning industry have overlooked the necessity of taking these steps. But doing so benefits everyone including the employer. It’s easier to attract and retain good workers with these benefits.

The green and sustainability initiatives you have implemented give  your firm the opportunity to stand out among your peers. Those owners and managers that put most of their marketing focus on how cost-effective their service is may be left in the dust of the others who put their marketing emphasis on the health of building users and our planet.

I also suggest that carpet cleaning business owners get involved with Earth Day, which occurs April 22 each year. Many in the professional cleaning industry take advantage of this important day to show their support for health and the environment and to promote green cleaning and the use of green cleaning products. I would like to see more carpet cleaning technicians do the same.

If we want the green movement to endure whatever the political climate may be, we need more representatives from the carpet cleaning industry to step forward and promote the value of environmentally preferable cleaning and sustainability. Whether or not there is a Trump effect on our industry, it is the people who see change as an opportunity who are most likely to become the industry’s leaders of tomorrow.

* Sustainability’s meaning has evolved. Originally it meant using natural resources to ensure availability for future generations. Today, it refers to the three pillars: Protecting the planet, protecting people, and ensuring business profits.

** This EO focuses on waste prevention and recycling in the daily operations of federal facilities and promotes green procurement. These EOs require selection of environmentally preferable products but allow agencies to select traditional products if a green alternative is not available, not effective or cost prohibitive.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for sustainability. He is also CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, Inc., which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is the coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies