Hand hygiene that’s kind to the skin, and the planet

Mike Sullivan, managing director of hand hygiene products supplier GOJO Industries – Europe writes his latest hand hygiene blog for the ECJ website.

However you receive your news – whether it’s on your smart phone or tablet, via the radio or TV, or in the pages of a good old conventional newspaper – green issues are never far from the main headlines of the day.

From alternative energy sources, to local recycling schemes, to shock stories about the amount of food both consumers and retailers waste, environmental issues are now a recognised facet of everyday life. Size doesn’t matter, because all are affected and concerned about how their behaviour or activities impact on the wider world, from the biggest global companies to individuals.

Independent analyst Verdantix predicts that spending by large UK firms on energy, environmental and sustainability initiatives is set to reach £6.8 billion by 2015.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also revealed, in a report published in July this year, that the UK’s green economy grew by nearly five per cent to £128 billion between 2011-2012, and that this sector now employs almost 940,000 people.

This encouraging development is a testament to the fact that organisation that want to survive and grow can no longer afford to pay lip service to sustainability – they must ensure that sustainability is part of everything they do, from transportation, to procurement, to energy usage, and much more.

Making greener choices in your working environment is the first step on your sustainability journey. Whilst more fundamental, far-reaching changes may need investments in time, money and technology, there are some easier, more cost effective ways to start the process.

Ensuring that effective hand hygiene products are readily available and easy to use is an important part of an employer’s duty of care, to staff, customers and visitors. Selecting products like hygienic hand rubs that encourage healthy habits, but also support green cleaning efforts, save water and reduce the impact on the environment, is therefore a smart choice.

Green products are perceived as an ethical choice, so businesses making environmental claims about their products and services must be able to substantiate them. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) gives guidance on making a good environmental claim: “Environmental claims are important for enabling consumers to make informed choices and drive business to improve the environmental performance of their products or organisation.

“But the true value of environmental claims and marketing rests on the assurance that claims are both credible to consumers and reflect a genuine benefit to the environment.”

Certification is a good way for companies to prove that their products achieve the highest environmental standards, so look for the relevant logos to check that the hand hygiene products you are buying really do live up to their claims. This is identified by the GEN number issued by credible third party organisations such as Ecolabel and UL.

The EU Ecolabel was established in 1992 in response to calls for a credible environmental labelling scheme that would be recognised throughout the European Union. Its flower logo is instantly recognisable – allowing buyers and consumers to make informed choices – and a wide range of GOJO’s soap formulations have secured this accreditation.

Products with packaging that can easily be recycled, or feature a significant amount of recycled materials in the manufacture of their refills and dispensers, will also help to further the green aims of your company. It will also reassure employees and clients that you are managing the procurement process responsibly.

For example, lightweight, recyclable PET (polyethylene terephthalate) materials offer the same strength and robustness of standard HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottles, but they use 30 per cent less materials in their manufacture. This helps GOJO to save over 250 tonnes of plastic annually in the manufacture of its refills.

Sustainability goals aim at caring for the wider community, and hand hygiene is a good partner for the cause. Effective and easy-to-use products increase the well-being of the workplace (community), and those with impeccable environmental credentials also benefit the wider world, resulting in a win-win situation.