Sustainable Direct Services: Bringing Green Practices to Your Clients
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to run an office or a retail store to benefit from taking a more sustainable approach to your business. Companies that provide services inside clients' homes can also reap the rewards of greening their operations.
Entrepreneur Yvonne Anderson, a Green Business Bureau member, provides a fine example of this. Her business, Yvonne’s General Cleaning Company, has provided housekeeping services in and around New York City for more than 15 years. During that time, she’s developed a well-honed model for being green — and built her brand and business around it.
The cleaning products used inside a home can have a significant impact on its indoor air quality. Clients may have allergies to the perfumes and fragrances found in many cleaning agents. Over time, contact with the scents and chemicals found in common products can trigger a range of illnesses, from headaches to asthma. For clients with multiple chemical sensitivity, even very low levels of exposure to chemical cleaners residue can cause physical reactions.
In addition, households with children or pets may require heightened awareness of environmental concerns, because kids and animals can be particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of chemicals and pollutants. By talking about environmental health and safety expectations with clients before visiting their homes, Anderson can determine which practices and product choices will best meet their needs. This is key to assuring customer satisfaction.
“The new trend is to go green, and I believe that this will be an everlasting trend,” she says, adding that communicating with her clients has strengthened her customer base and increased demand for her services.
Resources for Sourcing Green Products
Determining a given product’s potential hazards and sourcing green products can pose a challenge to small businesses, but help is available. Online resources such as the Household Products Database provide ingredient-specific information for many standard commercial chemicals. Reading labels is fundamental to making strong product choice, too — just make sure you understand how to interpret signal and characteristic words and scrutinize any environmental claims. In some industries, certifications like the Green Seal program exist to make assessments easier.
Anderson’s business uses only natural vinegar-based cleaning products that she has personally evaluated. “We like to expose our customers to the use of natural and affordable products and encourage others to think and be green,” she says.
Beyond careful product sourcing, using eco-conscious practices while working inside clients’ homes can also help to meet their environmental expectations. Simple steps such as removing shoes or using shoe covers when entering the home can avoid introducing pollutants from the outdoors. If an activity creates dust or fumes, make sure to advise the client beforehand and to ventilate the working space appropriately.
Many direct-service industries have established regulations or best practices to ensure environmental safety (such as lead paint mitigation during renovation projects). Make sure that your staff is trained to recognize and to respond to any common concerns that appear in your industry.