While efficacy is the primary attribute of importance to cleaning product users, more and more buyers are demanding other innovative features alongside cleaning effectiveness.
In a recent study by Nielsen, 26 percent of respondents indicated that it was very important that a product be made of all natural ingredients, and another 24 percent said that it was very important that packaging be environmentally friendly/sustainable (compostable).1 These results are just an indicator of the fact that demand for green cleaning products is on the rise.
However, amid a rising tide of greenwashing claims, formulators who are pursuing the creation of sustainable cleaning products that boast of superior environmental and safety performance have much to gain by having their products certified by a third party. By earning a third-party ecolabel, these companies can demonstrate the credibility of their environmental claims and even reach growing markets that are actively seeking certified products.
Unique Exposure Risks
Cleaning products are somewhat unique among other consumer products in that they are released into the environment during normal use through evaporation. The same volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used to achieve cleaning efficacy, are also the ones that can present risk to human health if dermal or inhalation exposure persist. Residual product and its component VOCs are also rinsed down drains and remain on cleaned surfaces as well as application tools like sponges, rags and mops.
These factors mean that formulators should demonstrate that their products pose minimal risk to human health during regular exposure and also that products have a minimal impact on water, where they are disposed of. Cleaning product formulators can work with third party ecolabel providers to identify these risks and pinpoint sustainability programs and claims that examine the broadest possible acceptability for these products.
Ecolabels are third-party certifications whereby environmental and health claims are tested and evaluated by a third party and, once validated, result in a product and/or company earning the right to display a mark on their product/s that clearly represents that their product meets a defined environment standard.
Many cleaning product formulators are aggressively pursuing and achieving impressive environmental achievements with internal resources. So why is certification necessary? There are many benefits:
- Make your claims credible – With a growing prevalence of greenwashing (making false or unverified environmental claims), third-party ecolabels provide clearly defined standards and verification that those standards have been met.
- Gain visibility into your operation/supply chain – In many cases, the rigorous evaluation process gives you visibility into your own operations, processes and sourcing that leads to additional changes that save money and/or increase efficiency.
- Reach established buyers – Respected ecolabels are recognized and trusted by commercial buyers and consumers alike, giving your products an advantage in the marketplace.
- Position your product to help earn LEED credits and meet procurement guidelines– The selection of third-party certified products can help building owners and managers earn LEED credits for their green building certification, giving your product an advantage. Ecolabels are often required or recommended by a variety of purchasing programs, and compliant products may have greater market acceptance.
UL ECOLOGO Certification for Cleaning Products
For green cleaning products, UL ECOLOGO Certification is one possible option. ECOLOGO Certification is a voluntary, multi-attribute sustainability certification that communicates a product’s compliance with stringent environmental performance criteria throughout its life cycle, including energy reduction, materials, energy, manufacturing and operations, health and environment.
ECOLOGO Certification demonstrates that a product:
- Is not known to be toxic or harmful to humans;
- Has limited effects on aquatic life;
- Is readily biodegradable under aerobic conditions;
- Contains less than 1 percent volatile organic compounds (VOC) at ready to use concentration
- Does not contain intentionally added known carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins (including endocrine disruptors)
- Has a pH between 3 and 11
- Is provided in a concentrate format
No matter which ecolabel you choose, the important thing is to be aware of the advantages of bringing a sustainable product to market and making the most of it for your business.
- “The Dirt on Cleaning.” April 2016. [PDF]
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