The National Contract Cleaners Association (NCCA) is assisting in the process of establishing a national standard for the commercial and industrial cleaning industry, NCCA chairperson Clive Damonze says.
He says that it is necessary for the cleaning industry to adapt to the new standards set by gradually improving legislation and operational standards guidelines. He points to a new set of national cleaning standards that the NCCA, in conjunction with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the Green Building Council of South Africa, is developing for implementation within a year.
There is currently no official national commercial and industrial cleaning standard and, hence, the issue received high priority at the association’s cleaning conference, in April, which resulted in the establishment of a committee to fast-track the process of establishing guidelines in collaboration with the SABS.
The new national standards will consider various aspects of best practice in relation to cleaning operations and chemicals, water, emissions and land use. It will complement government’s medium-term strategy to provide more inclusive economic growth to establish a national best practice agenda and provide sustainable livelihoods, improved food security and land reform, besides other benefits.
“We will not reinvent the wheel, but will look at adopting existing international standards to customise and adapt to local requirements. This will fast-track the process,” Damonze adds.
Given that legislation dealing with the construction of buildings is changing, legislation dealing with the maintenance of buildings also requires changes. The NCCA is playing an important role in providing adequate input in the process,” Damonze explains.
Profit is no longer the main factor determining the success of the South African cleaning industry, as more attention is given to other factors, such as social and environmental responsibility, the association reports.
He adds that the concept of green building and green cleaning is growing in Africa, parti- cularly in South Africa, but that there still is a perception among some local cleaning service providers that environment-friendly policies are too costly. “On the contrary, environment-friendly policies can save cleaning companies money in the long term,” he says.
Meanwhile, Damonze says that there is a trend among cleaning businesses in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to standardise equipment and pro- cedures in an effort to integrate the various cleaning industries in the region and reduce costs.
To date, 11 SADC countries have introduced some form of green environmental legislation, but Damonze adds that most of these are directed at the conservation of land and wildlife, and do not cater for sustainable green cleaning policies in built-up areas.
Further, the NCCA attended the recent InterClean expo, in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, where Damonze presented a paper on African sustainability in the cleaning industry.
He says that, in line with international trends, the draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill of 2009 has two incentives that support better environmental practices. “Businesses will be able to cut their tax bill by reducing their carbon emissions. Further, businesses may be able to obtain deductions from income tax for energy saved, provided that they have certified proof of the resulting energy efficiencies,” Damonze says.
He points to research that found that 92% of South African businesses favour more environmental tax incentives, but that 55% of these businesses feel that meeting the requirements for these incentives is too difficult.
However, although 88% of executives, globally, feel that it is important to use the money raised through environmental taxes and regulations directly for green projects, only 31% are confident that it will happen.
Further, he notes that there are signs in the market that better-quality products, which are more environment friendly, are selling faster than less expensive products. This points to a change in human behaviour in an effort to live greener lifestyles.
Meanwhile, NCCA national secretariat Brian Tanner says that South Africa’s commercial and industrial cleaning industry is no stranger to the skills challenge. The NCCA is involved with government’s Services Sector Education and Training Authority to help deal with the skills deficit and says that, although more skilled people are now entering the market as a result of various initiatives, many employers are reluctant to voluntarily upskill their employees.
“We want to empower employers to train employees to a level that ensures that the requirements of the new standards are met. Employers can then facilitate employees’ assessment by means of an external assessor to help them gain recognised skills,” he says.
The NCCA is also calling for a national bargaining council to be established to deal with labour issues. Currently, the industrial cleaning industry has only one such council in KwaZulu-Natal, while the rest of the country makes use of a sectoral determination to act as a bargaining forum. “The establishment of a national bargaining council will smoothen industrial relations within the industry and help standardise practices across the whole industry,” Tanner concludes.