Services & Maintenance: The Green Standard

By Dan Wagner

Published in the January 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Green. Sustainable. Environmentally preferable. For many, these buzzwords represent the principles of a new approach to facility management (FM). In this environment, facility managers (fms) concerned with sustainability have many options for implementing “green” technologies and alternatives. From water conservation to energy use reduction to waste management, fms can participate in the green revolution in many ways.

One opportunity lies in ongoing operations and maintenance, especially green cleaning. But what elements of a green cleaning program should fms look for? And how can they ensure their cleaning service providers (whether in-house or outsourced) are capable of delivering on promises and meeting organizational expectations?green cleaning facility environment CIMS Standard janitorial

The key components of a quality green cleaning program are outlined in the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and its latest addition—the CIMS-Green Building (GB) criteria. Administered by ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, CIMS offers fms a resource to ensure their service providers are committed to the principles of green and to maintaining a high performance, healthy indoor environment.

By requiring CIMS and CIMS-GB certification from a service provider—certification being applicable to both an in-house cleaning department and a contract cleaning organization—fms can be sure their facilities will be cleaned in compliance with green best practices.

Management Remains The Key

Launched in October 2009, the CIMS-GB criteria were added as the sixth dimension to the existing CIMS Standard. The CIMS Standard sets forth a management framework to assist cleaning organizations in developing and maintaining quality, customer focused organizations. Centered on five sections of best practices, CIMS outlines the key characteristics of a successful service organization and, as such, acts as a seminal benchmarking resource for fms.

The principles outlined in the original CIMS Standard, launched in October 2007, form the foundation for a green cleaning program. After all, the end goal should be to have a clean, healthy facility—especially with increased public health threats like the H1N1 flu virus. Yet, reaching this goal demands effective management.

Only those organizations committed to the principles of effective management are truly capable of servicing customers in a quality, best in class manner. And only those initially focused on effective management can move on to implementing a green cleaning program.

Whereas the original CIMS Standard sets forth key management characteristics of a quality organization, CIMS-GB criteria take it one step further to outline principles of an effective green cleaning program. Based primarily on green cleaning requirements in the LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) rating system, compliance with CIMS-GB criteria helps fms secure credits toward LEED-EBOM certification.

While the CIMS-GB criteria is largely based on specific green cleaning provisions of LEED-EBOM, its requirements exceed LEED requirements in a number of ways, allowing organizations to demonstrate commitment to sustainability. For example, while LEED-EBOM requires that 30% of chemicals meets specified green criteria, CIMS-GB specifies 60%.

Level Of Assurance

By outlining the primary management and sustainability components of a green cleaning program, CIMS-GB serves as a resource for evaluating the capabilities of cleaning service providers. And certification helps to increase confidence.

For fms who use an outsourced cleaning provider, requiring certification takes much of the work out of the prequalification and selection process. It is for this reason Steve Spencer, facilities manager at State Farm Insurance, has joined other end users like the State of Massachusetts, Region One of the General Services Administration (GSA), and the ANGRC at Andrews Air Force Base in requiring certification from their providers.

“State Farm cannot take a chance when it comes to hiring a cleaning provider,” says Spencer. “Hire the wrong company, and you face the possibility of having to re-bid the contract. Further, a poorly run company poses security concerns, risk of theft, damaged property, workers compensation involvement, and potential employee exposure to illness and injury.

“Certification greatly reduces the contractor qualification process for us,” continues Spencer. “CIMS provides the standard for making sure the contractor you hire is committed to quality and green cleaning.”

CIMS and CIMS-GB also offer benefits to fms working with in-house cleaning service providers, and certification is equally applicable to such organizations. Complying with CIMS and CIMS-GB criteria fosters improved operations and helps an in-house operation validate service and quality.

The University of Maryland (UM), College Park, department of residential facilities is the first in-house operation to achieve both CIMS and CIMS-GB certification. (Since CIMS-GB was introduced, five other in-house service providers have also been certified.)

Jeff McGee, assistant director of building services at the UM campus, notes the benefits of certification are especially important given present heightened concerns over public health issues. “The CIMS program has helped us demonstrate our value to the university and prove we provide a professional and effective service,” he says. “Further, the GB designation proves that we use sustainable practices and our primary concern remains the well-being of the students and the maintenance of a healthy environment for learning.”

As fms evaluate potential or current cleaning service providers, benchmarking and evidence of their practices can be valuable. Certification, such as the CIMS-GB standard, acts as a useful tool in determining how in-house departments or outsourced providers measure up to the organization’s needs.

Wagner, J.D., is director of facility service programs for ISSA ( He is primarily responsible for leading the association’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) & Certification Program and has published numerous articles and spoken at various conferences and seminars on CIMS, standardization, and quality management principles.

Download a free copy of CIMS and CIMS-GB criteria, as well as a benchmarking checklist, sample language to include in a Request for Proposal, and other contractor qualification documentation at