Identifying eco-friendly cleaning products

The decision making process when it comes to purchasing cleaning products is mostly driven by product performance, price, brand, and ease of use.

Environmental impact usually features lower down on the list although eco cleaning minimizes health risks to employees and consumers, reduces pollutants in the environment and impacts a business’ ecological footprint.

“The pandemic brought with it a dramatic increase in the demand for cleaning products and unfortunately with it, some dodgy products ending up on retail shelves,” says Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning products manufacturer Industroclean.

This resulted in the South African Bureau of Standards publishing amendments to the national standard, SANS 490 specifying the requirements for all alcohol-based hand sanitizers and hand rubs.

The Department of Trade and Industry also published an amendment of the Compulsory Specification for Chemical Disinfectants (VC 8054) which came into effect in October 2020.

“Every industry has the responsibility to ensure that safety, health, environmental and quality standards are adhered to,” adds Corder.

This influences not only the success of the business, but also has an effect on the people they employ and the environmental and sustainable targets which must be met.

Switching to using eco-friendly cleaning products is an easy way to counter the harm being done to the environment since these products are safe, biodegradable, non-toxic and made with sustainable packaging.

Green cleaning is however still mostly considered to be expensive and difficult to achieve and, in an effort to have their products selected above others’, manufacturers might include terms such as “environmentally friendly”, “eco safe”, or “green” to their labels. Consumers should therefore be careful in how they interpret these general claims.

Corder explains that this is why, back in 2015, they partnered with Eco-Choice Africa, the continent’s first consumer-goods focused ecolabel and a member of the Global Ecolabel Network (GEN).

This international body monitors and represents ecolabels globally and licenced products are internationally recognised allowing export and trade in any country that is a member of GEN.

The Eco-Choice Ecolabel Standard specifies environmental performance requirements of general purpose and laundry cleaning products and complies with ISO14024. The standard seeks to define good environmental performance benchmarks for a wide range of cleaning products.

Ecolabels are a good tool to help purchasers quickly and easily identify products that are “greener”. 

The overall goal of environmental labels and declarations is the communication of verifiable and accurate information which is not misleading on environmental aspects of products and services.

The Eco-choice Ecolabel Standard identifies environmental, quality, regulatory and social performance criteria that products sold on the South African market can meet in in order to be considered as good “environment practice”.

Environmental performance criteria include energy use, water use, waste, procurement, awareness programmes and Ethical Trading requirements and evidence of conformance includes audit methodology, suitable sources and laboratory testing. Being certified with Eco-Choice guarantees that products do not contain any prohibited substances.

“As the world becomes more environment conscious, suppliers are being scrutinised more closely, which is why we strive to introduce products and systems that have a low overall environmental impact,” Corder adds.  Raw materials used in the manufacturing of a chemical is therefore an important consideration.

Manufacturers of detergents should make an effort to adapt to market trends that lend themselves to sustainable cleaning practices.  

“Visiting international trade shows and partnering with international suppliers enable us to gather insights into such trends and initiatives that are beneficial to the local market,” Corder concludes.


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