Green Clean: How OEMs Can Help Brands Build a Sustainable Future

Green Clean: How OEMs Can Help Brands Build a Sustainable Future

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on sustainability and ethics within the cleaning products industry. Consumers are becoming more concerned about the environmental and social impact of the products they use in their homes, and brands are feeling increasing pressure to offer greener and more ethical options. This has led to a major shift as manufacturers work to make their supply chains, ingredients, and practices more sustainable.

Many leading cleaning brands have announced commitments to use more plant-based ingredients, reduce plastic packaging, and disclose their formulas. There is also greater attention being paid to responsible and ethical sourcing of raw materials. Consumers want assurance that products are not contributing to environmental destruction or human rights violations in their production. Brands that have obtained sustainability certifications and can demonstrate transparency around their practices often have a competitive edge.

For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that supply ingredients, formulations and packaging to cleaning brands, this focus on sustainability provides both opportunities and challenges. On one hand, brands are actively seeking partners that can help them meet goals around eco-friendlier products. On the other hand, OEMs must adapt their own operations and offerings to align with the changing market. There is now an expectation that manufacturers across the supply chain employ greener chemistries and processes.

Ethical Sourcing

Ethical sourcing of raw materials is a critical part of sustainability in cleaning product manufacturing. Brands should partner with suppliers and manufacturers that demonstrate ethical practices in their sourcing. This includes ensuring fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and environmentally responsible methods for obtaining raw materials.

Some key considerations for ethical sourcing include:

  • Worker rights and fair wages – Suppliers should compensate workers fairly and ensure safe, equitable working conditions. Child labor, forced labor, discrimination, and other unethical practices should be prohibited.
  • Environmental impact – Raw material extraction and harvesting methods should be sustainable and minimize ecosystem disruption. Deforestation, overfishing, excessive water use, and pollution should be avoided.
  • Local community engagement – Manufacturers should respect indigenous communities and ensure their practices do not infringe upon local cultures or livelihoods. Engaging with local communities helps promote sustainable harvesting.
  • Traceability and transparency – Brands should be able to trace the origins of raw materials at every step of the supply chain. Transparency builds trust with consumers concerned about ethics.
  • Certifications – Choosing certified suppliers, such as Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance, helps validate responsible and ethical practices. These certifications should be verified through audits.

Ethical sourcing takes dedication, oversight, and partnership between brands, manufacturers, and suppliers. By making it a priority, cleaning product companies can meet sustainability goals while supporting ethical business practices. Consumers are increasingly concerned about these issues as well.

Manufacturing Processes

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) play a crucial role in enabling brands to meet sustainability goals through responsible manufacturing practices. This starts with efficient, low-waste manufacturing processes.

OEMs can implement lean manufacturing principles to minimize waste at every stage. Optimizing workflows, reducing overproduction, and eliminating defects reduces material and energy usage. Investing in modern, automated equipment also boosts efficiency. For example, advanced robotic systems can precision-apply adhesives, reducing waste.

Sustainability should be considered at the product design phase. Design for manufacturing principles allow for optimized production processes. Strategies like simplifying product structures, using standardized components, and minimizing part counts streamline manufacturing.

OEMs can also help brands minimize processing steps and heat-intensive operations which consume significant energy. When possible, they should utilize methods like cold extrusion over injection molding. Energy-efficient equipment like airless drying systems should be used.

Overall, responsible manufacturing requires continuous improvement processes to drive efficiency. By working closely with brands, OEMs can implement innovative solutions to minimize waste and energy usage in production. This benefits both sustainability and the bottom line.


Sustainable packaging is a key consideration for cleaning product manufacturers looking to reduce their environmental impact. Some options brands should consider:

  • Recyclable materials: Switch from plastics to paper, cardboard, glass, and metals that can be easily recycled. Clearly label packaging as recyclable.
  • Reusable containers: Offer cleaning product refills or concentrates to allow reuse of containers. Use durable, long-lasting materials.
  • Reduced packaging: Eliminate excessive packaging by removing outer boxes, shrink wraps or extraneous inserts.
  • Compostable packaging: Use plant-based biodegradable materials like corn starch instead of plastic. Ensure proper facilities exist for composting.
  • Post-consumer recycled content: Incorporate post-consumer recycled materials into packaging when possible. Support a circular economy.
  • Ink choices: Use plant-based or low-VOC inks on packaging to reduce toxins.

The key is to holistically evaluate packaging to reduce environmental footprint. Brands should partner with OEMs to implement sustainable practices across the supply chain.

Chemicals and Ingredients

Brands today face increasing pressure to use safe, sustainable ingredients in their cleaning products. Many conventional cleaning agents contain chemicals linked to health and environmental issues, like respiratory irritation, endocrine disruption, and water pollution.

By partnering with ethical OEMs, brands can reformulate their products using plant-based, biodegradable ingredients that are safer for human health and the planet. For example, replacing petroleum-based surfactants with plant-derived surfactants made from coconut, palm kernel, or corn oils. These bio-based ingredients provide excellent cleaning performance while avoiding the ecological impacts of petrochemicals.

Brands should also avoid ingredients on “red lists” of concerning chemicals, such as parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde releasing preservatives. Opting for simpler, naturally-derived formulas helps reduce the product’s lifecycle impacts. OEMs can help identify alternative green chemistries to replace problematic ingredients while maintaining product efficacy.

In summary, partnering with OEMs committed to green chemistry principles enables brands to make their products safer and more sustainable through their ingredient choices. This protects the wellbeing of consumers, workers, and the environment.

Energy Use

A key aspect of sustainability for cleaning product manufacturers is reducing energy use and shifting to renewable energy sources. Some ways OEMs can help brands meet energy and sustainability goals include:

  • Using energy-efficient manufacturing equipment and processes. This may involve upgrades to lighting, HVAC systems, motors, compressed air systems, and more. Performing energy audits can identify opportunities for efficiency.
  • Installing on-site renewable energy like solar panels or wind turbines. Any renewable energy generated on-site reduces overall energy consumption from the grid.
  • Purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offsets for any remaining energy use. This supports renewable energy financially.
  • Shifting to cleaner sources like natural gas or biofuels versus coal or oil where possible. This reduces carbon emissions.
  • Optimizing energy use through automation, scheduling, and maintenance. Strategies like running equipment during off-peak hours can improve efficiency.
  • Tracking energy performance with smart metering and monitoring systems. This enables better optimization over time.
  • Pursuing ISO 50001 certification for energy management systems. This provides a framework to continually improve energy efficiency.

The shift to renewable energy and optimized energy use in manufacturing helps brands meet sustainability goals and reduce their carbon footprint. OEMs can provide expertise and solutions to help make progress in this important area.

Water Conservation

Reducing water usage in manufacturing cleaning products is an important part of achieving sustainability goals. Manufacturers can implement various strategies to lower their water footprint:

  • Use closed-loop water recycling systems to treat and reuse process water multiple times before discharging. This significantly cuts down on the amount of freshwater needed.
  • Install low-flow faucets, toilets, and showers in facilities to reduce water use.
  • Capture rainwater runoff and repurpose it for cleaning or landscaping needs.
  • Switch to water-efficient machines and equipment in production. Upgrade to high-pressure low-flow spray nozzles, pumps, boilers etc.
  • Improve monitoring and leak detection systems to identify water losses early. A small leak can waste thousands of gallons over time if undetected.
  • Optimize water use in cleaning procedures. Use dry cleaning methods first before rinsing with water.
  • Educate employees on water conservation best practices. Encourage them to report leaks, turn off faucets, and avoid unnecessary water use.
  • Work with local water authorities to access rebates and incentives for improving water efficiency.

Following these strategies can significantly reduce the water footprint of a cleaning product manufacturing facility. This benefits the environment and saves on utility costs over time as well. It’s a win-win sustainability measure.

Waste and Recycling

Responsible waste disposal and recycling practices should be a top priority for cleaning product manufacturers aiming to improve sustainability. There are several ways brands can reduce waste and increase recycling in manufacturing:

  • Audit waste streams to identify top sources of waste, then implement reduction strategies. Look for opportunities to eliminate excess packaging, reuse materials, or repurpose waste.
  • Partner with waste management companies to ensure proper disposal and recycling of all waste. Hazardous ingredients should be handled by licensed facilities.
  • Implement on-site recycling programs, providing clearly labeled bins, pickups, and employee education. Target paper, plastics, electronics, pallets, and other recyclables.
  • Compost food waste, yard trimmings, and other organic materials if possible. Compost can be used on-site or donated to community gardens.
  • Donate excess raw materials or unsold finished products to organizations that can reuse them. For example, donate cleaning products to charities.
  • Consider waste-to-energy conversion for non-recyclable waste. This involves safely incinerating waste to generate electricity.
  • Look for ways to incorporate recycled materials into packaging and products. Post-consumer recycled plastics, paper, and glass are examples.
  • Commit to continuous improvement by analyzing waste data and implementing employee engagement programs around recycling and waste reduction.

With strategic planning and execution, brands can significantly reduce their environmental impact through responsible waste and recycling practices in manufacturing. This requires an organization-wide commitment and investment in sustainable operations.


Reducing transportation emissions is an important part of building an ethical and sustainable cleaning products supply chain. Manufacturers should aim to use lower-emission transportation methods whenever possible.

Some ways OEMs can help brands meet transportation-related sustainability goals include:

  • Prioritizing shipping by rail or boat instead of truck or air freight. Rail and sea shipping have significantly lower carbon emissions per ton of freight.
  • Consolidating shipments and optimizing logistics networks to reduce overall miles traveled. With careful planning, manufacturers can transport more goods in each shipment.
  • Investing in newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles like hybrid trucks. As technology improves, switching to greener transportation options reduces fuel use and emissions.
  • Using biofuels and renewable diesel blends to power delivery vehicles. These cleaner-burning fuels emit less CO2 compared to conventional diesel.
  • Offsetting remaining emissions through carbon credit purchases. While offsetting is less ideal than direct reductions, it helps address unavoidable emissions.
  • Providing incentives for carriers with electric or low-emission fleets. Partnering with greener transportation providers encourages further adoption of sustainable vehicles.

By making transportation emissions a priority, OEMs enable brands to meet stakeholder demands for reduced carbon footprints. Lower-impact logistics is an important component of ethical and eco-friendly operations.


Sustainability and ethics should be top priorities for cleaning product manufacturers. By implementing responsible sourcing, manufacturing processes, packaging, ingredients, energy use, water conservation, waste management, and transportation practices, brands can significantly reduce their environmental impact.

Key steps manufacturers can take include:

  • Source raw materials and ingredients ethically and sustainably. This may involve partnering with suppliers who use fair labor practices and environmentally-friendly farming.
  • Optimize manufacturing facilities and processes for energy and water efficiency. Use renewable energy sources when possible.
  • Choose recyclable, compostable, or reusable packaging materials. Avoid excess packaging.
  • Formulate products using naturally-derived, biodegradable ingredients whenever feasible. Avoid toxic chemicals.
  • Reuse, recycle, and compost waste within manufacturing facilities. Work towards zero waste.
  • Use transportation modes with low emissions, like trains or ships. Optimize logistics networks.

By taking a holistic approach across their operations and supply chains, cleaning product manufacturers can significantly reduce their ecological footprints while operating ethically. This benefits both the environment and brand reputations. Sustainability must remain an ongoing commitment, not a one-time initiative.

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