If human-manufactured insect pheromones are dispensed into the air in a building, they confuse male insects and keep them from finding females. The result? No baby insects.
“If he can’t find her, we are controlling pests without using pesticides,” said Erez Mizrahi, vice president professional and environment consultant for ISS’s pest control division.
This is one of several ways that ISS, Israel’s largest cleaning, security and maintenance service company, is using technology to make what have traditionally been the most environmentally-unfriendly services into service that will not have a negative impact on the environment. A number of the technologies used by different departments of ISS were on display at an event in Tel Aviv on Feb. 2.
ISS Israel Group is part of the global ISS Group, which was founded in Denmark in 1901. The company has more than 500,000 employees in 53 countries, with 13,000 in Israel.
ISS offers many types of services, including cleaning, catering, facility management, pest control, maintenance, electronic protection, and landscaping, said Eitzik Sabag, country manager of ISS Israel.
ISS Israel takes pride in its employment policies; According to Sabag, the company’s blue-collar workers at ISS start off being paid minimum wage, but they’re able to work their way up in both wage and benefits, such as additional days off. They receive pensions and vacation days.
Some employees who start working at ISS Israel don’t know Hebrew, so the company provides language courses for them, Sabag said. Many employees also receive computer training, and on average, employees stay with the company three or three-and-a-half years.
“Our goal is to treat them with honor and a lot of respect,” Sabag said.
The company seeks to follow “HSE” guidelines — health, safety and environmental standards developed by the UK’s independent safety watchdog organization. ISS provides shoes and other protective equipment workers need, records all accidents and makes sure work sites and standards are uniform.
The company’s pest control division has a number of strategies that allow workers to kill bugs, without hurting the environment — or themselves. Employees inspect and monitor for pests first, discovering exactly where they nest, and only then using chemicals for a very targeted attack that leaves as little residue as possible. In addition to being a healthier way of doing things, with fewer chemicals used to deal with infestations, the system also allows technicians to catch pest problems before they are out of control.
“This gives you the opportunity to know where your problem is and get your actions very targeted,” Mizrahi said. “It doesn’t affect the environment as much.”
Cockroaches, the bane of catering halls, restaurants, and other food-oriented venues, are taken care of by workers planting a small amount of pesticide-treated food, which kills a pest. Then, when other cockroaches eat the body or stools of the dead roach (they do that), the other roaches are killed as well, without the need for large amounts of pesticide. This only works when technicians monitor for pests and know where they are, Mizrahi said.
Part of using more environmentally-friendly methods involves changing workers’ mindsets, said Shai Dror, an executive in ISS Israel’s pest department. “Corrective action doesn’t have to be spraying and fumigating,” said Dror. “It could be cleaning and sanitizing.”
Another service area at ISS that has sought greener techniques is its cleaning division, which provides workers for cleaning offices, factories, institutions, etc. Cleaning is a dirty job, as well as a messy one; among the problems that can arise during cleaning “missions” is a lack of compatible equipment (i.e., when a broom is too big or small for a worker), mops that trail dirt, or strong chemicals such as bleach that leave behind unpleasant smells.
To solve these issues, ISS uses microfiber mops. The mops adjust to fit each employee’s height, making bending low to clean the floor or climbing on chairs to clean the tops of mirrors unnecessary. “You won’t have a pain in your back,” said Rafi Zemach, CEO of the ISS southern cleaning division. “All the equipment adjusts for your height.”
The mops’ fiber is manufactured to pick up grime without the use of chemicals. Before discovering microfiber mops, ISS would need 6,500 four-liter bottles of bleach each month to take care of its Israeli clients. Now, the company uses much less, said Zemach. In addition ISS employees take portable washing machines to each site to clean mop pads, he said.
ISS has some other tricks to ensure safety and efficiency — such as having workers use different colored cloths to help differentiate between those used for bathroom cleaning and those used for jobs in other rooms. And the cleaning chemicals that ISS does use are tested with Ecolabel standards to measure their environmental effects.
ISS would probably lay out less money if it used the “standard” methods and materials associated with cleaning, pest control, and the like,said Zemach, but the system has its own benefits; it saves ISS employees time and is better for the environment, an important value for ISS, Zemach said.
And as important as it is to ISS that these methods improve the efficiency of a job, the effect on workers is important as well, Zemach said. “The worker will be much more safe, happy and healthy,” he said. “They will not go home in pain or sick.”
This translates into a job that is better done, said Eliad Hamo, manager of the cleaning excellence department for ISS Israel.
“ISS looks for an environment for healthy employees,” he said. “If you have healthy employees, they do good work and the customers are happy. It saves them time and lets them go on to another job.”
The desire to “go green” has spread to other areas of ISS, including the catering division. That division offers “Meatless Mondays,” spurred by an effort by Israeli television journalist Miki Haimovich, to reap the environmental benefits from using less meat in its meals.
Using environmentally friendly technology helps ISS stay competitive, Sabag said.
“All the world is going green,” he said. “It’s not something we discovered. We believe it’s important, because we are part of this world.”