Brand View: Diversey Care

Why food safety and hygiene needs to be taken seriously

Dr Ilham Kadri says there is a ‘crisis in clean’ in industry, which needs to be recognised at the CEO level.
Dr Ilham Kadri says there is a ‘crisis in clean’ in industry, which needs to be recognised at the CEO level.

Dr Ilham Kadri, president of the Diversey Care division of Sealed Air, recommends viewing the company’s ‘You Care’ video, which sees a schoolgirl explain to her classmates that her father — a cleaning industry professional — is a hero.

“We want to restore pride in the job of cleaning and to restore the ‘value of clean’,” she says. “To create heroes. We see a person who is cleaning our toilets, but not someone who is saving our lives and protecting our kids.
“But that’s what cleaning is doing. Stopping diseases, from the flu to Ebola.”

And she has the facts to back up her claims. “One in six Americans suffers from food poisoning each year. And the US has the most sophisticated hygiene standards in the world. There is no statistic in ME or Africa, but I can tell you it will be even higher here.”

Kadri and her colleague Somer Gundogdu, Sealed Air’s vice president for Africa, Middle East and Turkey, tell Hotelier Middle East it’s unfortunate that some organisations have to suffer a health crisis before they truly understand the value of clean. “No one would casually reduce their hygiene spend if they knew the risks,” says Gundogdu.

“In reality every day there’s a crisis in clean — directly or indirectly, though it’s often invisible. And it’s a CEO-level problem,” adds Kadri.

“The protection of guests, of revenues and of the brand is the duty of the CEO.

“They don’t want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for the wrong reasons.”

Sealed Air is making its mission to decommoditise cleaning away from a function that is subject to cost and corner cutting. And to get itself fit for that challenge, the company — best known for its packaging and detergent merchandise — is transforming itself. Like Uber with taxis or Nespresso with coffee, Kadri says. “In the past our mantra was: ‘Our products protect your products.’ But we believe we can do better than that. Our vision is for a better way of life, creating a healthier and cleaner future.

“So we’re becoming a knowledge company — and it’s all about outcomes. How we can make our customers win. What we’re selling is increased food shelf life, food safety, labour productivity, damage control etc.”

There are three pillars to the company’s strategy: sustainability; the ‘Internet of Clean’; and robotics.

There’s a big demand for automation in the Middle East, Kadri says, as facilities managers seek new ways to optimise cleaning — to reduce the human factor and margin for error as well as to ensure that the job is done consistently.

Gundogdu believes that emerging markets, such as the Middle East, will be the launch pad for many of Sealed Air’s innovations and the driver of much of its growth. The “visionary environment” of the UAE is one of the key trial countries for the launch of its Intellibot robotic cleaners, for example.

But how does that square with the company’s ambition to make heroes of human cleaning professionals, if at the same time, it is creating an army of robot cleaners?

“Robots won’t replace human beings,” promises Kadri, pointing to her experience of the automotive sector.

“That industry now employs many more people than it did 10 or 20 years ago. Robotisation actually helped the industry to employ better people and achieve improved staff retention.

“Very few people ever dream of becoming a cleaner. But if you build a curriculum for the industry, you will see cleaners stay and seek to grow. It will make cleaners smarter in their jobs, and bring more added value to the work. By introducing technology, we will have more educated, responsible and loyal cleaners.”

Sealed Air is a founding member of the Hygieia Network — a women’s forum dedicated to the advancement and retention of female professionals within the global cleaning industry — and Kadri is its inaugural chairwoman. “There are lots of women in the industry, and it can be tough for them. So we wanted to do something to advance and empower women at the bottom [of the ladder]. Hygieia will not celebrate leaders but the cleaners, and hopefully that will build the pride in the job.

“Hygieia was the Greek goddess of hygiene, cleaning and health,” says Kadri. “The Greeks made the connection between cleaning and health.”

And Gundogdu promises: “Everyone will have that lightbulb moment one day.”

When they do, they will stop thinking of cleaning as something to be minimised at the first sign of financial pressure.

Which is not to say that business leaders should endure inefficiencies in their cleaning regimens. “But we should talk of total cost of ownership, not price per litre,” insists Kadri.

“For example, if the cost of cleaning chemicals is 2%, and the cost of cleaning labour is 80%, my question to the customer is: “Do you want to me to save you 10% of 2% or 10% of 80%?” she concludes.

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