As we mark Better Business Day, we hear from Charlie Walker, CEO of Clean for Good, about how they attempt to do business in a better way. 

‘Evening, sorry to text you but I just had to. I would firstly like to say thank you so much for the support and great news. I’m so delighted, tears in my eyes. How great for the company to look into our dedication and work ethic to give us a little gift for Christmas. I can’t thank you all enough for recognising our work’

A text from one of our cleaners working at Clean For Good (CFG) as she found out that she was going to receive an unexpected addition to her December salary.  

Clean For Good was incorporated back in 2017, and deliberately set out to be a different kind of commercial cleaning company; where cleaners don’t just survive,but thrive. We had a vision to create a business which could genuinely benefit the many, not the few.  

Was it possible? Certainly rare, unique even, in the cleaning world – which is typified by businesses owned by a small number of shareholders in which profits are extracted by the few, not shared with the many. The extraction of profits is the outworking of what is known as ‘Shareholder primacy’; the concept of making decisions which prioritise shareholder returns and wealth before considering other stakeholder needs. This concept is commonplace in the commercial cleaning world and incentivises cutting costs (which really means staff wages), squeezing supply chains, always being led by client demands for price reductions rather than your own convictions, and taking shortcuts if you can get away with it. Commercial cleaning is a ruthless market, where the trajectory is too often to the bottom, fighting on price. 

The prevailing outcome is often destructive both to the lives of workers and their families, and the planet. Staff are treated as a commodity, something that can be bought and sold on a whim without consideration of the consequences. They are a means to a better financial end, but an end in which only a few, ever, do really well. 

CFG have always strived to be different, and that includes our company structure; we have three ‘Class A’ shareholders (a church and two charities) who have ultimate control of the company and from day one our social purpose was locked into our articles of association. As a result, any decision taken by directors needs to ensure our cleaners, our suppliers, and the environment are all taken into consideration along with our financial position. 

One way in which this has impacted us is in regard to profit-sharing. In 2022-23 CFG paid their first ever corporation tax bill and were proud to do so (we were the first cleaning company to sign up to the Fair Tax Mark).  At that point, we had recouped all the original shareholder investment into CFG and had made further profits on top of that. More profits, we believed, than the business required at that time; it wasn’t huge but there was a surplus. 

We wanted to use this well, but differently, and in line with our core values. We had already written a profit-sharing policy anticipating this moment, which distributed the surplus: 50% to our cleaning team and 50% to our shareholders. The shareholders had a further option to forgo their dividend and allocate it to the cleaners’ ‘pot’.  

As a result, we made our first ever dividend payment to shareholders; a social return had been generated for many years, but here for the first time, a financial return was also realised for them. 

In turn over 30 cleaners who had worked for us during 2022-23 were eligible to receive the profit-share. The response was humbling. More than just the thank yous (as shared above), there was the overwhelming sense of being seen, of being valued, and of work being recognised. Bonuses for cleaners in the city, which we think is good news.

And so in the month of December 2023, cleaners, investors, and the public purse all felt the growing reach of CFG. The inklings of a new way, a better way, we believe, to do business in which we hope and dream many hundreds and thousands will benefit from and be impacted by, for good. 

Do you have a story to share about how you seek to do business differently? Perhaps you know of someone in your church or local community who is seeking to live out their faith and values in the way they treat their employees or structure their company. Do get in touch so we can share more stories of encouragement across the movement! 

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