2020 Year In Review:

Advancing Clean During a Global Pandemic

In 2020, everything changed in the blink of an eye. Demand for cleaning and hygiene solutions soared to unprecedented levels. Manufacturers and distributors faced supply-chain breakdowns. Facility managers and building services contractors adopted new technology and products to fight an invisible threat. Cleaning professionals became the front line of defense and faced previously unseen risks and mounting pressure to reduce the spread of a deadly virus. Seemingly everyone sought expert advice and counsel as the latest information emerged on a daily basis. As a result, ISSA, the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide, had to be agile and pivot to meet the demands COVID-19 placed on the cleaning industry and the world at large.

Here is a look back at how each ISSA department successfully implemented new content, education, accreditation, and much more to ensure cleaning professionals had all the resources they needed to address a global pandemic and protect public health and safety.

Global Biorisk Advisory Council™ (GBAC)

In the wake of the pandemic, the need for support, training, and education for cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention grew exponentially. Thankfully, GBAC’s experts have dedicated their careers to fighting infectious agents and preparing for the worst. The team was able to successfully pivot to adapt to the global health crisis.

Early on, GBAC’s focus was primarily training for the cleaning industry and for emergency response situations that are typically dealt with face-to-face. While some trainings were adapted to virtual platforms, we recognized the need for facilities and service providers to have third-party accreditation to validate and guide their cleaning, disinfection, and infection control programs. The need was not only for reopening with confidence, but also for validation of ongoing preparedness programs.

GBAC and ISSA worked diligently to accelerate the launch of the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation Program, a performance management-based accreditation program for facilities of all types and sizes. From May through December, GBAC accredited more than 1,000 facilities including 853 hotels, 77 convention centers, 38 sports arenas, and 17 airports. Some of the accredited industry leaders include Hyatt Hotels; American Airlines’ aircraft fleet and Admirals Club lounges; NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL stadiums and arenas; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; and Chicago’s McCormick Place, the country’s largest convention center. Many other facilities around the world have achieved or are in the process of earning accreditation. View the GBAC STAR Facility Directory for a complete list.

In addition to verifying that organizations are following proper protocols and helping them reopen safely, GBAC STAR has become the way to reinforce consumer confidence that facilities are safe to patronize, as well as demonstrate to employees that their employer cares about their wellbeing.

“Changing the way the world views cleaning” has moved to a hygienic cleaning model and one that is built on a quality management systems approach. It is part of the major pivot that GBAC has made to support ISSA members and many others across the world. GBAC looks forward to accrediting and reaccrediting many more facilities in 2021.


The demand for education and training was greater than ever in 2020. Developing and delivering certification and education to understand and execute proper cleaning and disinfecting during a pandemic was top priority. ISSA leveraged community, partnerships, and programming to help everyone become effective cleaners.

Early in the pandemic, many individuals sought guidance through on-demand learning courses and we project this trend will continue. To address these needs, ISSA launched its single sign on platform in the spring to provide instant access to hundreds of courses. One such course is the GBAC Trained Technician course that has engaged tens of thousands of professionals globally since its launch in 2020. ISSA also created a COVID-19 resource page featuring infographics on cleaning and disinfecting best practices, training videos, government updates, news, and more.

ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) became even more important as organizations looked to support the wellbeing and career growth of heroic frontline cleaning professionals. Thousands participated in the Certified Custodial Technician program, a new virtual workshop series secured record attendance, and demand soared for customized onsite training.

ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) quickly pivoted from in-person assessments to virtual assessments. This shift helped hundreds of organizations remain compliant with the CIMS standard and continue to demonstrate how they can help facilities maintain safe environments.

To address the workloading and staffing challenges many organizations faced in 2020, CMI will debut the Certified Workloading Specialist virtual workshop in February. ISSA also looks forward to offering a more regional approach to in-person certification courses in over 50 locations, expanding its online learning institute, and updating the cleaning times and tasks handbook.

Some of ISSA’s divisions also saw a shift to online learning. IEHA’s popular Boot Camp Road Show and other accreditation and certification offerings shifted to became online workshops in 2020, providing continuous education to the healthcare and hospitality industries. IEHA also partnered with the acclaimed Deming Institute to deliver a three-part webinar series aimed at helping cleaning professionals achieve personal, professional, and organizational success.

ISSA’s residential cleaning arm, ARCSI, added a powerful new tool to its many benefits: ARCSI Learning, an online learning and training platform designed specifically for residential cleaning companies. Launched in October, ARCSI Learning offers residential cleaners the opportunity to achieve Professional House Cleaning (PHC) Certification by participating in a seven-module training program that helps them understand the “why” behind what they do. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically reached out to ARCSI to discuss guidance of the products and/or supporting materials that would be useful for workers conducting cleaning services. Several ARCSI representatives participated in a virtual meeting with OSHA in October, sharing with the agency the challenges cleaning service providers face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government Affairs

The increased spotlight on the cleaning industry has also brought greater visibility and interest from policymakers and regulators. The voice of the cleaning industry is now actively being sought and listened to by Congress, governors, regulators, and even the White House. The industry’s voice has never been stronger.

Though ISSA’s grassroots advocacy program is barely a year old, what it has achieved is impressive. More than 2,200 people have reached out to 3,130 elected officials more than 16,250 times through ISSA’s Action Center. The establishment of the ISSA Government Affairs Advisory Committee (GAAC) in September further helped guide and expand our advocacy efforts.

Our first main legislatives focus was to make sure the industry was deemed “essential.” In March 2020, ISSA launched its “Cleaning IS Essential” advocacy campaign urging federal, state, and local governments to recognize the cleaning industry as such. As a result, nearly all state “stay-at-home” orders designated the entire cleaning industry supply chain as essential.

Our second focus was advocating for the inclusion of a cleaning and personal protective equipment tax credit to help organizations offset cleaning and workplace safety-related costs. ISSA launched a coalition of more than 50 trade associations in support of this “reopening safely” tax credit to protect the health and safety of workers, customers, and the public. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, the Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit Act (S. 4214 and H.R. 7615).

The successes we have achieved over the last year would not have been possible without the engagement of ISSA members. From connecting us to key members of Congress, to contacting elected officials, to contributing to the new ISSA Advocacy Fund, our members’ and advocates’ support of these efforts has been critical.


As the global association for the cleaning industry, ISSA was well positioned to provide support during the pandemic. In January 2020, we offered advice for Chinese members on combatting the virus and managing employee shortages caused by travel restrictions.

International tips sheets helped facility decision makers understand what questions to ask when evaluating the latest cleaning and disinfecting technology, and the ISSA Clean Start position paper highlighted responsible cleaning tactics. In Europe, ISSA produced reports about the pandemic’s impact on the industry as well as an Innovation report to help members leverage emerging trends to remain relevant.

ISSA teams advocated for essential worker status for cleaning-related companies in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and kept members abreast of changing legislation and requirements in countries around the world.

Members stayed connected through ISSA virtual peer exchanges in Europe and the United States, sharing tips on employee safety policies, creativity in packaging during shortages, and how to sell and train virtually as shutdowns occurred. In a time where information and knowledge were key to fighting the spread of the pandemic, ISSA focused on offering a solid platform for professionals not only in cleaning but also facility management, event planning, travel, and tourism to connect and learn.

Staff from all divisions and regions helped deliver numerous training courses on topics such as: quality assurance, workloading, cleaning and disinfection, risk assessment, facility reopening, sustainability, business continuity and stabilization strategies, and new technology. This created a community of forward-looking and professional industry leaders and informed customers.. This created a community of forward-looking and professional industry leaders and informed customers.

ISSA Charities

Our three signature ISSA Charities include Cleaning for a Reason®, which partners with residential cleaning companies to provide cancer patients with free home cleanings; ISSA Hygieia Network, an organization dedicated to advancing and retaining women in the cleaning industry; and ISSA Scholars, which provides scholarship and internship opportunities within the industry for students.

When cancer makes life at home difficult, Cleaning for a Reason’s trusted network of residential cleaners, cleaning industry volunteers, and community volunteers come together to support cancer patients and their families. Ahead of the ISSA Show North America Virtual Experience 2020, the nonprofit launched its revamped branding and website.

ISSA Hygieia Network, dedicated to advancing and retaining women in the cleaning industry, started out the year with its second in-person Networking and Leadership Conference, but quickly switched gears to virtual events in March. Hygieia Network worked tirelessly to provide numerous professional development opportunities and resources throughout the year with webinars focusing on relevant topics for working women, opening the doors to its online networking community, and partnering with other companies to offer its mentoring program to employees.

In September, ISSA Scholars announced the 47 recipients of the 2019-2020 Scholarship Awards. The total scholarships given amounted to more than US$130,000, which was made possible by the generous contributions of ISSA member companies and individuals.

On Giving Tuesday (December 1, 2020), ISSA Charities successfully raised over $35,000. Thanks to compassionate cleaning industry members, ISSA Charities is on track to continue making the world a cleaner, healthier, better place to live.


As the threat of coronavirus grew in the first months of 2020, all ISSA Media properties, including ISSA Today, Cleanfax, and Cleaning & Maintenance Management, responded immediately and then continued to address issues presented by the global pandemic to help members overcome never-before-seen challenges.

Our daily news feed on all platforms, e-newsletters, feature articles, online exclusives, and social media channels enabled ISSA members and the worldwide cleaning community to stay informed on all topics that affected them personally and professionally. The ISSA Media editorial team contributed to all ISSA assets related to the pandemic, especially the emerging GBAC initiatives, including the new GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation Program.

Multimedia became a reality during the pandemic with the launch of Straight Talk! This informative webcast program concentrated on all aspects of the global health crisis with a special focus on how ISSA and GBAC are supporting the fight against COVID-19. The program continues to highlight key issues of importance as the pandemic.

ISSA Media’s reach into the international cleaning industry goes beyond ISSA members, especially given the impact the pandemic is having on businesses and individuals around the world. In all segments of the industry, we provided what professionals at every level needed to be informed and properly respond to the pandemic, and we are committed to continuing these efforts.


In 2020, ISSA launched its new membership level program to deliver greater value for the wide variety of businesses ISSA represents. We welcomed over 1,400 new member companies, including the entire Hyatt Hotels portfolio of properties and high-profile facilities like the STAPLES Center™. Additionally, our facility service provider members more than doubled in 2020, with building service contracting organizations of all sizes joining ISSA to take advantage of our vast array of resources and expertise.

ISSA Canada, a Division of ISSA, made great strides in implementing new and meaningful benefits for our Canadian membership. By partnering with TruShield Insurance, ISSA members have insurance coverage options that are cost effective and fit the needs of most small businesses. Canadian members can now easily obtain a quote and buy insurance any time of day.

ISSA increased industry reach by partnering with the Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA), and adding 600 office products and furniture dealers, manufacturers, wholesalers, manufacturer representatives, and industry service providers across the United States to our membership. IOPFDA members now have access to educational programs, health insurance, and many other rich initiatives that are currently offered by ISSA.

Our members were at the forefront of helping change the way the world views cleaning, increasing the appreciation for cleaning as an investment in human health and the environment. The member service team will continue to be dedicated to all ISSA members across the globe as we continue to advance the cleaning industry together.

Trade Shows

One of the largest pivots of the year was the transition from face-to-face events and networking to virtual events due to increased risk and uncertainty around COVID-19. To ensure the safest possible experience for ISSA members, the industry’s most anticipated show debuted a new format and a new partner, Informa Markets, one of the leading trade show organizers in the world.

ISSA Show North America Virtual Experience ran from November 16-19, enabling participants to access educational sessions, learn about new products, and connect with peers all from the comfort of their home or office. Live and on-demand content preserved some of the in-person elements while also offering expanded opportunities. The show welcomed more than 250 exhibitors and secured more than 71,000 virtual exhibit views. The Virtual Experience provided matchmaking capabilities, thought leadership sessions, certification workshops, roundtable events, and the 11th edition of the Innovation Program, which spotlighted 18 cutting-edge products and services.

In partnership with Informa Markets, ISSA expanded the ISSA Global Shows Portfolio to new locations internationally. In late 2020, the ISSA Global Biorisk Symposium brand delivered timely infection control workshops and discussions on industry best practices virtually to audiences in China, India, and Southeast Asia.

In 2020, ISSA also hosted numerous events throughout the year to support the cleaning industry as the pandemic continued. Webinars and virtual workshops provided up-to-date information and best practices to help members overcome new challenges and position themselves as experts in the fight against COVID-19.

In 2021, we look forward to continuing to offer new ways for ISSA members to learn, connect, and grow through events, and to hosting a safe in-person ISSA Show North America in Las Vegas, November 15-18, in addition to our other global show.