2021 Year In Review:

Helping the Cleaning Industry Find the New Normal

2021 was a roller coaster ride that brought highs and lows due to the pandemic. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines brought hope, while the reemergence of mask mandates and multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants felt like two steps backward after one step forward. Through it all, ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, stayed knowledgeable on all the pandemic health concerns and demands, continued to advocate on Capitol Hill for the cleaning industry, and focused on developing content, education, and events to address the ever-changing climate and assist the industry in finding its way to a new normal.

Here is a look back at how each ISSA department and division successfully implemented new member benefits, video content, in-person events, education, and much more to ensure cleaning professionals had all the knowledge and resources they needed to continue to protect public health and safety.

Global Biorisk Advisory Council™ (GBAC)

The momentum continued for GBAC in 2021 with 42 service providers earning accreditation, seven destinations committing to GBAC STAR™, and six manufacturers achieving the GBAC STAR™ Registered Seal for their technologies and programs. Additionally, 980 facilities earned GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation for the first time.

Several of these newly accredited facilities included John F. Kennedy International Airport and the entire Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the Italian Exhibition Group; Resorts World Las Vegas; and the United Center in Chicago, the largest arena in the U.S. Plus, more than 83% committed to re-accreditation in the new year. Together, these GBAC programs make communities around the world cleaner and safer, and we look forward to bringing more facilities, cleaning providers, destinations, technologies, programs, and events on board in 2022.

In 2021, we launched four new accreditation programs:

  • GBAC STAR™ Service Accreditation for cleaning service providers to demonstrate their commitment to cleaning for health
  • GBAC STAR™ Destination, which empowers businesses and public facilities within a community to establish and maintain a comprehensive system of cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention through GBAC STAR™ Facility or Service accreditation
  • GBAC STAR™ Registered Technology and Programs, which enables manufacturers and other companies to have their cleaning, infectious diseases prevention, or similar type of technology or program earn the GBAC STAR™ Registered Seal
  • GBAC STAR™ Event, which means the event has met specific health and safety criteria, including hosted in a facility that has earned GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation and utilizing a cleaning contractor that has GBAC STAR Service Accreditation

As part of its commitment to being on the forefront of today’s and tomorrow’s biorisks, GBAC also kept the industry updated on the latest developments related to the pandemic with GBACtv and the launch of the GBAC STAR Report. GBACtv provides on-demand access to webcasts featuring educational content about issues affecting public health and safety. Meanwhile, GBAC STAR Report is a monthly e-newsletter featuring unique GBAC-related content for all professionals interested in staying current on infection prevention and control.

GBAC also provided instrumental training through GBAC Academy. The Academy’s online learning portal is designed for professionals who want to prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats in the workplace. A new course, “Infectious Disease Awareness in the Workplace: COVID-19 Considerations,” launched in December to reinforce infectious disease awareness and the important role that cleaning for health plays.

The pandemic has demonstrated the strong need for proper cleaning and hygiene in our communities and facilities. GBAC’s accreditation programs, resources, training, and education support cleaning industry professionals.


Providing access to education is essential for the industry to grow and evolve. In 2021, ISSA published an updated edition of the official ISSA Cleaning Times and Tasks book which sold nearly 3,000 copies! This popular publication is a collaborative effort with ISSA members, and the revised version contains new sections on pandemic cleaning times, new technology times, cleaning times by industry segment, and a new vocabulary section.

ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) launched the CMI Certified Workloading Specialist Online Workshop, which secured 150+ attendees. Version 7 of the CMI Certified Custodial Technician was developed with a full redesign and update to every section and features advanced disinfection and “The Built Environment,” which explores and explains the differences within the built environment that a custodial technician may encounter within their career. Looking ahead, CMI will release Version 7 of the CMI Certified Custodial Technician as an online course later in 2022.

Additionally, ISSA developed regional training and certification programs in partnership with Sunbelt Rentals to ease the pain of travel restrictions and ensure learning could safely take place.

ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) continued to focus on the validation of quality systems/operations with a large increase in building service contractors obtaining CIMS to support their customers. In 2021, 166 organizations achieved CIMS certification.

Lastly, ISSA began shifting its communications away from COVID-19 response to dealing with the new normal of living during a pandemic. This new phase has its own set of challenges, like labor shortages, supply chain complications, rising costs of doing business, and heightened expectations around cleanliness. ISSA focused on educating members around the standardization of processes and relaunching in-person workshops and training as cases of COVID-19 lessened and restrictions lifted.

Government Affairs

The increased spotlight on the cleaning industry since 2020 has 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.

Healthy Workplace Tax Credit Introduced in Congress – In March, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Healthy Workplaces Act, which would create a Healthy Workplace Tax Credit to help businesses provide a safe and sanitary environment for their workers and customers. U.S. Representatives Tom Rice (R-SC), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced companion legislation. ISSA is leading a coalition of more than 50 trade associations to pass this bipartisan and commonsense policy. As of December 2021, the bill is still being considered. ISSA is also supporting targeted relief for smaller businesses that would cover cleaning related expenses.

EPA Expands Safer Choice Program – Late in the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will restore its Safer Choice program, as well as add new product categories, identify additional safer chemicals for use in products, and update and strengthen its standards. In June of 2021, ISSA signed on to a letter to Congress expressing dedicated support for the EPA’s Safer Choice program. ISSA is proud of this success and will continue to advocate for a strong and robust Safer Choice program.

House Passage of Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 – On December 8, the House of Representatives passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 by a vote of 364-60. In August 2021, Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA-3) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD-at-large) introduced this bipartisan legislation that would update the Shipping Act to recognize the significant changes to the international maritime transportation system of the past two decades. ISSA strongly supported the bill.

National Cleaning Week – National Cleaning Week (March 28-April 3, 2021) was officially introduced in Congress by Representative Darin LaHood and proclaimed by the governors of Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, as well as the mayor of Chicago.

ISSA Clean Advocacy Summit – During National Cleaning Week, ISSA hosted the industry’s inaugural virtual “fly-in,” the Clean Advocacy Summit. More than 100 Advocates for Clean participated in the event, representing the entire cleaning supply chain. Advocates from more than 20 states met with nearly 50 congressional offices over the course of the two-and-a-half-day event to encourage policies impacting the industry.

Strength in Numbers – ISSA celebrated more than 1,000 Advocates for Clean. Advocates receive the biweekly ISSA Legislative & Regulatory Update and are the first to hear about pressing legislation, compliance deadlines, ISSA advocacy events, and more. Additionally, we’ve raised nearly $65,000 from more than 50 member companies since the creation of the ISSA Advocacy Fund in 2020. These funds are being used to expand our grassroots advocacy, lobbying, coalition building, and public-relations efforts.


Like much of the world, Canada faced multiple lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, ISSA Canada continued to support its members by channeling all virtual educational opportunities and COVID-related information to the masses.

At the same time, ISSA Canada witnessed the professionalism of its manufacturer, distributor, and facility service provider members, who have helped combat the unseen enemy and keep the public safe.

Following a hiatus in 2020, ISSA Show Canada transitioned to a virtual format in 2021 and attracted more than 800 registrants. A virtual networking session provided participants an opportunity to speak with event sponsors and connect with industry peers, while the educational symposium’s seven sessions were made available on ISSA Canada’s YouTube Channel for viewing on demand.

Each year ISSA Canada recognizes and honors organizations across Canada that are committed to environmental management and the value of clean through the ISSA Canada Environmental Stewardship Awards. In 2021, the award winners included Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto; Manulife Investment Management in Montréal; and Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. Nominations for the 2022 awards are being accepted.

Looking ahead, ISSA Canada will continue to deliver virtual educational offerings to members. Additionally, plans are underway for an in-person ISSA Show Canada to be held June 8-9, 2022, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto. With a theme of “Re-Set for the New Clean,” the event will focus on educating and inspiring the industry following the transformation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Latin America:
Like many other parts of the world, Latin America’s focus in 2021 was to adapt to the new normal and recover from COVID-19-related closures. ISSA designed and provided essential tools to help its members, the cleaning industry, and the local economies.

One of these tools was the translation and expansion of GBAC STAR accreditation to the Latin America (LATAM) region. Currently, 65 convention centres, hotels, and commercial buildings in Latin America are accredited and can be easily found via the GBAC STAR Facility Directory. GBAC STAR ensures safe and healthy spaces to work, visit, and shop. The expansion of the program also creates new business opportunities for ISSA members like cleaning service providers, manufacturers, and distributors.

The GBAC Distributor Referral Program, built for active ISSA-member distributors and wholesalers, was also made available. The program incentivizes these organizations to offer GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation and GBAC Online Fundamentals Course to customers and prospects. GBAC also rolled out enhanced and new courses, including GBAC Online Fundamentals Course 2.0 and Infectious Disease Awareness in the Workplace: COVID-19 Considerations, available in Spanish.

In 2021, ISSA LATAM provided virtual training sessions for nearly 600 individuals, covering topics that helped members enhance their approach to cleaning. By partnering with manufacturers and industry experts, we were able to provide environmentally safe training in the COVID age, helping to continue to advance the knowledge and professionalism of the LATAM cleaning industry.

In September 2021, we held an onsite conference in Mexico City during Abastur and ExpoMed, an international event where members had the opportunity to network with hospitality and healthcare companies. More than 30 professionals received the tools, knowledge, and data that demonstrates the importance of establishing a professional cleaning and disinfection program.

ISSA LATAM also partnered with Conexiones 365°, a media platform that connects the hospitality, construction, and medical sectors. Using this platform, our members can gain access to new markets and educational content.

Other International News:
As the worldwide cleaning association, ISSA continued to support the industry across the globe, including Oceania, Korea, China, and Europe, Middle East & Africa, (EMEA).

ISSA Oceania focused on education and training and developed a comprehensive range of webinars and online learning programs. These sessions grew in popularity and attendance throughout 2021, with companies registering from not only across the Oceania and Asia Pacific regions, but also Canada, United States, South America, Middle East, and Europe. Additionally, as members increasingly desired to keep abreast of industry news and information, the number of INCLEAN subscribers rose. We saw a 15% increase in online subscriptions to this valuable industry magazine from professionals within the industry as well as other related fields.

ISSA expanded in EMEA with our continued partnership with Pulire, relocating our EMEA headquarters to Milan, Italy, under the leadership of Toni D’Andrea. In 2021, ISSA Pulire Network and Informa Markets launched a global show portfolio including 10 events across five continents all branded as ISSA Shows, Conferences, or Pavilions. The Global Show Portfolio added ISSA Pavilions in Mexico and China, and ISSA Conferences in India and Southeast Asia. The 2021 events successfully provided educational and networking events in a safe environment. Additional shows for other markets will be developed in 2022.

The new ISSA Marketing Consulting Services provides members a with cost-effective, expert-led option to explore markets or expand distribution overseas. Another noteworthy tool, the Value of Clean®, was updated to help global members reinforce that cleaning is an investment and not an expense.

ISSA Charities

ISSA Charities is composed of three signature programs: Cleaning for a Reason®, which partners with residential cleaning companies to provide free home cleanings for cancer patients; ISSA Hygieia Network, which provides the tools and resources for women in the cleaning industry to advance their careers; and ISSA Scholars, which provides scholarships to help relieve the burden of tuition for students and their families.

Cancer treatment can be all-consuming, making basic tasks like home cleaning nearly impossible. Cleaning for a Reason works with cleaning partners and volunteers to provide a sigh of relief to cancer patients and their families. As the pandemic continued to disrupt businesses across North America, Cleaning for a Reason maintained its network of 1,200 cleaning partners and served more than 3,500 patients in 2021. To overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 150 partners went above and beyond to raise more than $80,000 through December.

ISSA Hygieia Network had its most active year to date, with a record number of virtual events targeted at advancing and retaining women in the cleaning industry. Hygieia hosted three virtual conferences with more than 560 participants and four webinars featuring industry leaders that reached more than 1,200 attendees, an increase of 300% over 2020. The network also expanded its mentoring and networking programs, including launching seven regional online networking communities on LinkedIn with over 360 community members. To conclude a successful year, the Hygieia Network Awards Reception attracted over 800 attendees at ISSA Show North America 2021.

This year, ISSA Scholars awarded scholarships to 35 exceptional students who demonstrated academic and leadership excellence. The scholarships, totaling more than $110,000, were funded by the generous support of ISSA-member companies and individuals. Online applications for the 2022 scholarships will open in January.

At ISSA Show North America 2021, ISSA Charities connected with the industry in person for the first time since 2019 and raised more than $60,000. They also received support for their Giving Tuesday and Annual Giving campaigns in November and December and raised over $43,000 for their mission. Thanks to compassionate cleaning industry members, ISSA Charities continues to make the world a cleaner, healthier, better place to live.

ISSA Divisions

In 2021, three ISSA Divisions—the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI), the Indoor Environmental Healthcare and Hospitality Association (IEHA), and the Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA)—all focused on providing the best possible education and resources for their members. Take a look at what each division did to improve their member experiences.

The Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI)
Education and resources were the main focus of ARCSI in 2021. We offered more than 20 educational webinars, many of which focused on hiring and retaining top talent as many of our residential cleaning company members dealt with these challenges.

ARCSI welcomed a new Residential Cleaning Council in 2021 and for the coming year, they are putting together many new programs to strengthen our community and provide greater education as the pandemic continues.

Hear what ARCSI membership means to these members:

The Indoor Environmental Healthcare and Hospitality Association (IEHA)
IEHA launched the new Certified Laundry/Linen Professional Credential (CLLP) in 2021 with 20 industry professionals successfully completing the program and earning this valuable credential. IEHA anticipates further support and demand for this credential program in 2022 as more individuals leading and managing laundry teams seek to grow their career and show their expertise.

In January 2021, IEHA announced an expanded partnership with the W. Edwards Deming Institute to bring the Deming philosophy and systems thinking to IEHA members, and additionally to all ISSA members and Division members. The Deming partnership helped develop 72 IEHA members’ leadership skills in 2021, and we look forward to increasing the number of participants in 2022.

IEHA membership levels continued to hold steady with 1,200 plus members during a difficult year of member organization cutbacks. This impressive milestone was achieved by balancing the members who are retiring with new members being attracted to the organization through the many innovative members-only programs.

In October 2021, IEHA’s Management Council unanimously approved the elimination of its long-time chapter structure in favor of moving to a district structure. The various IEHA Districts are run by teams of dedicated IEHA cleaning professionals who continue to grow membership and advance the next generation through mentoring, coaching, and training.

Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA)
This past year, the IOPFDA division focused on bringing new benefits and opportunities to its members. Access to healthcare benefits is a major factor dealers find of interest. In 2021, approximately 10% of IOPFDA members enrolled in our healthcare plan offering affordable and customizable medical insurance, investment opportunities, and more for our member companies’ employees. We anticipate participation in this program to grow in 2022 as our membership continues to explore and understand this valuable benefit.

Two new committees were formed in 2021 to better address the needs of IOPFDA members. The first committee launched is focusing on technology needs for the industry. This assembled group of market experts meets regularly to discuss tech topics relevant to the various channels in office product distribution and is producing white papers, blogs, webinars, and round tables to keep dealers informed and educated.

The second committee is dedicated to developing programs to help mid-market dealers improve the operation, efficiency, and profitability of their furniture division. The committee includes dealers, manufacturers, and sales representatives, and will address topics related to government advocacy, business management issues, and pandemic strategies.


There was hope as we entered 2021 to get back to ‘normal,’ but the threat of the coronavirus continued to impact the industry as variants (Delta, Omicron) were top news topics. All ISSA Media properties, including ISSA Today, Cleanfax, and Cleaning & Maintenance Management, continued coverage of the pandemic in addition to high-level topics related to all aspects of facility management, maintenance, and verticals represented within the ISSA global community.

ISSA Media has evolved over the past two years to include more in-depth coverage across all platforms, e-newsletters, feature articles, online exclusives, and social media channels. This enabled ISSA members and the worldwide cleaning community to stay informed on the topics that affected them.

The ISSA Media editorial team has continued to support all departments, divisions, and initiatives that make up ISSA.

Throughout the year, ISSA Media’s focus on new multimedia content was strengthened by the response of the industry. Video interviews and webcasts surpassed 500,000 views in 2021, proving that ISSA Media delivered in-demand content for ISSA members and ISSA Media subscribers.

ISSA Media will continue to evolve, improve, and provide traditional print, website, newsletter, multimedia, and video content and expand ISSA Media’s reach into the global cleaning industry.


ISSA made meaningful updates in 2021 to support the needs of the association’s more than 10,500 members in 105+ countries worldwide. For example, we added a Payment Processing Program within our Member Discount Programs to offer members a simple, secure, and affordable payment solution.

Staying up to date on the latest training resources and industry trends is key. In 2021, ISSA launched a new Webinar Center, revamped the Value of Clean toolkit, redesigned the Market Report Library, and launched a new events calendar to keep members apprised of opportunities to learn, network, and grow their businesses.

Membership grew as it relates to facility service providers (FSPs), which represents ISSA’s fastest-growing member segment. This coincides with the availability of new programs and divisions like GBAC that help educate FSPs, improve the quality and consistency of their cleaning, and help them differentiate their businesses. We were pleased to have sustained our membership numbers during a year when many associations saw significant reductions.

Members who participated in our Member Discount Program saved nearly $1.2M collectively on their insurance premiums, shipping operations, background checks, and payment processing costs, enabling them to reallocate these savings to other critical areas of their businesses.

Being an ISSA member offers immeasurable benefits, and we are thankful to our strong network of manufacturers, distributors, and facility service providers who have worked tirelessly to support public health and safety during the pandemic. We look forward to bringing our mission of “Changing the Way the World Views Cleaning” to new members in 2022.

Trade Shows

ISSA North America
After two years without an in-person trade show, 2021 marked the year that the industry was able to come together again to celebrate progress and learn about the trends shaping the future. ISSA Show North America 2021, the premier event for education, networking, and product discovery, brought more than 10,000 industry professionals to the convention capital of the world: Las Vegas.

The Show convened in the newly renovated and GBAC STAR™ accredited Las Vegas Convention Center and reaffirmed the industry’s commitment to hosting safe events and delivering innovative solutions that support cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention around the world.

The three-day event featured more than 521 exhibitors across 185,000 square feet of exhibit space and 100+ education sessions and workshops. The event also provided an opportunity to recognize innovative products and services, as well as outstanding achievements from industry professionals. The 2021 ISSA Show Innovation Awards named four Innovation Industry Choice Awards, five Innovation of the Year Award Honorees, and one Innovation of the Year Award. Additionally, three ISSA Achievement Awards honorees were named.

The 2022 Show will return to Chicago’s McCormick Place, one of the first convention centers in the country to earn GBAC STAR Facility accreditation in 2020.