According to UNICEF, 1.8 billion people menstruate every month, and in 2018 roughly half of the world's female population was of menstrual age – that's 26% of the world's overall population. Despite being a regular experience for many, menstruation is a topic that is often overlooked.
But it shouldn't be. For good health, people must have access to clean and safe facilities where they can change their sanitary products. As such, businesses with washrooms used by employees and customers alike can play a pivotal role in enabling the hygienic management of periods and supporting user dignity. In fact, a recent global survey* of 14,000 women who menstruate and use public washrooms found that 52% think businesses need to do more to support good menstrual hygiene.
So, how can supporting period dignity positively impact your business?
In the context of historic stigmas and taboos, many people still feel a sense of embarrassment or shame about menstruation. In fact, three in five women who menstruate claim to have hidden menstrual hygiene products on their person when walking to a washroom to avoid people knowing they are menstruating. Menstruation can also trigger other emotional responses – a US survey found that 86% of women who menstruate had unexpectedly started menstruating in public without supplies, and many said this made or would make them feel panicked, annoyed or anxious.
While there is still plenty of work to be done to remove the stigmas around periods, businesses can show that they care for and understand their employees' and customers' needs by helping to prevent embarrassment and uncomfortable situations in washrooms. Providing in-cubicle solutions, such as hand sanitisers or access to menstrual hygiene products, can help users manage their sanitary needs privately, confidently and without anxiety. These provisions can demonstrate that you have considered the challenges washroom users may face and have taken steps to make them feel more comfortable.
Additionally, making a few simple changes or updates to your toilet facilities can positively impact brand association. With 52% of women who menstruate saying they judge a business by the state of its washrooms, creating environments where people are more likely to feel safe and supported could lead to better brand recognition, retention and loyalty.
As we continuously learn more and more about the importance of good hygiene, it may be unsurprising that 60% of women who menstruate have refused to use a public toilet because it was not clean enough. These concerns are valid – washrooms can contain various germ hotspots, especially frequently touched surfaces that act as reservoirs for viruses and bacteria. Research suggests that germs from just one surface can contaminate the following six surfaces a hand touches, so without good hygiene, bacteria can spread easily to users, throughout the washroom and into the wider building.
When cross-contamination can happen in just one touch, it is essential that businesses minimise risk hotspots in washrooms by reducing possible touchpoints and providing solutions for good hand hygiene practices and the safe disposal of sanitary waste. For example, to help avoid the discomfort and risks associated with touching sanitary bins, 65% of women who menstruate say no-touch waste bins are essential*. Additionally, sanitising solutions can allow users to create more hygienic cubicles – 59% of women who menstruate want to see wipes to sanitise surfaces and 57% also consider toilet seat cleaner essential* regardless of whether they are menstruating.
By giving users solutions that can help them manage hygiene risks, businesses can minimise the potential for cross-contamination to occur and improve washroom experiences by helping people feel more confident regarding levels of hygiene.
*for restaurants, hotels or leisure facilities to provide
3. It can help reduce unexpected costs and environmental impact
Sanitary waste products are one of the leading causes of blocked toilets and can contribute to ‘fatbergs’ that clog sewerage systems. These blockages can be costly and timely for any business, and a clogged toilet impacts washroom users by putting a cubicle out of action. Yet without proper waste disposal methods, washroom users can be left in situations where they choose to flush their waste – 41% of women who menstruate flush tampons down the toilet and 39% flush sanitary towels.
In addition to blockages, these practices have an environmental impact when flushed menstrual hygiene waste enters water streams or litters our beaches. For example, in 2015 the Ocean Conservatory collected over 27,000 tampons and applicators from beaches in a single day.
With menstrual hygiene products now the fifth largest polluter of single-use plastics in our oceans, responsible waste disposal is a necessity. By providing closed-lid sanitary waste bins and eco-friendly personal waste disposal bags that help mitigate hygiene and odour risks, businesses can create tidier, better-smelling washrooms while reducing the potential for users to flush their waste.
Initial’s comprehensive range of hand hygiene solutions for businesses can help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses in the workplace.