ESG Is Central to Cintas

Jul 6, 2022 11:30 AM ET

The concept of corporate social responsibility has evolved in recent decades. Where the concept once explained a company’s commitment to philanthropy and responsible social practices, it now also incorporates its environmental impact, how it governs itself, and how it monitors compliance. Public interest in companies’ holistic environmental, social, and governance – or ESG – strategy is a relatively recent and evolving concept.

At Cintas, we view our entrance into formal ESG reporting and the development of our company-wide ESG strategy as the latest steps in our progression.

That’s because many of the core ESG concepts we now measure and report have been engrained in our company for decades. These foundations are rooted in our corporate culture and in our “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mindset.

Our sustainable business model began almost 100 years ago at the very origin of the company and has continued to evolve in everything we’ve done since. So this development isn’t a drastic leap for us. Rather, it’s a natural evolution of our long-standing business practices.


The company’s sustainable principles date back to our origins in 1929 during the Great Depression. Out-of-work circus performers Doc Farmer and his wife Amelia gathered dirty shop rags that local businesses had thrown away, brought them home to wash, and sold the clean rags back to companies in the Cincinnati area. Unknowingly, they created a local circular economy and the resourceful spirit that Cintas is known for today. They also created our sustainable business model.

As the company grew, their grandson, Richard “Dick” Farmer, created a burgeoning work uniform rental operation in 1959. This implemented the same business model, and provided an easy, affordable, and sustainable option for companies to outfit their employees. By renting businesses their uniforms, he realized we could extend the life of the garments, wash and dry them more responsibly and sustainably than employees could at home, and preserve natural resources in the process. His vision launched the company on its current path of success and confirmed that a sustainable business idea could be successful in the modern day … an idea ahead of his time.

Further expansions into facility services, first aid and safety, and fire protection under subsequent CEOs – Bob Kohlhepp (1996-2003) and Dick’s son, Scott Farmer (2003-2021) – deepened the company’s model further. Cintas’ new offerings were based on reusing and recycling end-of-life products and reducing the overall use of natural resources. They also introduced products and services that help our customers keep their own facilities, employees, and customers cleaner, safer, and healthier.


Dick Farmer – who we credit as the Founder of the modern-day Cintas – documented and formalized our corporate culture in his book The Spirit Is The Difference. His philosophy still carries forward today and underpins our business.

The Spirit Is The Difference is a handbook describing how we run our business. Its central themes are collaboration and common respect, both for our people and the world around us. Respecting and valuing one another and each other’s contributions to our business is paramount. Over time, this has led to fantastic employee-partner engagement, great retention rates, a world-class safety program, and a widely respected management philosophy. All of this has supported our ongoing innovation, which has helped minimize the environmental impact of our business.

Our steadfast belief in doing what’s right guides our efforts to foster a supportive, inclusive environment for all our employee-partners. They’re engrained in all of our decisions: we carefully consider potential impacts on them as carefully as we consider potential impacts on our overall business. Our care and compassion also extend to people affected by our business, including our customers, suppliers, vendors, and business partners.

We expect ethical interactions with all stakeholders. We also insist on being a good corporate citizen and steward by governing ourselves with the core principles of accountability, fairness, ethical behavior, and compliance.

In short, we believe we conduct our business the right way.


Doc and Amelia’s ingenuity and environmentally focused activities of almost 100 years ago remain at the core of our company in 2021. As we’ve grown, we’ve enacted processes and policies to promote conducting our business with the highest ethical standards and keeping people central in all our decisions.

Our business growth has been buoyed by our ESG mindset. Today, Cintas:

  • Incorporates sustainable practices throughout our operations
  • Extends the lifespan of consumable goods to reduce their overall environmental impact
  • Cleans items more effectively and efficiently than the consumer market and our competitors1,2
  • Provides higher-performance, longer-lasting alternatives to disposable or single-use products
  • Offers competitive wages and salaries; expansive benefits packages; and ongoing support, training and development opportunities to all of our employee-partners
  • Supports and promotes the health, safety, and welfare of our employee-partners, as well as our customers and their employees
  • Engrains ourselves in the communities in which we do business by owning and maintaining property and capital equipment; being fair taxpayers; and supporting local initiatives and community priorities.

We’re proud that our history of ingenuity and innovation has resulted in industry-leading practices and continued reductions in natural resource use. Considering environmental impacts in our business decisions has been a successful strategy, and beneficial to our financial success.

When a customer uses Cintas services or wears our uniforms, they have chosen to minimize their environmental footprint. Of the four available options in the market – Cintas, our competitors, disposable items, or do-it-yourself solutions – Cintas is the most energy and water efficient, reuses more materials, and needs fewer raw materials than other options.

For our customers, that means we help them reduce their environmental footprint. For those who consider home laundry options, traditional at-home laundering and drying uses an average of 84% more water and 69% more energy than we do.3


The concepts of operating a sustainable business and making environmentally conscious decisions are not new to us. We have continually improved our environmental management, our people strategies, and our management processes. As ESG priorities have become more clearly defined and this holistic measure of business has evolved, we’ve been watching, listening, and learning.

Now we’re joining the conversation in a more meaningful way: we’re defining, measuring, and creating formal strategies centered on ESG principles.

What we’ve accomplished so far is only the beginning. We’ve already been successful, but we’re still at the start of our journey – one that will be further rooted in ESG platforms and concepts. One of our core company values is positive discontent. It pushes us to do more, be better, and have a greater positive impact in our world.

Our new ambition to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is just the next step in our young journey. What started in 2019 as an effort to collect and analyze our company data for our first ESG Report continues today as an enterprise-wide business review that is expected to continue into 2023.

In August, we created our new Vice President of ESG and Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) position and finished a multiple-department reorganization to form a new Risk & Compliance Department that reports to the new VP of ESG and CCO. This group will define and implement our ESG strategy, activities, monitoring, and compliance.

As our enterprise-wide assessment continues, we will continue to review our processes in the context of the developing ESG landscape. We expect to identify further opportunities to reduce our environmental impact, and to make even greater operational reductions in energy, emissions, water, raw materials, and waste. We also expect to bolster our initiatives around diversity and inclusion, human capital, safety and health, and our governance objectives, among other areas.

Our company has been based in ESG-related principles since the beginning. Each new chief executive introduced initiatives that strengthened our commitments to the environment, our people, and our processes.


For more information about our 2021 ESG Report or if you have questions, contact us at ESG@cintas.comor through your stakeholder communications platform.