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Last edited 07 Jun 2021
Sustainability in Facility Management
As the world eventually emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020/2021, FM will inevitably need to shift to a more ‘on demand’ based service to suit the changes enforced on organisations due to the pandemic and new approaches and strategies towards business planning and operations.
 1. What is the considered view of FM as organisations recover from the pandemic?
Globally, organisations will wish to reduce the size of their property portfolio to remain competitive and even survive. The pandemic showed us that employees can work effectively from home and the latest thinking suggests that we will not need as much property to support our businesses and that a blended hybrid of employer property-based and home working hybrid will result in less demand for the traditional work from the office or workplace location. This is already happening in retail where online shopping and global lockdown has forced retail organisations even more towards online shopping. The same will be true, to varying degrees, for offices, manufacturing and public buildings. Trust in their workforce to work from home was forced upon organisations during the pandemic and it largely worked so why wouldn’t businesses organise their future resource structures around this premise and further reduce property costs?
This will undoubtedly mean further cost reduction targets for the FM sector.
 2. What are the key objectives and goals for organisations in moving forward?
In recent times and before the pandemic, sustainability has become a high priority on organisational agendas. As organisations have largely adopted the UN’s ‘Sustainability Development Goals’ and in doing so, created their own ‘Net-zero’ goals and objectives.
To achieve these goals, organisations are signing-up to or adopting various sustainability-based Standards or Good Practice guides in their quest to becoming carbon-neutral, conserve water, and support a clean environment.
Whilst organisations do not generally include much on FM in their corporate agendas and published goals and targets, meeting sustainability targets and the annual reporting of progress against these targets certainly features on most companies’ websites and social media channels. Indeed, organisations with properties certified by any of these green organisations will gain positive recognition and economic gains from such certifications.
Three broad principles of sustainability in facility management can be considered as being made up of 3 pillars — the economy, society and the environment or as a triple bottom line of financial, environmental and social. These principles are also sometimes referred to as profit, people and planet.
How are organisations interpreting sustainability and how can they develop strategies that align with and deliver the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals in meeting their ‘2030 — Sustainable Development Goals’ and ‘Net-zero 2050’ objectives with least 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, which is only 9 years away?
- Sustainable Buildings — Energy and Environmental considerations
- Sustainable Teams — People Performance and Wellbeing considerations
- Sustainable Communities — Supply Chain; Organisational Responsibility & Accountability considerations
Considers impacts of the built environment. Advocates sustainable energy sources. Steps are taken to incorporate energy efficient practices, including the use of renewable energy in the design and use of buildings.
In this context, employees are considered in terms of their performance and outputs against the buildings they occupy. People are our most important assets and it is therefore imperative that their wellbeing is prioritised accordingly.
Social responsibility is also a means of achieving sustainability goals. When an organisation adopts key responsible principles such as accountability and transparency, it can demonstrate that it ensures the long-term sustainability and success of an organisation or system.
Many certifiable Standards and Good Practice Guides now exist to guide organisations towards their sustainability goals and the take up of such standards has risen significantly in recent times. Listed below are some of the main Standards available today:
 Why is the sustainability journey fragmented?
Certification to the relevant Standards will inevitably be a resource and business process re-engineering obligation by an organisation which will be backed by senior management commitment. Establishing eventual certification to the required standard will certainly not be a simple task or a ‘one-off ‘event. Organisations will need to demonstrate ongoing and continued adherence to the requirements of sustainability standards as this will need to be demonstrated periodically through periodic maintenance or surveillance audits.
As already identified, there are also different standards and certification routes to match each of eth three perspectives of sustainability. Furthermore, there are also competing standards organisations and institutions that want your business. This has to be considered against other organisational objectives from an economic perspective.
Unlike FM, where there are defined service lines and roles, there are no sustainability-based natural resources, beyond management activity, which can deliver sustainability related tasks in a collective and cohesive manner. This can cause difficulties in maintaining continuity of sustainability certification in between audits, particularly where there is a disconnect sustainability in facility management.
It is commendable that so many organisations now demonstrate such commitment to sustainability through their corporate values and goals but it will take on-going effort and input to maintain accreditation along the journey towards ‘Net-zero’. As stated, this is generally underestimated in terms of allocated resources on a day-to-day basis within an organisation’s normal operations.
On a positive note, recent developments and convergence in methods and objectives on the green Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) is starting to make in-roads in recognising the need for a common approach for certification through targeting similar approaches.
 3. How can FM help drive the sustainability objective and agenda?
The range of sustainability-based procedures and tasks required to maintain the relevant certifications and sustainability based working practices to achieve the organisations goals can and should be delivered by FM resources. Traditionally, this is often not the case but this is a monumental opportunity for FM to step out of the low-cost commodity shadows and show that it can deliver real additional value through ensuring that sustainability goals will be met.
Indeed, there is a strong argument that our mature FM resources and teams that are ever present within our workplaces could and should deliver the vast majority of the sustainability related operational tasks at zero or negligible additional cost through modifying the FM specifications. As the FM industry will undoubtedly be driven towards an ‘on-demand’ service post-pandemic, this is the ideal time to do it.
All these services play a key role in informing the sustainability agenda and in ensuring that the sustainability journey is a smooth one
Through revised FM models and structures and the re-designing FM specifications, contracts, measurement frameworks etc. FM can rise from the shadows to finally project itself as a critical resource and service that demonstrates value against 30% upwards of an organisations costs but also providing additional value in assisting organisations to meet their ‘Net-zero’ targets.
If the FM profession and industry can create the clear links and association between sustainability and FM then it promises to be an exciting time for the FM sector. Yes, it will need to re-invent itself again as a combined ‘Sustainability & FM’ function with potentially far more credibility and relevance than it has ever had before.
Much in the same way that FM was historically expected to pick-up compliance, health and safety and environmental responsibilities, a greater opportunity now exists for the industry — to lead the sustainability charge!
As the world eventually emerges from lockdown, FM will inevitably need to change to a more ‘on demand’ based service to suit the changes enforced on organisations due to the pandemic and new approaches and strategies towards business planning and operations. This presents an ideal opportunity for organisations to re-consider their wider property needs and requirements, holistically across the entity and in doing so, embrace sustainability in the race towards the United Nations ‘Sustainability Development Goals 2030’ and ‘Net-zero 2050’ Target. It is considered that as much as 80% of an organisation’s sustainability needs for certification and meeting organisational targets can be delivered through FM resources.
The future for FM should be bright, it should embrace the opportunity and show the world that ‘they are the guy’s to deliver this agenda’, as FM transforms once again to delivering valuable strategic support to the core business.
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