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Last edited 02 Aug 2021
Sustainability in facility management
Sustainability has become a high priority on organisational agendas. Some organisations have adopted the UN’s ‘Sustainability Development Goals’ and in doing so, created their own net zero goals and objectives.
 Improving climate initiatives
To achieve these goals, organisations are signing up to - or adopting - various sustainability based standards or best practices in their quest to become 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 three 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.
 Buildings, teams and communities
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.
 Sustainable teams: people, performance and wellbeing
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.
 Sustainable communities: supply chain (including organisational responsibility and accountability considerations)
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.
Relevant standards include SA8000 and ISO 26000.
 Why is the sustainability journey fragmented?
As organisations strive to become certified and adopt standards to meet their sustainability goals, they may embark on a fragmented journey. Organisations will need to demonstrate ongoing and continued adherence to the requirements of sustainability standards as this will need to be demonstrated through periodic maintenance or surveillance audits.
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.
 Driving the sustainability agenda
The range of sustainability-based procedures and tasks required to maintain the relevant certifications and sustainability-based working practices to achieve the organisation's goals can and should be delivered by FM resources. Traditionally, this is often not the case, but this is an 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.
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 that demonstrates value but also assists organisations in their efforts meet net zero targets.
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