According to research undertaken by EuroFM, facilities management across Europe now represents a market valued at about e640bn, which is about 5 to 8 percent of Europe’s GDP.
In addition, a recent report commissioned by the Business Services Association and undertaken by Oxford Economics estimates that the turnover across all UK outsource sectors is £207bn – equivalent to 8 percent of the UK economy. These sectors employ 3.1m people, which is equivalent to 10 percent of all UK workforce jobs.
Certainly it’s fair to say that FM and the wider outsource market has grown into a very powerful and important business area that contributes a great deal to our UK economy and to economies across Europe.
Seizing the opportunity
With this weight behind us, we as facilities managers have the ability - and the responsibility - to make a difference on a very large scale by dealing sustainably with the services that we manage. This affords us the opportunity to reduce energy, water and waste costs, as well as improve fleet mileage, enhance procurement practices and increase recycling. Such steps can have a major impact on the reduction of associated carbon emissions; and reducing these emissions makes good business sense, whatever the size or shape of your business, to counter rising energy prices and increasing regulatory controls.
Businesses and transport account for more than 42% of all UK emissions, and in our government has set legally binding ‘carbon budgets’, aiming to cut UK emissions by 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. Legislation, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme, will increase the burden on the bottom line for a lot of organisations.
Yet, it is surprising how many organisations, both large and small, do not take a focused approach in driving sustainability across their business, either through a lack of knowledge and understanding or the perception that being green costs hard-earned cash. In addition, according to the Carbon Trust, 75% of UK organisations have not measured their carbon footprint.
Couple this with the fact that over the last several years there has been an ever increasing demand from customers for high performing and sustainable facilities services, and it is clear this presents a opportunity for facilities management to embrace sustainability and address these issues.
In the past several years, the negative impact of facilities on the environment has been well documented by researchers, governments and sustainability organisations such as the Carbon Trust and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The news is that we need to change our behaviours and the way we use our limited resources in the built environment in order to minimise the effects of climate change.
So why is this an opportunity for FM?
There is growing evidence that an increasing number of organisations want to be able to demonstrate their sustainability credentials for reasons of:
• Mandatory reporting requirements, such as the CRC
• Corporate social responsibility: showing that you are behaving in a responsible and ethical way is becoming ever more important in many markets
• Responding to requests: partners, customers and investors are increasingly interested in carbon emissions data.
Addressing the need
If you are working with these organisations (or want to work with them in the future), you will need facilities managers who can support implementing sustainability strategies and programmes that identify how these businesses can save cash and increase efficiency across services for which you are responsible.
Getting this right will boost your reputation as a supplier and promote individuals as ‘thought leaders’ within CSR and sustainability arenas. This, in turn, will increase FM being seen as an added value service, as opposed to a service cost. And there are additional benefits, such as enhancement to your brand and a more attractive proposition to potential new customers and investors.
Existing buildings still remain one of the biggest challenges, offering the largest potential for energy reduction and conservation of resources such as water. Facilities managers are in a unique position to face this challenge and make a positive difference, both to the bottom line and in terms of adding real value. The unfortunate irony is that many FMs have the skills, desire and commitment to drive sustainability practices and processes, but often lack the support, time and resources needed to make existing facilities more sustainable.
So where should we start when addressing some of the issues?
The first step is determining the new role we play in the challenge of providing sustainable environments and facility services. The traditional definition of facilities management focuses on the convergence of people, place and process. Sustainable facilities management has to adopt a life-cycle approach that integrates the people, place and processes of an organisation with the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainability. This redefinition establishes the unique perspective of the FM by integrating the traditional definition of with the demand for more environmentally friendly and efficient facilities and services.
Proper measurement of carbon footprint is the next step to managing, reporting and improving an organisation’s sustainability performance. This analysis should be agreed at each location and will set the base line for you to work against.
In this context you need to understand the provision of FM services that you supply and how these directly affect energy, water and waste use across buildings and site operations. Once this has been established, you can break down each individual service line (cleaning, catering, maintenance etc) and create a programme that addresses all the unique elements of that particular service provision.
For example, in order to develop a sustainability strategy around cleaning provision you would need to examine various elements within the lifecycle of the cleaning service that you are contracted to undertake: The cleaning products in use (are they eco friendly?)
• Procurement (how we procure the products to reduce waste at source)
• The time we clean (day or night: night time cleaning normally means lighting left on)
• The frequency
• Resource requirements (energy, water, waste etc)
• The equipment used (is it energy efficient?).
Shaping a solution
Once these issues have been identified, you can establish your policy and strategy for sustainable cleaning then set your targets, goals and aspirations that form the basis of your improvement plan in this particular area. This can then be measured and results communicated to all relevant stakeholders. This process is repeated for all other service line within the scope of service provision. The benefit of such an approach is that you soon identify best practice, and this knowledge can be shared across contracts and used when going after new business if you are an FM service provider.
Budget, of course, is always likely to be a strong driver of sustainability initiatives for most organisations. Sustainability initiatives should be developed into the following three categories as this will help in the decision process:
1. Low or no-cost initiatives that can fit into the operational budget and normal operating work procedures
2. Moderate-cost initiatives that require money and effort outside the normal budget or significant work hours of the facilities management staff
3. High-cost initiatives that require capital expenditure and a significant amount of internal and external work hours to accomplish.
Once this is undertaken for each service line, you can decide the short, medium and long-term approaches that have the highest impact for the organisation and your operation. For example, is it an energy management strategy that needs focus in the shortterm as this will have the biggest impact, or have you discovered that your procurement strategy has the best opportunity to show a return on your investment?
The important thing is that you are doing the analysis, identifying the opportunities and the gaps across the facilities management services provision – and taking a lead on sustainability.
Establishing and implementing a sustainability agenda and reducing carbon make sense, whether it’s to cut costs, gain competitive advantage, meet supply chain requirements, or engage your customers and staff.
Ensuring that facilities managers take a lead on sustainability is an easy and a cost-effective opportunity for organisations to benefit from the growing low-carbon economy, while at the same time improving brand perception and getting closer to customer’s needs and aspirations.
“Proper measurement of carbon footprint is the next step to managing, reporting and improving an organisation’s sustainability performance.”
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