Skills in sustainability

12 February 2014

It‘s hard to imagine now, but environmental issues used to be firmly on the fringe of business activity.

A decade or so ago, ‘going green’ was more likely to be the MD’s reaction to a plunge in profitability rather than a desire to lessen the impact of a company’s activities on the environment. However, now that’s all changed, and any organisation wanting to thrive in today’s competitive climate will include sustainability as an integral part of their forward planning.

In July 2009 the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) published its report: ‘Lean and Green  - Leadership for a low-carbon future’, which offered insights to help stimulate thought on how best to raise awareness of, and manage, an organisation’s environmental impact.

The CMI summarised the business case for more environmental thinking as:

  • Financial – Improving environmental performance often results in cost savings.
  • Reputational – Environmental awareness amongst customers is increasing. An organisation’s environmental policies can be a differentiating factor in the market place. 
  • Risk management – With increased environmental legislation, there is a possibility of penalties for non-compliance – these are most likely to be financial and can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Other related costs include legal bills and loss of management time.
  • Recruitment and retention – Environmental policies and practices can help improve the morale of existing employees, and can also act as an incentive to attract staff at all levels who may want their employing organisation to take environmental stances that are similar to their own. 

In parallel we have seen the rapid development of internationally recognised environmental management standards, such as ISO 14001. These help companies to implement structures and processes that embed environmental efficiency into the culture of a firm, as well as mitigate risks.

Contract cleaning companies now have an increasingly important role to play in helping facilities managers to ensure that their buildings are being serviced with the environment in mind. The UK Cleaning Products Industry Association (UKCPI) devotes a section on its website to making cleaning more sustainable. Once safety and the required cleaning results are assured, UKCPI states that, ‘making cleaning more sustainable is primarily about getting things clean using less resources such as materials and energy for each job, and minimising emissions and waste’.

The green agenda is now firmly entrenched in all aspects of facilities management (FM), and that’s why the majority of WAMITAB’s cleaning and FM qualifications feature mandatory units covering sustainability and environmental issues. In our recent Skills Survey, launched at the RWM exhibition in autumn last year, 81% of respondents said that green issues are very important to their businesses.


As pressures on the environment grow, through population increases and a diminishing of natural resources, organisations have a duty to ensure their actions don’t add to these problems. Ensuring that employees are properly qualified and conversant with the most effective and environmentally-friendly cleaning and maintenance methods is essential for the well-being of future generations, and business success.


Written by Chris James, CEO of WAMITAB