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Enhancing environmental practices 

28 July 2017

Chris Edwards, Facilities Show event director, analyses the impact of sustainable measures within the cleaning and facilities management industries

Focus on sustainability is growing year after year and it is having a significant impact on the effectiveness of organisations. They must now ensure that sustainability is instilled in everything they do, from transportation, to procurement, to energy usage, product design, worker well-being and much more. The definition of sustainability in business has broadened considerably, and has become a reason for changing perceptions, values, strategies and the way that many companies are doing business today.

Start with a clear framework

The path to sustainability is not always clear or straightforward and requirements will vary by organisation and industry sector. A good starting point for any business is to identify the greatest impacts that it has on the environment, such as vehicle emissions and electricity and gas usage. It should then record how much is consumed and look at practical ways to reduce the amount used and set out an action plan to improve carbon footprint. 

To encourage green thinking, international standards should be used as a framework to help reduce environmental impact and to support the sustainability goals of clients. Companies are recognising the environmental and economic benefits of reducing their carbon footprint and being certified as green through a recognised standard, such as BREEAM, LEED, The DGNB system and Green Star. 

Financial and legislative factors also influence sustainable direction and the impact of Brexit is still being understood and will have an effect for many years.

Outsourcing requirements

Environmental considerations are playing a bigger role in outsourcing decisions, with tender requests now increasingly incorporating sustainability criteria. Clients will have their own green targets and service providers must understand the objectives of their client and the reasons why sustainability is a focus. Organisations rely on support from their service providers to achieve their environmental objectives and deliver significant efficiencies. 

Emphasis on being green is having an impact on the increasing convergence of FM services, such as cleaning and recycling, through a more integrated approach to environmental goals. As the cross over between different facilities management sectors and indeed other industry sectors such as design and construction becomes more apparent – more joint working and sharing of best practice will undoubtedly follow.

Analysis and measurement

Organisations need to set clear and considered targets as a framework from which to facilitate and manage these activities and to report on the ongoing results. For a business to be truly sustainable, management systems and processes must be continually reviewed to ensure their effectiveness. 

Increased access to technology data is being used to better understand building operations and help guide sustainability measures. For example, many companies are beginning to use dedicated technology systems to monitor and better manage their energy usage. Already we are seeing the streamlining of services and operations through the use of building information modelling (BIM) systems, the process of creating and managing digital information about a built asset. 

Newer and better technologies are available to enable reuse of materials and, in parallel, sectors like cleaning are adopting more environmentally friendly ways of keeping premises clean and hygienic, using lower amounts of chemicals, controlled dosage systems and less water and energy. The growth in all forms of technology-based systems provides organisations with another way of optimising environmentally friendly practices. 

Business culture 

In order to have a truly effective sustainability programme you need engagement across the organisation and initiatives must be communicated throughout the business to encourage environmental thinking. Management can agree a strategy, but unless the whole team is on board it will probably not reach its full potential. Staff should be recognised for their achievements, training provided and green thinking rewarded.

Further examples of sustainable business practice can be found at www.facilitiesshow.com