The challenges of tick box mentality
Sustainability is failing to impact in Facilities Management (FM). What might the signals mean?
Here at Content Coms, we’ve noted with concern some troubling data on estates. It comes from the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Sustainability in Facilities Report.
To understand why the paper matters, a rapid overview of FM’s reach is helpful. FM, according to wikipedia, is, ‘Devoted to the coordination of space, infrastructure, people and organisations,’
But, more importantly, FM embraces environmental stewardship, sustainability and business finance. Those who manage estates; the UK’s hotels, shopping complexes or hospitals, are hugely influential.
The need to get facilities onside
The environmental impacts controlled by FM are vast. The sustainable opportunities are equally telling.
For example, operations and maintenance (O&M) contracts for the forthcoming Swansea Tidal Lagoon are worth £4 million a year. The project itself is valued at £1 billion.
Swansea’s O&M agreement will cover maintenance of the lagoon wall, car parks, landscaping and lighting; potable, foul and surface water system and IT & telecoms infrastructure.
It takes no leap of the imagination to see just how much environmental influence whoever wins the job will hold.
“Facilities Managers have scope to radically alter UK sustainable business practice,” says Joanna Watchman, Founder and Managing Director at Content Coms.
“If, as this report suggests, they are missing a trick, that sector needs to up its game. Otherwise, other sustainability practitioners will step in and do the work internally.”
But, warns BIFM, many facilities managers aren’t up for her challenge.
Worrying lack of engagement
According to BIFM, FM is dominated by a tick-box mentality which is undermining true benefit.
The problems are myriad. 81% of FM Executive Managers said they see sustainability as very or extremely important for business.
But for middle managers, front line managers (FLM) and staff, importance levels dropped to 60%. Sustainability’s star descends when it reaches those who must actually do the work.
More troubling; 41% of FM organisations do not have sustainability policy owned at director level. 15% of all respondents did not know who owned their organisation’s sustainability at strategic level either.
The gap between stated importance of sustainability and its measurement and practical management, says BIFM, means FM is about to be marginalised.
‘It’s clear that FM, both as a community of professionals and an industry, can have a huge impact on the sustainability agenda. But unless it can respond to this ‘crunch’ it is in danger of being marginalised as others step in to fill the need.’
Unless FM’s culture changes, organisations will increasingly own sustainability internally, setting up new departments and using cash historically passed to FM in-house.
This will benefit the environment. But it may come at a huge cost to a sector that needs to sit up and take notice.
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