business man calculating carbon footprint

Sustainable Facilities Management – The Vital Role FMs Can Play

Jane Young, Posted February 11, 2021

As a field of work, sustainable facilities management is just that – it encompasses a leader’s ability to make decisions that will affect the planet. Serving in the position of a facility manager allows an individual the power to make decisions that can positively or negatively impact the environment. Read on as we explain the importance of this role as well as some advice on how to best achieve sustainability in your work environment.  

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Why Sustainable Facilities Management is Important

When it comes to the environment, decisions we make today have a long-term impact on the health of our planet. No longer are environmental issues something for future generations to solve, instead they are urgent matters which we need to solve today. Decisions that facilities managers make can have a tremendous impact as long as they choose to embrace sustainability.

An article on GreenBiz – a media and events company that focuses on the intersection of business, technology and sustainability – written by Christopher Hodges, a facilities and engineering professional and instructor at George Mason University’s facilities management program, tackles the question as to why sustainability in facilities management is so important.

According to Hodges, “With over five million commercial buildings in the United States, the potential for greening our building stock is tremendous. The requirement to do so is becoming critical. The energy savings, productivity increases, reduction in waste stream, and water conservation and other sustainable facility benefits in existing buildings far outweigh the potential benefits from sustainable new construction.” Hodges continues on to say, “Facilities managers control the operating costs of the facility, and they have the greatest amount of influence on the productivity of the workforce. Workforce costs are by far the greatest expense to an organization: about 10 to 15 times that of the facility cost. Small improvements in workforce productivity can easily overcome the cost of facility improvements. Facility professionals manage about 25 to 60 percent of an organization’s hard assets and have a huge amount of influence over the productivity of the workforce by influencing the comfort, health, and safety of the workplace.”

Improving Sustainability

The Service Channel, a facilities management platform, has put together a blog outlining “6 Ways Facilities Managers Can Support Sustainable Facilities.” The Service Channel has determined, “Not only does creating greener facilities improve your business’s carbon footprint, but it also helps bring in revenue.” The full list of ways to support sustainable facilities includes:

  1. Conduct Sustainability Analytics
  2. Update Assets to Boost Energy-Efficiency
  3. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies
  4. Perform Preventive Maintenance
  5. Implement Recycling Practices
  6. Employ Green-Focused Contractors

Another great resource when considering implementing sustainable facilities management is  ThisWeekinFM.com, which is a publication dedicated to news and other information covering the Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community. ThisWeekinFM.com published an article titled “Six Ways Facilities Managers Can Plan for a More Sustainable Future,” and this list includes:

  1. Clear out your car park
  2. Prepare to go paperless
  3. Baseline your energy consumption
  4. Don’t Waste It!
  5. Keep remote working
  6. Create sustainability champions

Why Facilities Managers Should Take on Sustainability

Facilities Net, a website devoted to facility and maintenance management, published an article explaining why facilities managers make the “best sustainability executives.” According to the article, “… the best fit may be an executive with broader experience in all facets of the organization, who has successfully built bridges to work with other departments, and who may have a bit of engineering or technical expertise as well. Facility managers often have the unique skill sets to fit that bill, and more and more frequently are being promoted into a high-level sustainability position.”

The article continues on to say, “Facility managers have also determined that what works for their job function is transferable to all facets of an organization. The methods used in facilities to streamline operations and increase productivity can be applied elsewhere to similar effect. Minimizing waste — of time, effort, and resources — leads to financial benefits and can be applied to any process. Corporate sustainability naturally follows the facility management model.”

Sustainability is Important to Millennials

When it comes to pollution, buildings are a major contributor. In fact, an article on Facilities Net writes, “Buildings are responsible for 38 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And there are projections that 75 percent of the nation’s built environment will be either new or renovated in the next 30 years.”

Modern Building Services, a trade magazine that covers the industry, published an editorial by Mark Vidler of the UK-based environmental recruitment firm Allen & York. Vidler wrote, “The evidence of growing interest in sustainability is impressive. A survey of a thousand CEOs from 43 countries by PriceWaterhouseCoopers indicated that 79% of these CEOs believe that sustainability is vital to the profitability of any company. The reason for increased interest is clear. Sustainable practices are profitable because they can reduce risk, make business and consumers more efficient, and advance them technologically while reducing environmental and social concerns.”

Data shows that customers care about sustainable products, especially millennials. This article from Inc. – a magazine best known for its annual lists of fastest growing private companies – references a 2015 Nielson survey that found 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for “sustainable goods,” with 66% of global customers saying the same.

Similarly, another study referenced in this Forbes article found, “More than eight in 10 Millennials (81%) expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship, according to Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse study.”

Smartway2 is a next-generation technology company specializing in improving sustainability, employee experience and space utilization, by transforming the way people access desks, spaces, parking, equipment and any other workplace facilities your people need to do their best work.

Jane Young
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Jane Young