Sustainable Facilities Management - The Vital Role FMs Can Play

Sustainable Facilities Management – The Vital Role FMs Can Play

Buildings are responsible for a whopping 39% of global carbon emissions. Of that, 28% comes from building operations. 

As a facilities manager, you can play a vital role in reducing emissions by employing sustainable facilities management practices. Let’s start with the basics. 

What is sustainable facilities management?

Sustainable facilities management is a collection of methodologies, processes and tools that ensures workspaces minimize and neutralize impact on the environment.

A facilities manager can achieve this on a day-to-day basis by reducing resource consumption, creating an energy-efficient workplace with a reduced carbon footprint.

Here’s why sustainable facilities management is so important — and how you can implement sustainable practices within your own organization.

Benefits of sustainable facilities management 

Other than being the morally right thing to do, there are lots of reasons to champion sustainability at your workplace.

🌿Cost reduction

Sustainability brings financial benefits to your business, as a number of brands have already discovered. For example:

By making your building operations more efficient, you protect the planet and boost your bottom line.

🌿Meeting ESG regulations more quickly 

To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030

Thousands of companies have pledged to cut their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. 

Multiple ESG deadlines are looming on the horizon too, including mandatory disclosure of energy consumption and carbon emission data in the UK and mandatory disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions, climate-related financial data and governance processes in the US. 

Integrating sustainable FM practices into the day-to-day will help your organization meet ESG deadlines faster, which in turn bolsters reputation and competitive advantage. 

🌿Better hiring and retention

Employees, especially those in the millennial and Gen Z generations, care about the environment. They want to work for companies that can demonstrate corporate social responsibility and sustainable practices.

A 2021 survey of Canadian employees even found that those working for sustainable companies reported better mental health and overall wellbeing. 

Commit to going green, and you may find it easier to recruit top talent — and hold on to existing staff.

67% of employees surveyed by IBM reporting being more likely to accept a job offer from a company dedicated to sustainability. 

38% of executives surveyed by Deloitte cite better recruitment and retention as a benefit of their organization’s sustainability efforts.

Deloitte CxO sustainability report

But concerningly, 38% of employees believe their organizations aren’t doing enough to address climate change and sustainability. 

Building and using green office spaces plus waste reduction are initiatives that almost a quarter of employees aged 18-34 would like to see their organizations do more of. 

7 things facilities managers can do to improve workplace sustainability

If you’re committed to sustainable facilities management, there’s no better time to take action. The widespread adoption of hybrid working has created an enormous opportunity to reconsider how we use spaces and resources within the workplace.

So let’s dive into how you can capitalize on that opportunity and work to improve sustainability at your organization.

1) Conduct a sustainability audit

Before you can create a sustainability plan, you need to know what’s working — and what isn’t — when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. A sustainability audit will help you to analyze current sustainability efforts and find areas for improvement.

You can then set sustainability targets and create a plan of action for achieving them.

2) Replace or upgrade older equipment

Older electrical equipment uses more energy than newer alternatives. So it’s well worth replacing old workplace appliances and machinery with more energy-efficient versions.

And don’t stop there! Budget permitting, the following improvements can all help to lessen your company’s environmental impact:

  • Use LED lighting systems
  • Invest in a more efficient HVAC system
  • Replace old window units with new and better-insulated ones
  • Insulate the roof and walls of your workspace

Implement any of these ideas, and you’ll reduce your energy usage and your bills.

3) Create and encourage the use of efficient systems and equipment

Sustainable facilities management is most effective when sustainability is embedded in company culture. You can do your bit to achieve this mindset by establishing guidelines and systems that your whole organization can follow.

Ensure people know what and how to recycle workplace resources. Consider everyday items like paper, cans, plastic, and glass. But also provide info on what to do with large-scale e-waste like old computers and batteries.

Also, instruct employees on how they should leave their desks at the end of the day, fully shutting down equipment rather than leaving it on standby.

4) Install extra occupancy sensors

Placing intelligent occupancy sensors in spaces that aren’t in constant use – like meeting rooms, kitchens and collaboration spaces – cuts unnecessary energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Sensors trigger HVAC systems to turn on and off when people enter and leave a space, slashing energy use without having to rely on constantly reminding everyone to switch off the lights and turn down the thermostat.  

5) Use workplace data to strategically reduce energy consumption

One of the main advantages of hybrid work from a sustainability perspective is that the office isn’t full five days a week. And depending on your organization’s hybrid work policies and schedules, some days of the week may be a lot emptier than others. 

Workplace data from occupancy sensors, WiFi signals and workplace booking tools like Smartway2 illuminates which days of the week are emptiest. You can reduce energy consumption on these days by closing empty floors or zones or even predicting the right amount of food to order for the cafeteria. That means less energy used on lighting, heating, cooling and servicing empty spaces, and less waste created. 

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6) Find green partners

Examine your suppliers and partners. The people who provide products or services to your workplace should be able to demonstrate a strong commitment to the environment.

Eco-friendly cleaning supplies, a seasonal canteen menu, and an energy supplier who specializes in renewable energy sources can all help you to improve your environmental performance.

7) Scale back your office space

Because many businesses have adopted a hybrid office model long-term, they’re finding they need less office space. Cutting down on office space is another great way to make your facilities more sustainable. It’s all part of that “reduce” mindset.If the space you’re getting rid of is older and less energy efficient that’s an even bigger plus. 

But bear in mind that making the wrong resizing decisions with your corporate real estate portfolio can end up costing you down the line. So rather than making the cut based on assumptions, look at workplace data to pinpoint chronically underused areas before making a decision. These are the best candidates for downsizing.  

Hybrid office work also means fewer employees making a daily commute, which again helps to cut your company’s carbon footprint.

Use technology to drive your sustainable transformation

Going green is much easier when you have the right workplace technology.

Smartway2 by HubStar‘s workplace scheduling and analytics software can help your organization operate more sustainably, while cutting costs and improving workplace experience.

Smartway2 By Hubstar
Chris L'Hommedieu

Chris L'Hommedieu

Chris L'Hommedieu is VP of Product at Hubstar, with over 20 years of experience across engineering and product developing workplace technology solutions, and is passionate about building the new set of tools required for effective hybrid working.
Last updated April 24, 2024