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FM favours ‘quick win initiatives’ over strategy to combat climate change

The UK facilities management sector does not possess a thorough, detailed strategic approach to combatting climate change, according to new research by VINCI Facilities.

In the autumn of last year, VINCI Facilities asked over 200 decision-makers how far their organisations have progressed in developing a coherent strategy for the environment, with respondents saying they “favour ‘quick-win’ initiatives that deliver short-term efficiencies, such as use of local recycling and waste reduction schemes”.

Analysis within the white paper report ‘FM and Climate Change’ indicate that these approaches do not address the depth of the environmental problem even allowing for the reach or scope of the organisations themselves.

Building and construction activities (as an economic sector) together account for 36 per cent of global final energy use and 39 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions when upstream power generation is included. CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019. Emissions may be projected to drop due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover, emissions are expected to return to higher levels.

The research indicates the majority of organisations have a policy or strategy in development, but only 40 per cent have a fully implemented strategy – and just a quarter (25.2 per cent) have a strategy embedded across the organisation, affecting every operational area.

At least 60 per cent of respondents said they have carbon-reduction targets, but only 47 per cent have a system in place for checking the targets are being achieved. A formal strategy or roadmap would have short and long-term targets for deliverables along with enabling factors/actions and a robust measurement system.

Paul Lynch, Head of Energy & Water Management for VINCI Facilities said: “Our research shows that most organisations in the built environment/facilities sector have some form of environmental or sustainability strategy in place, which usually include a target for carbon reduction, but they rarely go far enough and often are noticeably short term. Quick wins are OK, and provide a good first step, but they are not a strategy. We need to see a vision, measurement, targets and investment in longer-term solutions like renewable energy sources or conducting whole-life property assessments. There is a lot more that can be done and the way to achieve the challenging targets we face is through collaboration.”

He added: “Too many people still believe that climate change is not a priority, that decarbonisation is unfeasible, perhaps that a bit of recycling or switching to LEDs is enough, or that nothing will make much difference – these misconceptions must be challenged.

“Concerted, strategic action is possible and yields significant benefits. Embracing decarbonisation and other ambitious environmental goals is achievable and can deliver real value to businesses. We have plenty of pathfinders in our sector so let’s make use of them, learning and building a roadmap that will take our industry into a sustainable future.”

Climate Change is the second in a series of white papers published by VINCI Facilities based on research and discussions from leaders within the FM and built environment sectors.

To date the research in each of the four key issues: wellbeing, climate change, collaboration and asset management show that whilst there are incredibly positive ambitions to achieve improvements in all areas, these goals are hampered by not enough clear-cut strategic action.

The full versions of each white paper are being published over the next six months available via the VINCI Facilities web site.

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