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FM sector: helping to reduce global emissions


With organisations keen to demonstrate their green credentials, implementing sustainable initiatives is in many ways seen as the easy bit. Facilities management professionals have been engaging in a whole host of sustainability initiatives for many years, so I think we need to take a step back and instead ask how we’re measuring the effectiveness of sustainable initiatives and how we’re policing them. It is crucial to understand this as you can’t manage what you don’t measure and some of the most innovative initiatives fail to deliver the best results due to lack of engagement, understanding, or buy-in from your employees and supply chain.

If you haven’t already done so, put your sustainability strategy at the core of everything you do. Make it part of your CSR mission and encourage everyone to contribute. Perhaps start a green or environmental champions team whereby employees get together and discuss changes that could have a positive impact as well as ways to embed your sustainability initiatives across the business. Passionate champions are an invaluable asset that are too often overlooked.

When exploring different initiatives, affordability and feasibility is paramount. They must be fit for purpose and demonstrably achievable – sometimes it’s the little changes that deliver the biggest impact. And sometimes the little changes, if rolled out across a large portfolio can make a big difference. For example, turning off your monitor if you are going to be away from your desk for more than 20 minutes will save energy. Or installing LED lighting which, although initially more expensive, can save up to 75 per cent on energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

Adopting a zero to landfill policy really does make you sit down and consider what actually happens to every piece of waste that leaves your building, be that an ink cartridge, banana skin or a glass bottle. Recycling bins in the workplace are only effective if people use them correctly; educational communication that explains this can help embed the right behaviours throughout the office and wider team.

As well as the obvious recycling of waste, other initiatives to consider include moving your data centre to the cloud. It’s secure, scalable, reliable and energy saving. Perhaps consider installing solar window film on south facing windows to save air-conditioning load in the summer months. And let’s not forget renewable energy when it comes to the built environment, such as solar panels, geo-thermal heat pumps and wind mills which can further reduce energy consumption and traditional emissions.

It’s important to think outside of your own organisation and focus on how your work itself is impacting the planet – work with your entire supply chain to ensure they adopt sustainable strategies in the delivery of their products and services to you too. Every link in the chain is crucial, and the right sustainable initiatives for your business should also be aligned with your core values. In summary, if you’ve worked hard to define your sustainable initiatives, you can work a bit harder to embed and manage them to realise their maximum impact.


The IPCC report published last month has certainly been a wake-up call for everyone that the current business as usual approach, despite the significant advances being made, is not enough. Whilst there is a long-term goal that the entire property sector needs to be carbon and energy neutral by 2050 at the latest, this means a building needs to be converted almost every 30 seconds until 2050 to achieve this goal.

FM has a unique role spreading across the built environment to deliver a more efficient working environment and informing major projects to provide a step change in performance. However, this is not a role or a subject which can be done by FM as a silo – instead it very much needs to happen in conjunction with the wider business and key suppliers.

Below are the immediate steps that FM can take on this journey:

  • Understand where and how energy is used
  • Collecting data – accurate and verifiable – is the starting point. Too often the focus is simply on the collection of single points of consumption into a profile, but the available data stretching to sickness levels, helps to paint a picture of why consumption is the way it is. Understanding the Why will help changes to take place.
  • Focus on efficiency first
  • The first activity is to target over consumption and wasted energy use. The majority of buildings over use energy by 20 per cent to 30 per cent, even for those with an Energy Manager. AI technology coupled with real time analytics is helping to monitor the changes to internal environments and how the building is used to moderate plant, lighting and air flow. This is resulting in more optimised building controls being maintained on a daily basis.
  • Develop a strategy to get to net zero
  • Whether managing a building or a portfolio, developing a science based approach to get towards zero carbon and energy is a key step. The approach will help understand the level of changes that capital investment programmes and refurbishments will need to achieve and pave the way for wider engagement across the business as to how this can be delivered. Don’t expect to have all the answers, but the pathway will provide the critical timeframes where decisions will need to be made.
  • Raise awareness
  • Gaining engagement from across the business and key suppliers will be critical to the delivery of both the efficiency measures and the strategy. Having the right culture in place is imperative and this will start at a very basic principle of ‘What’s in it for me?’. If you cannot answer that for key stakeholders, why would they engage with FM to provide support.
  • Remove the silo mentality
  • Achieving the target will be a challenge and you will need everybody on board and working collectively. This will mean various departments working collaboratively with the supply chain. Procuring on cheapest cost or having suppliers focussed on just delivering SLA’s will not work. Likewise, a finance department unable to capitalise the non-financial benefits will become a barrier. Much of this will relate back to the culture, but the vision will need to be driven by FM.
  • Look at the wider carbon impacts of your activities
  • FM services are not just related to the energy provision – carbon impacts are also linked with other services such as the catering provision, transport and furniture. Capturing the wider embodied carbon impact from these services will help to provide a bigger picture and place energy use into context of the organisations total impact. It may surprise you just how large the other areas impact.

Following these steps will not achieve net zero, but will certainly ensure that you have started on the right foot, with a forward plan and strategy. We cannot continue with business as usual, so need to implement different approaches to get towards our target.

About Sarah OBeirne


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