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The driving seat

The FM sector will drive a green recovery says Simon King, Mitie’s Director of Sustainability and Social Value

The UK Government recently announced its ten-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, a major milestone in the nation’s race to net zero. With expertise in every area of building management and site operations, ranging from managing waste to improving energy efficiency, FM providers are uniquely equipped to help organisations reach net zero. And, with companies’ emissions from buildings, utilities and fleet directly under their control, facilities managers have an opportunity to act straight away. Now is the time for facilities managers to step up and take a leading role in driving sustainability.

This was the driving force behind the launch of Plan Zero, Mitie’s commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2025, earlier this year. However, as we can’t fight climate change alone, a central part of Plan Zero is to help other organisations reach their own sustainability targets. This led us to publish our Plan Zero Playbook , a step-by-step guide based on our own experiences and expertise to help organisations create effective decarbonisation plans. However, we know that to truly have an impact, we need to reach every sector, not just FM.

With that in mind, Mitie recently took a leading role in the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2020 , a five-day virtual event featuring speakers from the United Nations and Nestle, to the Prince of Wales. As the only FM business presenting, this was our opportunity to demonstrate the leading role that our sector can play in helping organisations meet global emissions targets. The event also gave us an opportunity to talk about how we’ve embedded Plan Zero into our business and how it’s already delivering for us and our clients.

ELIMINATING CARBON EMISSIONS FROM POWER AND TRANSPORT
Like many businesses – and the UK economy as a whole – power and transport are the two biggest sources of emissions for Mitie’s business, which is why Plan Zero includes a commitment to use only renewable energy and switch to a fleet of electric vehicles (EVs).

It’s been less than a year since we launched Plan Zero and we’ve already achieved our target of switching to 100 per cent renewable energy across the business. And, with over 800 electric vehicles on the road and more than 600 charge points installed across the UK, we’re on-track to achieve our goal of transitioning our entire fleet of 5,500 vehicles to electric by 2025. For us this is simply thinking about our energy strategy holistically, we now consider our fleet as an integrated energy system.

Fleet fuel and energy consumption are often the two biggest drivers of a company’s carbon emissions. However, many businesses incorrectly think that eliminating carbon emissions from power and transport is an expensive luxury. By rolling out Plan Zero, we’ve proven that this isn’t the case. With a sharp reduction in renewable energy costs over recent years, our Mitie Energy team has switched dozens of our customers to green energy, reducing both carbon emissions and costs. We’ve also launched our Plan Zero Fleet Transition service to help clients with every aspect of switching to EVs. In most cases, both these services have no net cost and often generate significant savings.

ENHANCING INEFFICIENT BUILDINGS
According to the UK Green Building Council, retrofitting existing offices to make them more energy efficient will be essential to helping the UK meet its emissions targets. With this goal in mind, we’ve spent the past few months performing comprehensive reviews of around 15 key Mitie sites. This has given us important baseline data and the opportunity for us to identify solutions – including calculating potential costs and pay back times – that will make each building more energy efficient. The solutions we’ve considered range from short-term initiatives, such as changing heating settings and installing LED lights, through to long-term solutions, like working with landlords to replace boilers with low carbon alternatives, such as ground and air source heat pumps.

We’ve received many questions, both from current customers and at the recent Sustainable Innovation Forum, about how buildings can be made more efficient given the financial pressures many organisations are facing. However, we know that doing right by the environment doesn’t need to cost the earth. As a business, we’re lucky to have our own team of energy specialists to help us put these plans in place, using our own ‘Zero Carbon for Zero Cost’ process. This approach, outlined in our Playbook, focuses on implementing solutions in a certain order, so that savings can be reinvested into larger projects. With this method, we’ve already helped our clients save over 300,000 tonnes of carbon, eleven times our own annual emissions and the equivalent to £20million, in FY19/20 alone.

ERADICATE NON-SUSTAINABLE WASTE
If we truly want to win the fight against climate change, we need to go even further and reduce all the resources that we are using. Our approach, rather than a focus on recycling, is to eliminate the waste that comes into each business in the first place. With our experts at Mitie Waste, we’re embedding this mindset into our own operations as well as among our clients.

A fantastic example is our recently launched Plan Zero City Landscaping service, where ‘zero single use’ and ‘zero-to-landfill’ are at its core. Everything about the Service is focused on leaving no negative impact, including replacing all black bin bags with reusable polypropylene racksacks and converting any waste into heat and energy, to be used as power.

It is our job as FM professionals to fulfill this role in a way that provides comfort, reassurance and empathy to tenants and landlords, in this strange new world.

About Sarah OBeirne

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