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What about water?

In the second and third parts of this three-part series, Acclaro Advisory and SFMI focus on Reporting and Targets and Risks and Opportunities

In conjunction with Methven UK, the SFMI (Sustainable Facilities Management Index) has reviewed historic trending, surveyed FM teams around the UK and held a focused SFMI Leaders Forum discussion to understand the challenges and help FM to engage with customers to drive perception changes.

When it comes to operational performance such as water reduction, voluntary reporting has a lower focus. Engagement is lower, with less space often devoted in sustainability reports.

For those that are reporting, a wide variety of approaches are used to measure usage, with automatic meters and digital technology used, with one respondent measuring water in a trial washroom that has Bluetooth monitoring built-in. In comparison, an equal number captured water through physical meter readings, or from managing agents on a more infrequent basis.

Most reporting (66 per cent) takes place on a weekly or monthly basis allowing for some level of granularity on consumption and comparison over time. However, reporting is rarely made public, with 58 per cent not disclosing the information in any format. Reasons for this are related to the lack of regulatory requirements for disclosure as well as the lower importance water has for companies (see part 1 of this report series – materiality). Positively, a number of organisations were revisiting their approach to water, and increasing its importance as a natural resource.

While there are a higher proportion of survey respondents that do not publicly report on water, there are still opportunities, because corporates are driven to communicate wins. There is a need to improve reporting and awareness, and this raises a question about the role of FM in water reporting. Across FM services, for example, cleaning, catering, refurb projects, there are opportunities to save on consumption and quality of water in a number of contracts with potential quick wins. The SFMI and Methven UK encourage FMs to share their strategies and approaches with customers more readily to promote the work that they do for creating positive sustainability impacts. Corporates will be seeking positive sustainability stories annually for use within their reporting needs, so sharing these from contracts will help to build a stronger relationship with the client based on good news for communications.

This highlights a key question – Should reporting, where data is easily available, be provided regardless of whether it forms part of the contract in order to raise the profile?


Climate change will play an increasing risk role for organisations. Seasonal changes are heightened, with reduced summer rainfall and an increase of high-intensity storm events in winter, which means there are already periods when insufficient water may be available to meet demands. Events such as flooding and hosepipe bans have raised the awareness of water consumption, but often only temporarily.

Different types of reporting, like the mandatory TCFD (Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures) or the investor-led Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), are increasingly requiring organisations to look at their forward risks and opportunities. Sixty-four per cent of respondents felt they understood water risks, with an approach in place to manage and mitigate them. However, in context, with water not deemed to be an issue or material to most organisations, this level of readiness is related to current issues of water leaks.

When investigating where water risks are managed it was found only 25 per cent were managed at a corporate level, with the majority at the contract level or regional level, which correlates strongly with management of water being related to contractual and customer requirements.

There is a perception that water risks are somewhat understood, but when the SFMI conducts its annual audits we often find the understanding of water risk within the FM environment being one of water quality management. There was an exception of this within one provider. Taking strategic contracts, they applied a climate and water facilities level risk assessment for the client, which would be used to highlight the need for action to be taken. This regional level approach is understandable, because water is often described as a local level risk. What is true for one facility may not be true for another. So FMs should be mindful of this.

The strategic understanding of water from the regional level creates opportunities for FM to provide insight at the strategic level, and if they can input the potential opportunities and challenges to their customers backed by evidence and insight into how it can managed at the local level with a series of reduction-based initiatives, it will highlight the strategic value of the FM.

The SFMI and Methven UK are keen to expand its research and understanding of the water challenge in FM by expanding our survey. Please take a short bit of time to be part of our survey:


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