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How the FM Sector Can Work Together to Make a Big Societal Impact

How the FM Sector Can Work Together to Make a Big Societal Impact
24 April 2024

Chris Forbes from The Cheeky Panda celebrates the most impactful social value ventures happening in facilities management right now.

Chris is the co-founder of multi-award-winning B Corp personal care, beauty and baby bamboo brand, The Cheeky Panda, along with his partner Julie Chen. The Cheeky Panda is a Fast Track 100 company, ranked 13th in the UK's top 100 start-ups and the 8th most recognisable sustainable brand in the UK. Chris is passionate about delivering change for good and has been a public speaker with regular features in press and radio helping share the journey and inspire others to become environmental entrepreneurs.  Chris is extremely passionate about building sustainable 21st century companies that have purpose over profit, but are still commercially viable entities.  He has been a mentor to several high growth businesses over the past five years.


FM Success Stories 


My own personal journey in sustainability and impact has really opened up my eyes to the positive things going on behind the scenes in facilities management. We are often hit in the news by the doom and gloom of world affairs and the economy without celebrating the success of the many good things that happen behind these scenes on a day to day basis.

Facilities management is arguably one of the most inclusive sectors there is. This is due to the inherent nature of its offering with it directly impacting people’s daily lives and wellbeing and being a close-knit and supportive community. However, while FM is an essential service that we need within society to function properly, it has historically, on occasion, been an industry that can be overlooked, which could be due to a number of factors including unseen background teams working outside of regular working hours or individuals not having direct interaction with industry workers.


"In recent years, what has been really pleasing to see is a growing appreciation and supportiveness within the FM industry. What has been particularly significant is greater awareness about the societal impact that FM has in the UK and how it is perfectly placed to provide support, particularly when businesses and industry leaders join forces to help drive meaningful change."


Thankfully, the pandemic was a watershed moment for FM as it put a light on just how fundamental the community that quietly keeps services and businesses running as they should do has and we felt the associated impact when this was inhibited due to lockdown restrictions.

In recent years, what has been really pleasing to see is a growing appreciation and supportiveness within the FM industry. What has been particularly significant is greater awareness about the societal impact that FM has in the UK and how it is perfectly placed to provide support, particularly when businesses and industry leaders join forces to help drive meaningful change.

As the co-founder of the UK’s first 100 per cent bamboo brand The Cheeky Panda, my own personal journey was taking the world’s fastest growing plant and turning it into toilet tissue, hand towels wipes and many other products.  In that journey we became a living wage member, one of the first 100 companies in the UK to become a B Corp and I have been fortunate to be in a position to work with pioneers in FM. As part of that I want to help raise awareness about what we can do to work together to contribute positively to people’s daily lives, confidence and wellbeing.


The Impact of Hygiene Poverty


Some of this work has involved collaborating with key partners and relevant charities, for example with FM expert, spokesperson and Managing Director of Indigo Integrated FM, Phil Smith. Phil says: “The facilities management industry truly has the ability to restore dignity to people and transform lives” and I couldn’t agree more.

We joined forces as we knew that through our different touch points, connections and offerings, we can make bigger impact together. For example, one key area that is particularly relevant to us and The Cheeky Panda’s personal care offering is working with one of our key charity partners, The Hygiene Bank, that tackles the burgeoning issue of hygiene poverty, which is estimated to impact 3.1 million people and 6 per cent of adults in the UK.

In my role, I’ve seen first-hand how hygiene poverty can have a devastating impact on people’s wellbeing; indeed, it has been reported that 50 per cent of people living in hygiene poverty have felt anxious or depressed and one in eight have said it has actually prevented them from wanting to go to a job interview. With the rising cost of living, hygiene poverty is a major issue and with many people in the FM sector earning minimum wage it can have a very real impact.

Together, we want to continue to shed a light on this issue and are committed to continuing to donate essential products to The Hygiene Bank that people need in daily life, from toilet roll, nappies, wipes etc. What’s also making an impact is people working together in FM to spotlight the issue through volunteering and hosting key events where we can come together and talk, whether it’s galas or charity auctions etc, we can help to drive change and fundraise. For example, our partner Cleanology hosted a fantastic fundraiser and not only was it a brilliant evening, it resulted in huge donations for the sector.


Supporting Ex-Offenders Into FM


Another incredible initiative that has helped to transform people’s lives in the FM community is the charity, No Going Back, the rehabilitation programme supporting people through their journey in prison, preparing them for job opportunities – very often into the FM sector. One of the incredible elements of FM and entering the associated workforce, is there is no barrier to entry. There are many elements that sets it apart, but it pays on the job as people learn and train and roles within FM can align with people’s lifestyles, due to flexible working and employing people from all backgrounds to foster inclusivity. This welcoming culture helps to tackle stigma and support individuals, such as offenders to get back onto their feet and find meaningful employment, which can help reduce reoffending rates and transform lives and restore confidence. With stats stating that adult offenders have a proven reoffending rate of 24 per cent, the work of No Going Back within FM has never been so important.

Likewise, the charity Boxing Futures does incredible work with disadvantaged young people, to empower them to foster positive relationships, build their self-esteem and develop core skills, which can be the perfect springboard into employment within the FM sector.

All of this goes back to the point about FM being so perfectly placed to help restore dignity in people’s lives and make a positive contribution to society. Let’s use this as a springboard to continue to come together to drive even more meaningful change and leverage our connections, resources and experiences. 

Picture: a photograph of Phil Smith (left) from Indigo Integrated FM, Chris Forbes, and Marco Crocian (right), both from The Cheeky Panda. They are standing at the rear of a car, with its boot open, full of The Cheeky Panda products. Image Credit: The Cheeky Panda

Article written by Chris Forbes | Published 24 April 2024


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