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Sustainable Facilities Management – What’s Next in 2021?

Sustainable Facilities Management – What’s Next in 2021?
19 January 2021

2021 is predicted to prove another vital year for the FM industry, so how can we prepare?

Chris Havers from Acclaro Advisory explains the large, long-term forces converging that the FM industry needs to understand and be prepared for this year, including how FM fits into the sustainability agenda, and how it should be a driving force in net-zero strategies. 

Havers has 7 years of experience in the environmental services sector. His chief responsibility is to lead the strategic direction of the Sustainable Facilities Management Index  (SFMI) and build on the success of the project and expand the impact of the project. Havers’ environmental background was based on becoming a specialist in environmental corporate reporting and GHG measurement with CDP and other voluntary reporting mechanisms. He has also worked on waste audits and energy audits while working for the London Borough of Camden. He led a business-facing initiative called the Camden Climate Change Alliance which provided consultancy services for local business facilities.


The Resilience of FM Providers


2020 has been a turbulent year for most industries and successes and struggles for FM providers have been tied to those of their clients. Resilient providers who have weathered the storm have shown they can be flexible, efficient and develop close working relationships which have proved immensely valuable. 

The biggest disruption has been seen by corporate services in city centres due to a massive reduction in occupancy, and hospitality due to unstable opening regimes. Airports and other transport hubs have also had significant footfall reduction, however, these facilities still require maintenance and upkeep to manage utilities and meet health and safety requirements. 

On the flip side, public services and industries on the frontline have never been busier. New Nightingale hospitals have been erected, cleaning regimes have been increased at schools and universities, and new facilities have been set up for the management of COVID ready installations – testing sites as an example. Each of these rapid changes has necessitated fast effective management in the FM industry, under strict health and safety measures. This flexible style of working has launched FMs as recognised vital frontline services and given them a seat at the top table.

But what happens next? If the vaccine cavalry we have been promised proves as effective as we are hoping, does the FM sector sit back and resume its previous role in the pecking order?


The Sustainable Facilities Management Index (The SFMI)


Since 2013, the SFMI has been promoting how FM should be embedding sustainability across the management and implementation of its services: Whether cleaning, catering, M&E, security, managing projects – sustainability has a role to play in all these activities and more. 

The SFMI assesses top FM providers across the UK against its sustainability roadmap. 2021 will prove another vital year for the industry, because there are large, long-term forces converging that the FM industry needs to understand and be prepared for, and only some have started this process. Join the SFMI on 28 January at our annual E-Event, as we look at these forces and how the lading FM providers are positioning themselves to deliver value to clients.

But what are these areas of growth that FM providers need to consider beyond COVID-19?


  • Green Industrial Revolution
  • Corporate zero-carbon strategy
  • Social Value


Where Does FM Fit In?


FM can bring value to all three.

With a vast range of clients in both the public and private sectors, FM providers are operating refurbishment projects, life cycle projects, M&E projects. They are managing buildings, operating them for efficiency, and engaging with building occupants. 

A responsible FM should be actively engaged in the zero-carbon journey. They should be helping to reduce energy, water use, and waste, improving biodiversity in the built environment. They can manage their projects to reduce impacts. They can procure goods and services that have lower impacts. They can source suppliers who incorporate circular ideas that remove waste and increase the reuse of products. They can incorporate technology that will help to inform smart decisions.  A sustainable FM should be a driving force that can easily plug into a zero-carbon strategy, or even lead the strategy themselves.

With regards to social value, FM is a large employer of people and can bring the benefits of social mobility to deprived communities and disadvantaged people, whilst also embedding sustainable practices and CSR commitments at the local level. An FM provider that is tuned in to these issues can strategically adapt how it brings benefits to an area and can communicate this to its customer, leaving it well-positioned for future business wins.

The FM of 2021 should not be content with the delivery of the vital services provided in the year of the global pandemic but should be aiming to launch itself from this role and bring solutions to the bigger long-term problems that face our society - including social mobility and climate change. The SFMI incorporates these essential issues into its annual assessments and provides a roadmap to seize opportunities.

Picture: a photograph of some wind turbines

Article written by Chris Havers | Published 19 January 2021


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