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Why is Sustainable FM Procurement Such a Challenge?

Why is Sustainable FM Procurement Such a Challenge?
16 March 2022

FM procurement is known for being variable and complex, so how can sustainable practices be improved in this area?


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The procurement landscape is experiencing a global shift, in line with net-zero concerns and increased CSR awareness –  however, when it comes to the facilities manager’s responsibilities, sustainable procurement practices are still lacking

That’s according to research by The Sustainable FM Index, who have examined why sustainable procurement is not yet common practice in this industry.

Their recent report, “Sustainable Procurement in FM : The way forward” outlines the ambition for the future of sustainable procurement in FM and the key criteria that will help embed sustainability in the sector.

It includes an investigation into best practices in FM, where the “The 7 Principles of Sustainable FM Procurement” framework was developed to help businesses address these issues not just at the supply chain level but also within the wider value chain.


“FM procurers want to be a client of choice for the best suppliers, and FM providers want to be a supplier of choice in the marketplace, but we have witnessed uneven progress thus far and are facing increasing needs”



What Are The Procurement Challenges in FM?


The authors of the report examine several areas which present unique procurement challenges for the FM industry.


FM Procurement is Complex


The report states that one framework to accommodate all FM procurement needs would be a huge challenge:

“Each party has their own priorities, encompassing such dimensions as cost, convenience, time, relationship/ transactional.

“Incorporating sustainability into the mix can add to the challenges, especially given the numerous choices of sustainability, climate, and responsible business topics to include.

“This can lead to even more challenges as procurers are often large; as one survey subject said 'It’s hard to find just one as [this company] is large and complex'. This large size and even multiple sites will make embedding sustainability everywhere even more testing.”


Handling Capital Investment


The challenge of handling investment interests from multiple stakeholders is also an FM-specific challenge:

“Agreeing the appropriate time for recouping an investment may require maturity, trust, and some creative thinking. A payback period which may be feasible in other aspects of a business may not be feasible for FM projects.

“Concepts such as service companies or joint ventures may need to be worked for the specific parties. There are benefits in a more complete return on investment analysis in assessing the project.


A Lack of Knowledge of Sustainable Procurement


The 2020 SFMI report “Sustainable Ambition for the FM Sector” noted that there was a lack of understanding of mapping emissions in supply chain” and this appears to be a considerable factor in sustainable procurement adoption.

It’s also been suggested that organisations and processes may not yet have the digital and technological tools and infrastructure to enable the best practices.


Supply and Demand


The SFMI also considers the risk that there may not be enough sustainable suppliers to go around:

“FM procurers want to be a client of choice for the best suppliers, and FM providers want to be a supplier of choice in the marketplace, but we have witnessed uneven progress thus far and are facing increasing needs”


A Talent Shortage in FM


Another factor is that the FM industry currently faces a talent disruption due to an ageing workforce:

“Up to half of the current workforce is expected to retire in the next 10 years – risking the loss of expertise in procurement and operations”

You can access the full “Sustainable Procurement in FM : The way forward”  report here.

Picture: a photograph of some people working at a laptop. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 16 March 2022


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