A Vision for Sustainable Facilities Management

A practical framework for delivering sustainable facilities management

November 7, 2022 15 Minute Read

By Sarah Shaw Jodie Yates

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Sustainability is fast becoming one of the biggest drivers for businesses and is shooting up the agenda in boardrooms across the globe. Meanwhile, COP27 is set to renew calls for urgent climate action. With companies making Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments,  the roadmap to delivering on these relies heavily on sustainable facilities management practices. Sustainability is a fundamental part of how we look at the future and the role of facility management is central to delivering more sustainable buildings in 2022 and beyond.

Facilities management reducing impact on the environment 

The built environment is responsible for a large part of the UK’s emissions. The government estimates that 30% of UK emissions come from buildings, 23% of which is due to the heating of buildings. Therefore, the responsibility of the Facilities Managers as custodians of the buildings they occupy and manage, is to work with organisations to decrease emissions, improve energy efficiency and ensure they positively impact the environment. 

Facilities management leaders play a pivotal role in embedding better environmental practices, supporting a more sustainability-conscious culture and introducing sustainable innovation; they have a tremendous opportunity to positively contribute to the sustainable development of the built environment in every industry. 

What is sustainable facilities management? 

Sustainable facilities management is the conscious management of commercial spaces to realise social value and reduce overall impact on the environment. Facilities management supports business stakeholders to implement measures that will reduce, and ultimately eliminate, an organisation's carbon emissions whilst positively impacting the communities they operate in. 

Rewarded for sustainable development 

As reported in CBRE's 2021 Global Investor Intentions Survey, sustainability factors and ESG compliance is now informing decision making processes in businesses across the globe. Not only do 80% of building occupiers cite personal ethics as the main driver for supporting their organisation's sustainability goals, but investors are increasingly investing in businesses that have better sustainability credentials. There’s no doubt that sustainability is fast becoming the top priority for organisations across the world, and they need to rely on the facilities management industry to own the operational delivery of many of these sustainable initiatives, ultimately impacting a business’ outcomes. 

Stronger performance 

The facilities management industry has a significant opportunity to impact long-term financial performance by implementing sustainable initiatives that decrease costs through facility energy, waste and water usage. Whether it’s taking buildings “off-grid” by installing PV solar roof tiles (for on-site generation of electricity and security of supply) or changing lighting throughout a building to more energy efficient lighting, facilities management can have a considerable impact on reducing a company’s facility costs. 

Talent attraction 

In 2022, talent attraction is one of the main drivers for investment decisions in corporate real estate and facility management services. Employees want to work for companies that have a purpose, so to win the fierce talent war and attract the best of the younger generations, companies must have strong environmental practices supported by a culture and community within.

Through workplace experience and cultural transformation programmes, facilities management can make tangible improvements to support this agenda in every industry. This was reflected in the CoreNet and CBRE survey where 45% of Corporate Real Estate leaders said aligning purpose to ESG goals was a priority. 

Talent retention 

The business case for talent retention is compelling. 60% of respondents in CBRE’s UK Sustainability Report said that adding features to buildings to improve the health and well-being of users, was very important or critical to their decisions. CBRE also found that 60% of employees choose a place to work based on matched values.

Operating buildings sustainably and obtaining ‘green’ credentials has the power to unite the workplace by creating a more environmentally-aware culture, powered by healthier, productive and more engaged employees. The business benefit is higher rates of employee satisfaction, lower absenteeism and better overall employee retention.

Net zero success 

Sustainability feeds into higher business strategy and is often driven by organisational values, standards, and desired brand positioning. Whilst in 2022, only 58% of global Fortune 500 Companies have publicly committed to net zero targets, this is becoming increasingly more common, and facilities management is often tasked with designing and delivering the roadmap for achieving these net zero targets. This highlights the role that facilities management plays in supporting overall brand reputation. 

CBRE has made a Science Based Target of Net Zero by 2035 for its UK Facilities Management business (2040 for the global CBRE business), ahead of the UK governments 2050 target. 

Innovation adoption

Sustainability factors are now informing decision making, and as companies push the boundaries to search for more sustainable ways-of-working, commitment to invest in innovative solutions and technology is increasing. Technological advances, fuelled by the need to collect more advanced environmental data to measure and manage companies' carbon footprints, are driving facilities management companies to innovate. 

Adoption of innovation, such as the implementation of PhotoVoltaic Thermal (PVT) panels, which turn sunlight to electricity and heat into hot water, is helping facilities management to reach, redefine, and improve on sustainability achievements. 

Putting it into practice 

Often Facilities Managers are handed their organisation's sustainability commitment, or even a business-specific or a net zero Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) standard and asked to create a roadmap to achieve it. A recent CBRE survey noted that the biggest challenges to developing this roadmap are practical ones: data, cost and complexity

At CBRE we’re focused on helping to solve these practical challenges, so have developed a framework for facilities managers to help companies deliver on their sustainability commitments: 

1) Agree the mission

Take the time to understand the ‘why’ of your organisation's sustainability commitments – identify the drivers and develop a mission with the facilities management team to maximise impact and cultural acceptance. 

53% of attendees at CBRE's 2022 ESG Roadshows, stated their company is at the beginning of its ESG journey and one of the biggest barriers is “the complexity of the decisions that need to be taken”. Therefore, there must be clarity on what you are trying to achieve. 

To make the biggest impact, the full range of facilities management stakeholders, from employees to visitors, Facility Managers and supply chain partners, need to consistently have sustainability efforts at the forefront of their mind. With a clear vision and mission, alignment to roadmap delivery and success will stay on track. 

2) Understand the baseline 

Defining a baseline for past emission production is the important reference point for tracking progress over time. This includes Scope 1 & 2: that is, direct and indirect emissions from company owned assets or controlled emissions such as electricity, gas, fuels and vehicles. 

Indirect emissions, Scope 3, includes business travel and supply chain, and tends to be the largest part of a company’s carbon footprint. According to Deloitte, for many businesses Scope 3 emissions accounts for 70% of emissions and is the hardest but most important to reduce. Facilities management partners are included within Scope 3, which is why it’s important to engage all service partners with a clearly defined net zero and sustainability ambition. 

CBRE’s ambition is to be a net zero business globally by 2040 , and we see many of our clients leverage our Sustainability Consultants to help define their own business' net zero SBTis.

3) Define metrics and develop the roadmap

Having accurate baseline data is important for establishing how long it will take to achieve net zero and supports developing realistic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track emission reduction progress. KPIs should be specific and measurable. 

For Facilities Managers, these might be energy and water reduction metrics, waste reduction and diversion metrics, and switching fleets to electric vehicles. It could also include creating a procurement policy which requires suppliers to measure and lower their emissions. Remember that the data collected by ever-improving sustainability technologies serves little purpose without well-defined measurement standards. 

The aim is to create a formalised implementation plan, or roadmap to net zero that includes responsibilities and resource allocation. CBRE's recent client care survey (which had responses from 700+ organisations worldwide), found that the most important elements of the ESG agenda for clients were: electric vehicles and charging points, renewables, sustainable projects that reduce carbon emissions and CapEx planning to reduce energy costs. 

Define short- and medium-term objectives in support of the long-term goal and organise by categories of emissions that will be lowered over a defined period. Start with the categories under your control first (i.e., Scope 1 & 2). Conduct a feasibility study across the business to highlight options and solutions to reduce capital expenditure for projects such as building retrofits.

4) Build a governance and engagement structure 

It is important to build a strong governance structure to achieve your net zero ambitions. It should be built around the principles of accountability and transparency, then measured through regular reporting and participation from key stakeholders. Development of a sustainability risk register to coincide with reporting and reviews will help highlight potential challenges.

How do you create the right culture and mindsets, engage employees and reinforce the right behaviours? Individual and collective behaviours are a major part of achieving sustainability goals, particularly around recycling, water usage and lighting.

Equally, employees often value visible actions which, in turn, reduces scepticism of their employer’s efforts. Take steps to inform and influence the behaviours through transparent reporting, gamifying and general communication on sustainability actions and outcomes.

5) Deliver

Now it’s time to shift the focus – from analysis to action. As your team and stakeholders work to achieve the deliverables of the roadmap, regular measurement of progress allows the opportunity to improve or refine initial KPIs. For example, the initial KPI may have focused on reducing the annual percentage of general waste disposed to landfill. With a significant achievement of such, the KPI can be altered to a higher percentage to reflect this success. 

Looking ahead 

Having made public commitments, businesses must develop a coherent pathway towards tangible outcomes. Facilities Managers are uniquely placed to turn the positive vision into practical action. Sustainable facilities management means proactively future-proofing building solutions and our built environment for tomorrow; to achieve this, facilities management must act on sustainability today. 

Case Study: Zurich

Sustainable investment: CBRE in partnership with Zurich 

CBRE is responsible for hard and soft service delivery at Zurich – a global insurance company headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland. CBRE’s operation covers over 650,000 Sq. ft of building space across more than 20 UK offices, servicing 4,500 staff members. 

Aiming high

Zurich’s ambition is to be one of the most responsible and impactful businesses in the world, and they chose CBRE as the service partner to support them on this journey in the UK. Striving for a positive impact on society and our planet in everything they do, CBRE worked with Zurich to deliver on its ESG commitments.

Supporting social enterprises

CBRE designed a bespoke facilities management solution that supports Zurich’s desire to work more closely with social enterprises. The scheme has already been successful in supporting and increasing spend on diverse suppliers and social enterprises, with a target to increase spend from 34% to 50% by the end of year 2. This is being achieved by projects such as Zurich’s first Hey Girls delivery with 13,000 sanitary products donated to girls and women in period poverty, a Branded Eco Umbrella Dryer trial (plastic bag free and powerless), stationery and furniture donated to charities and schools in need, transformation of waste management, engagement, and volunteering.

Reducing consumption and acting giving back

Energy consumption is also being targeted at the sites through onsite technical walkarounds and LED lighting proposals. Alongside this, the team are ensuring the well-being of the employees and local communities is maximised in every area of their working day: projects include volunteering opportunities such as food banks, litter picking, biodiversity projects, creating well-being week activities and urban farming proposals.

CBRE’s values are aligned to create a joint vision for the future of Zurich’s working services and facilities management.

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