FMs must overcome engagement barriers to sustainability implementation

Engagement still barrier to successful sustainability implementation

There is overwhelming support for sustainability to be embedded into business operations, but still some challenges in its successful delivery, according to the 7th annual Sustainability in Facilities Management survey from the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM).  Of the top five barriers to implementation success, three related to engagement; engagement overall, amongst senior management and middle management. The report also found that many FMs are not targeting the areas of highest priority relating to behaviours or processes which have the highest impact, but tend to focus on technologies.

Many of the respondents to the survey identified the cultural change management aspects of delivering sustainability policies, which are reinforced by the need to have board level leadership and staff at every level being actively responsible.

Legislation and increasing pressures on brands and business to demonstrate their Corporate Social Responsibility play the prominent roles in driving these agendas forward. Since 2007, there has been significant progress in the implementation of the sustainability policy within organisations, with positive ratings (excellent and very good) rising from 26 per cent to 43 per cent.

Unequivocally progress has been made, but the findings pose the question, ‘Is FM going beyond compliance?’ Legislation has long been a significant and necessary driver; a requirement to be met as a minimum performance standard.  By far the most important aspects of sustainability to organisations were health and safety, energy and waste management. All three have strong legislative requirements that underpin them and are typically the responsibility of FMs to deliver on site. The other two items – KPIs and Staff Wellbeing – reflect the target driven culture for sustainability within business, together with the increasing recognition of staff wellbeing being interconnected with many other benefits and costs to a business such as productivity and sickness leave.

Lucy Black, Chair of the BIFM Sustainability Special Interest Group, said “The role of the facilities management professional is central to leading, implementing, educating and enabling sustainable practice within business. Producing the survey of practising FMs enables the BIFM to understand the challenges they are facing and how to support them in their roles.

“Facilities management has an influential role to play in meeting key sustainability and environmental targets not only for their individual businesses but also in the design, fit-out or refurbishment to deliver more efficient buildings.”

Gareth Tancred, BIFM CEO, said “Successes and the level of challenge vary greatly from outsourced provider, to in-house FM and from sector to sector within the economy. Many of the challenges can be traced back to understanding, whether the board understands the implications and benefits or fellow business departments understand the drivers behind the policies. These challenges can be met through clear communication and leadership to bring about that next stage in the cultural change management process.”

The survey and workshop based research, sponsored by Open Energi, was led by the BIFM Sustainability Special Interest Group (SIG) in collaboration with The University of Reading. The published results were analysed by Acclaro Advisory on behalf of the BIFM Sustainability SIG and identify key trends in engagement and effectiveness of sustainability practices and policies being implemented by facilities management professionals and the challenges and barriers they face.

The Executive Summary is available to download here and the full report can be accessed at