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02 November 2017 | FM World team


What kinds of ethical working practices do you think should be prioritised? FM leaders discuss if the sector should develop more ethical goals

The Fairplace Award has been set up by property charity the Ethical Property Foundation. It evaluates organisations by working practices and a range of ethical policies. We asked what ethical practices you think should be prioritised. And what can the sector gain from a focus on wider social value?

John Bowen

Avoiding discrimination in ethical ambition

I think that it is good to have some cohesive debate on the subject and that doing so might bring more focus on the possibilities that could be exploited. Some aspects are often already in place, for example, if you look outside of the big cities most employees do come from the local community; in one of the teams that I am currently working with only one out of 23 lives more that five miles away.

Restricting your choice to local suppliers can be more difficult. 

The nearest specialist suppliers might be miles away and you want the best you can afford so restricting yourself geographically has to be balanced against ethical ambition. 

There is also an issue for the public sector whereby procurement regulation requires open competition in certain circumstances. There is a similar issue in recruiting employees whereby restricting applicants to local ones could be viewed as discrimination and the dichotomy of wanting to be ethical when to do so requires you to act outside the law which is, in turn, a breach of ethics will no doubt continue to rattle around for some time yet.

Waste management is getting better, but there are still instances of front-end recycling not being carried through the system due to the inability of local authorities to process certain types of waste.

John Bowen, FM consultant

Ian Thomas 

Blessed are the soup-makers

The first step on this journey is to identify what ethical practices mean to an organisation. How does one measure true value from the outset? Is the desired value at company, team member, client, or customer level? Companies need to do a vast amount of soul-searching to determine how to measure the real social value of how they conduct their business.

At Bartlett Mitchell, we worked closely with the Sustainable Restaurants Association (SRA) to develop a strategy that focuses on three key pillars: sourcing, society and environment. These support our decision-making. It has resulted in us winning the SRA’s Sustainable Contract Caterer for three successive years.

The framework encourages us to develop programmes such as ‘Wast-Ed’, which starts by measuring and monitoring waste. Through ‘Wast-ed’, we have reduced our food waste by almost 20 per cent in some sites. As part of this, we put a stringent monitoring programme in place to identify dishes that were creating the most waste. We then armed our teams with resources such as tips, ideas, and recipes to use the whole ingredient and leftovers. We created a keen army of picklers and soup-makers as a result! It was a chance to think more creatively, create a variety of dishes from the same product and save money and reduce our impact on the environment.

This real-life example has a big impact on the communities in which we operate and supports our clients’ CSR objectives. It isn’t a question of doing it just to develop marketing-friendly messages.

Our teams recognise this too – the engagement, retention and consequent productivity benefits are undeniable.

The value of these activities extends beyond societal benefit; it also aids the bottom line. Being ethical and sustainable should never be about just being seen to do the ‘right thing’. It can and should be about supporting the commercial objectives of our business, our customers and clients.”

Ian Thomas, CEO, Bartlett Mitchell

Joanne Fisher

Doing business in the right way

Ethical best practice should be a key priority for all FM organisations. ISS is committed to doing business the right way. We are actively involved in a wide range of corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives and similarly, we strive to ensure that all our people are paid a full and fair living wage.


Driving towards increasing levels of sustainability, ISS works collaboratively across all aspects of the public and private sector to evolve environmental excellence. We strongly believe that the long-term success of our company depends on the balance of social, environmental and economical aspects of our business.

For five consecutive years, ISS has achieved the highest-possible rating given by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) in its annual assessment of outsourcing organisations worldwide. We attribute our accolade to the focus we place on our customers’ business and empowering our staff to bring purpose to life. 

As one of the largest private employers in the world, we invest in our people through effective management, development and motivation. We believe in the ‘power of the human touch’ and our global training programme, Service with a Human Touch, is designed to specifically deliver this ethos – our employees’ positive attitude and service-centric approach ensures that we provide the best possible service to our customers.

At ISS, our values of honesty, entrepreneurship, responsibility and quality are the foundation to everything we do. From how we work with our customers to the way we treat our people. Staying true to our values means more than doing our best for our customers; it means we’ll always go the extra mile to reduce costs, improve results and make the lives of our customers easier.

Joanne Fisher, marketing, ISS

Mat Roberts

Prepare to be judged

Ethics in the workplace is not an optional extra; it never has been, however, in the world of radical transparency, traceability increasingly enabled by blockchain technology and the ability to reach a mass audience with one post across the whole range of social media there is no excuse for low standards and if anyone is tempted the probability of being named and shamed is very high.

We can all name those who have made this mistake and could be labelled as unethical; the two letters VW will take a lot of burnishing to get their lustre back. I wonder if we could make as long a list of ethical companies as quickly.

I suggest that pay and representation has been taken out of the hands of employers by government. The National Living Wage is set to increase on an escalator and the labour market post-Brexit will also play its role. 

The area where business should now focus is on its supply chain.

Mat Roberts, group director of sustainability strategy, Interserve PLC