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19 June 2019
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Sustainability ranks 'very high' in a recent IWFM survey, writes Herpreet Kaur Grewal.


04 February 2019 Herpreet Kaur Grewal

There is no let-up in the importance of sustainability to FM service providers, according to the latest IWFM Sustainability Survey.

25 per cent of respondents  ranked the topic as important, 35 per cent very important, and 31 per cent extremely important.

Governance support of sustainability in procurement activities was viewed as extremely important (13 per cent), very important (27 per cent), or important (31 cent).

Environmental considerations dominate the sustainability criteria on tender forms with 48 per cent of respondents say these are the most frequent sustainability criteria.

A further 26 per cent of respondents noted that tenders now  embrace equally a range of sustainability aspects, including local economic considerations (16 per cent); broader  social value criteria (8 per cent); and ‘others’, comprising a mixture of sustainability, diversity, pay equality, environmental and economic (2 per cent).

While sustainability’s importance continues to be high, perceptions continue to vary depending on respondents’ status. In 2017,  69 per cent of middle managers said sustainability was very important; the 2018 figure was  61 per cent. Similarly, 75 per cent of first line managers and staff saw sustainability as very important in 2017; in 2018, that figure was 56 per cent.

The report notes that other departments, including HR and finance, are becoming more interested in the sustainability agenda.

New contractual arrangements that acknowledge the importance of broader life cycle considerations would help further the cause of sustainability, the report argues.

The report’s authors suggest that traditional fixed-term (three or five-year) FM contracts do not allow suitable time for payback on sustainability initatives tied to energy, infrastructure, technology – a limitation stifling innovation and recognition of FM’s role. 

The issue was debated at IWFM’s Sustainability Group workshop last September. 

“One of FM’s biggest challenges is squaring short-term contracts with delivering long-term sustainable value,” said one delegate.

“An FM company will typically be contracted for three years, but any social value programmes they create during their tenure may take five to 25 years to reach fruition. How can the original FM provider be held accountable/receive credit for that?

One answer, according to the same delegate, was to decouple the investment from the contract. helping build an economic case for sustainable investment in the built environment.

Third-party financing of sustainability initiatives was suggested on the basis that similar funding for energy efficiency and renewables 

have become commonplace.

“These are independent of 3-5 year FM contracts, and longer paybacks are accepted in return for shared and longer-term financial benefits.”  


Emma Potter