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13 October 2016 | Martin Read

Here’s a question – exactly how do you illustrate sustainability? Unlike construction, or more straightforward service lines like cleaning and security, no single image adequately conveys the breadth and immersive nature of sustainability.

You’ll see that our solution is an augmented eternity symbol and some strong pictures of high-performing green buildings. But as I heard the BIFM’s sustainability gurus discussing the past 10 years of sustainability and its role, I wondered; does the trickiness in defining sustainability through a single image mirror the trickiness in defining facilities management?

It’s clear that most of the issues that sustainability initiatives face – the rendering of them as routine, overseeing behaviourial change, reporting empirical evidence of success – are those faced by FM more broadly. FM’s traditional service lines can also be placed under the sustainability banner. Once you could compartmentalise sustainability through energy use and waste recycling; now you can look at where your security guards live, or where the catering staff comes from, and connect that to a social sustainability initiative. Once sustainability becomes about people as much as process, optimising their performance is as much a part of FM as making sure the lights are fixed or the cleaning completed.

Last month I spoke about the societal impact that FM can aspire to as our cities urbanise at an accelerating rate; but perhaps more can be done at a prosaic level to tie sustainability in all its many facets to FM’s daily role. The lightest possible carbon footprint, the most productive and healthy workforce, the best possible positive local impact – all of these are as much optimum FM outcomes as they are sustainability ones.

This month’s FM World goes to press before the 2016 BIFM Awards, so when you get our November awards special I ask you to look at these great stories of collaboration, innovation or performance and consider whether there’s more mileage in the union of sustainability and FM.


Martin Read is editor of FM World