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Jackie Buckwell, Corporate Environment Manager at Office Depot UK & Ireland explains how FMs can more effectively manage their green objectives and achieve sustainability.

Meeting sustainability targets is becoming imperative for the facilities management sector. The way in which buildings are managed has a significant environmental impact as well as a social one. Customers are therefore demanding more sustainable versions of FM- related products and services, as well as the way in which they are sourced and processed.

FM functions need to monitor environmental performance linked to specific outputs such as waste generation, materials usage, energy and water consumption and transportation so that clear internal sustainability targets can be met. Sustainability measures around waste management, health & safety and energy management are all heavily regulated, so legal compliance is also at the heart of any activities or processes implemented by FMs. The Facilities Management Report (conducted by The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) and The University of Reading) cites that legislation is a key driver for FMs.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY It is vital that there is regular

communication with suppliers about how they can help FMs meet specific sustainability targets. It is therefore important for suppliers to understand the role of an FM – typically an in-house FM is expected to feedback to the wider business about environmental outputs linked to product choice and processes. An obvious starting point for any business is to streamline orders to reduce deliveries and volume of packaging. However, there is much more that can be done in the long-term as environmental accountability is directly linked to business performance.


FMs should sit down with suppliers at the beginning of the relationship and ensure they are transparent and able to provide a regular feed of information.


RESOURCES The Facilities Management Report also highlights that insufficient knowledge of how to address sustainability challenges results from a lack of tools available for FMs to understand environmental performance and how to communicate that to stakeholders.

However, there are a number of effective online resources designed to ease the journey to becoming a more sustainable FM. For example, The Supply Chain School is run by a range of FM service providers and clients. The school provides support to businesses and departments focused on FM through a series of e-learning modules, tailored self-assessment and action plans, sustainability training and networking opportunities.

FINDING AN ALTERNATIVE Many FM providers and internal FM

departments position themselves as sustainability experts in terms of the way they promote eco- friendly alternatives to the specific products ordered on a regular basis. However, their ability to do this is directly influenced by the assistance and support of suppliers within their own networks. FMs should therefore be constantly challenging their suppliers to demonstrate that they are willing and able to source sustainable product alternatives.

It is no longer sufficient to simply focus on sustainability internally. FMs consciously enter into agreements with supply chain partners whose activities have a

direct bearing on their own outputs. This means that they have a responsibility to check that sustainability is high on the agenda for firms within the chain, as well as for themselves.

The extent to which this is checked and maintained regularly comes down to maintaining a robust account management system that is governed by regular pro- active contact to ensure agreed objectives are being met. As this kind of system progresses and matures, it also becomes easier to forecast risks and plan ahead to prevent potential supply chain kinks. For example, it may be that there is a certain time of year when specific vendors (sometimes based overseas) are unable to deliver because of a national holiday or specific commitment. It is vital that suppliers to the FM sector identify potential problems early and find an alternative provider that can deliver the same sustainable product choices in a way that reduces impact on the environment through intelligent delivery systems.

A number of FM suppliers already provide summaries of the environmental impact of an order, including where greener products might improve the overall environmental output of the business. However, making this work is a two-way process and FMs must be prepared to regularly engage with their suppliers and establish shared values and objectives in order to maintain a clear focus.

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