We hosted a roundtable with members of the FM community last week in Glasgow to discuss achieving Net Zero through FM. As businesses assess their commitments, adopt green policies, measure and report on carbon impact, and adapt to new ways of working, all while balancing rising costs and financial constraints, how can strategically thinking FMs be advocates for change?
We opened the discussion thinking about the challenges we face. The responses were varied but all valid, and all equally important considerations when facing the transition to Net Zero.
- Buildings: Working with aging and outdated buildings is a major roadblock as these can pose unique challenges to bring them up to current environmental standards. Equally, organisations need the right support so they can help make the right decisions about the future of their buildings. There’s a lot of uncertainty around estates just now as businesses are unsure what the future holds as they adjust to new ways of working and rising energy costs.
- Culture: The transition to Net Zero is an investment and getting people on board at the right levels to influence change is crucial. The money and ideas might be there but without someone to call ‘action’ there won’t be any significant progress made.
- Data: Getting the appropriate data out of estates is a necessary step in determining how buildings are used and how this impacts their part in the green agenda.
Other challenges included: the supply chain and how getting everyone to comply with the same standards can be a difficult task, sorting out who’s responsible for a building’s upgrades (is it the landlord or the tenant?), and a general reflection inward and trying to figure out what you can do as an FM team to create efficiencies now.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we discussed was inaction and lack of clear policies. On the back of COP26, it seems there’s a lot of talk about what needs to be done but no real decisive steps forward. Part of this is down to wider geo-political issues clouding the stage (like Brexit and war) but another part of it is down to needing clearer understanding of what exactly needs to be done. Businesses need to dive into the nitty gritty of this situation and determine what will actually impact change.
What are some of the reasons for this inactivity? Several attendees discussed issues around technology and how people and organisations are waiting for it to improve. Others brought up processes for achieving these targets by determining who is responsible for driving change within an organisation (think educating people to champion change) and establishing milestones to determine progress.
Is this where FM can influence by being catalysts for that change? With a lot of the comments being about how there’s a lot of talk but no action yet, this is where strategic FM can set that stage and be drivers for that change.
One of the main takeaways is that there is still so much uncertainty in organisations around working patterns and the size/management of their estates that this is halting progress on their Net Zero targets. The conversation veered into occupancy and working patterns and it was clear from the amount of discussion on this topic just how much of an impact this has in moving things forward. This is where data comes in and how securing data can really help determine what steps to take.
An interesting point made is that we need to consider if this baselining period is indeed critical. Yes there is not a lot of movement yet but are we in a crucial phase? Is this decision making, data gathering, baseline period exactly where we need to be at the moment? Maybe. And maybe this is where the strategic FM needs to stand up and start advocating for a stronger seat at the table to influence change.