By Megan Nichols
Environmentally-friendly manufacturing, production and operations are more essential than ever to individuals and businesses. Facilities Management is a crucial part of services and industries that sustainability also benefits.
As the movement grows, more overlap occurs between sustainability and facilities management — creating positive outcomes in a number of ways.
Facilities management is a range of disciplines and professions that focus on people in terms of efficiency, safety, comfort and other services. Those who work in this area maintain an organization’s buildings, functions and equipment. From cleaning to property management to catering, this field has a broad reach across industries, which is why it must have a sustainable foundation.
To accomplish this feat, the infrastructure for facilities management will need to provide three things, also known as the triple bottom line — profit, people and the planet. Just as companies commit to earnings, others consider social responsibility and the environment.
Breaking the triple bottom line down into each section outlines how to benefit from sustainable facilities management.
The environmental benefits of sustainability are perhaps the most obvious out of the three areas. Sustainability inherently helps the earth and starting an enterprise with an eco-friendly infrastructure assists with facilities management.
From the initial stages of starting a company to when it’s in full swing, each part must be sustainable. Therefore, physical building materials should be green. The energy source the building runs on should be renewable. Plus, smaller details come into play — lighting, water, reusable items, energy-saving devices and more. A monumental way to do this is through green infrastructure, where construction coexists with nature instead of destroying it.
With a sustainable foundation, these services can use eco-friendly products, tools, means of transportation and energy sources to perform responsibilities. Cleaning products, for instance, can be biodegradable and made with ingredients that won’t harm ecosystems.
Reduce, reuse and recycle is a common phrase, but it holds true. With circular means of operations, it can give back to the environment without pollutants or other harmful elements. Thus, facilities management will be directly benefiting the planet.
Social responsibility refers to the ideology that an individual or organization should act in the best interests of society. Climate change and all its consequences already affect communities, harming human health, food security, clean water supply, transportation and much more. For example, extreme weather events, such as wildfires, lead to worsened air quality and the transmission of diseases. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse without direct action.
When enterprises start with an infrastructure of sustainability, however, it can influence a workplace environment of eco-friendliness, and staff can partake in contributing to society. Sustainability works from the biggest steps down to the smallest changes, which all add up. When a business encourages environmentally-conscious actions, it allows individuals to do their part to help.
Green energy sources, products and materials are, of course, a crucial way to reduce environmental harm. Yet with incentives and goals for various achievements, employees can take it a step further. Facilities management requires different methods of transportation, for instance, that they could switch out for more sustainable options.
The starting point for sustainability will be how the company they provide service for operates. Does the organization recognize global warming and attempt to take mitigating steps? That foundation must be eco-friendly to properly meet the social responsibility aspects of the triple bottom line. From there, management can progress onwards with incremental improvements.
Sometimes, certain enterprises are hesitant to invest in sustainable resources due to financial restraints. However, that is changing. Renewable energy is now consistently cheaper than any other option, including fossil fuels. Solar, especially, is becoming more popular for individuals, residences and businesses, with the cost of electricity declining 26% year-on-year for concentrated solar power.
Initial costs sometimes deter people from investing in renewable energy, but the return on investment (ROI) will assuage that hesitation. Plus, initial prices are dropping. From there, businesses can implement the most sustainable options in their infrastructure. Beyond that, renewable materials and energy-saving devices will also reduce costs.
Staff will be able to use these energy sources and other sustainable services or products to save money. Recycling and repurposing materials will cut costs in the long run, too. Technology, for instance, is essential to reuse due to high levels of electronic waste.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating and certification service that provides ways for companies and to choose the most environmentally-friendly frameworks that will work with budgets. LEED focuses on multiple green initiatives, building efficiency, fewer operational costs, increased productivity, enhanced health and comfort, higher asset value and more. The resources available will allow us to benefit from becoming more cost-conscious while committing to sustainability.
Actionable Steps for Sustainable Facilities Management
Taking actionable steps towards the triple bottom line is the best way to achieve success in all areas. A company will need to implement sustainable solutions from the start to be as eco-friendly as possible. Then, the environmental, social and economic benefits will come to fruition.
Energy resources and efficiency are two of the biggest proponents of sustainability. With eco-friendly power, Facilities management services cut costs while helping the environment and contributing to their social responsibility. Motion sensors, water-conserving systems and appliances, proper ventilation and reusable materials save money and resources, too.
Team members must also consider what actions they can take to contribute to their local community and society as a whole. With the right combination of green policies, all of which touch on profit, people and the planet. Facilities management can operate in eco-friendly ways.
Since such services cover such a broad range of activities, from equipment management to employee support, making them more sustainable is the best way to achieve the triple bottom line.
One way to guarantee success is to start the enterprise sustainably. From there, facilities management becomes a direct proponent of helping the environment.
Megan R. Nichols frequently contributes to Globe-Net. She enjoys covering environmental topics and green technologies. Read more articles from Megan on her blog, Schooled By Science.