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How FM can Help Customers Achieve their Sustainability Goals

Katrina Hazewell, Environment and Sustainability Manager at ABM UK, explains the important role facilities management companies can pay in furthering environmental sustability at client organisations.

In today’s world we have the choice to buy better in almost all parts of our everyday life. From the way we travel and what we wear, to what we do with the waste we produce, there are choices we can make to reduce our impact on the environment.

And with that choice, comes power. Consumers want to know that the brands they buy into and the places they visit have environmental responsibility in focus. As a facilities solutions provider our role is critical in helping our customers align their business outcomes to that message and to garner trust and loyalty from their customers.

As sustainability continues to be a significant focus for business, our role has grown too and continues to evolve. Recently, The Sustainable Facilities Management Index (SFMI) published a white paper containing a framework to assist FM organisations in taking a lead on the road to sustainability. Whilst sustainability is also about improving our social and economic performance, in the aftermath of COP26 and with the world’s eyes trained on climate change, reducing our environmental impacts is vital.

My role as Environment and Sustainability Manager at ABM is to work with team members to improve our own environmental impact and facilitate success for our customers – collaboration is something we see as crucial to the appeal of our offer now and in the future. And that’s because the problem is so big and the possibilities are so vast, that for most businesses, knowing where to start and the overwhelming pressure to do better can be paralysing. Our biggest role as facilities solutions providers is to help our customers take small, consistent and scalable, steps forward; to be inspired by the progress they make instead of being deterred by the size of the task. 

In the past year, our teams have delivered on several practices which demonstrate the difference even small changes can make on environmental goals and even the bottom line. Materials recovery and waste management; biodiversity projects and reduction on greenhouse gas emissions are three of the main areas which we are working on with customers to truly make a difference.

We recently won three ‘Green Apple’ awards, which reward and recognise environmental best practice, for our efforts at three UK shopping centres. Our work with Hammerson’s Victoria Leeds Shopping Centre earned us an International CSR Excellence Award for delivering on a three-year sustainability and environmental management programme. In those three years, working with the client and its tenants, we have implemented waste systems which have significantly reduced the annual waste budget. This also contributed to lowering the centre’s carbon footprint because we managed waste at a site level; lowering the amount of collections required, reducing transport, and decreasing costs significantly every month. 

At the same awards ceremony we were also recognised for Environmental Best Practice for a ‘soft services’ initiative by our team at Mermaid Quay Shopping Centre where we provided uniforms made from plastic bottles – with one order we have prevented around 1,600 plastic bottles from ending up in landfill.

One of our best demonstrations of collaborating with customers to create change is at Manor Walks Shopping Centre, where our team developed a sustainable biodiversity project. The team created its own plant nursery, increased native species of plants, installed beehives, and relocated six hives within the centre, away from farmer fields. The initiative also encouraged local tenants to get involved and offer free plants.

In addition, through a sustained energy saving programme, the project reduced the carbon output by 90,000 kgs annually, equal to a £100,000 saving on power usage each year. It has also recycled approximately 60 tonnes of cardboard and 20 tonnes of plastic, reduced its volume of waste going to landfill, increased its habitat areas by 20% and diverted rainfall to a water butt, giving an annual water recycling usage of approximately £12,000.

We’re often asked what the key considerations are in taking those early steps on the environmental journal. My top tips include:

  • Educate your team in sustainability and the environment.
  • Empower and introduce diverse individuals to challenge and support career building in sustainable solutions.
  • Form a collaborative sustainability Steering Group. Agree your policy, outcomes and owners – keep it live and communicated, and driven from business leaders deep into operations.
  • Understand your waste, materials consumption, and emissions data and the value it provides. 
  • Set targets to reduce impacts across the service chain. 
  • Define an action plan and drive it by involving the community to reduce environmental impacts using a supporting framework.
  • Explore the issues for, client, suppliers, service providers, occupants/tenants, and local community and understand any impacts or benefits of any change to these groups.
  • Investigate standard in-use products and challenge their environmental impacts.
  • Invest in the innovation.
  • Measure and report your results to ensure your solution is good and verify scalability.

Working with all stakeholders to deliver on these environmental projects demonstrates the role our industry has in aiding the businesses we serve to reduce their environmental impact, one project at a time. Distilling the mammoth task into achievable and measurable projects will ensure we can deliver progress together.

Our interconnectedness means we are reliant on each other to reduce our environmental impacts. Inevitably the way we work to care for facilities has to evolve to make meaningful and lasting change happen.  The status quo is no-longer valid. We must encourage, enable and invest in people and teams collaboratively, compromise and innovate while working with community, technology, and process to return real social value.

CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Katrina Hazell

Katrina Hazell is Environment and Sustainability Manager at ABM UK and a Chartered civil engineer.

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