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Sustainable business policies making good business sense

05 July 2019

PFM examines how the alignment of sustainable practices are becoming an important element in the winning or continuation of contractual agreements.

Companies of all shapes and sizes are gaining attention for their efforts to include sustainable practices within their business ethos and many are now finding that these can play a vital role in the winning of new contracts or the continuation of existing arrangements.

Within the FM sector, those who are able to align these activities to combine with those of their existing or potential clients are finding that, in some cases, this can be the deciding factor that helps them to stand out from their competitors.

One of the most relevant examples of this is provided by Chiswick Park Enjoy-Work and operations director Glen Kitching explains:

“We believe whatever we do today will have an impact on tomorrow. We conduct our business in a sustainable way and encourage the companies we work with to comply with our sustainability programme.

“We work hand in hand with the 69 guest companies on our campus to reduce our carbon footprint. As the property management company, we have an important role to play in addressing some of the environmental challenges and lead by example.”

The park has added a ‘green lease’ clause in tenants’ leases, Mr Kitching continues, which is designed to ensure compliance with its energy efficiency and sustainability targets.

This involves measuring waste production for each company onsite and includes the provision of regular training, education and awareness for all guests on both energy saving and waste and recycling. Proof of sustainable company policies are also required from the park’s service partners and suppliers.

It has formed partnerships with five external service partners, all of which have integrated their work within the operations of Chiswick Park to create a one team ethos.

“We therefore expect each partner to provide us with sustainable credentials. Our sustainability expectations do, however, vary depending on the scope of the contract. The same applies to our external suppliers.

“For example, our ‘concierge service’ provider for waterless car valet services has helped us save 312,000 litres of water since the beginning of the year. In addition, sourcing products responsibly is a high priority to us and we strive for our branded products and stationery to be as ethical as possible, in line with our values and principles,” says Mr Kitching.

Continuing the discussion, EcoPure Waters managing director Paul Proctor says sustainability and waste reduction, in all its forms, needs to be at the top of the agenda for FMs because it is good for the planet and also for business. Customers are increasingly looking to support businesses that put sustainability at the heart of their operations.

“A good starting point is to eliminate plastic bottle use by replacing bought-in water in single-use plastic bottles with in-house, filtered water served in reusable glass bottles.

"Using a mains water filtration system reduces waste by avoiding the energy associated with manufacturing, transporting, storing and recycling plastic water bottles, which also reduces plastic packaging. Drinking water is created on demand, with no over-ordering or out-of-date stock,” he continues.

Not having to buy and store bottled water reduces input costs, saves administration time and minimises the amount of storage space needed.

A mains water filtration system produces chilled still and sparkling water on demand for serving in own-brand glass bottles, perhaps combined with a sustainability message.

“Margin-wise, a filtration system benefits your organisation because the cost per litre is much less than buying in bottled water. Standalone systems are available starting at less than £20 per week. So, if you spend more than this on bought-in bottled water - around 5l to 6l daily - then you’ll save money from the outset,” says Mr Proctor.

Glass versus plastic

There are many reasons for increasing the focus on sustainability within each facility and although this will often increase the workload of the FM team and its service providers, one of the benefits can be to address one of the most common issues affecting the industry, namely the visibility of the many services provided.

This is another aspect initially highlighted by the PFM Editorial Advisory Board, which has previously commented on the fact that the long list of responsibilities that fall within the job description of each FM are rarely, if ever, noticed by building owners or facilities users.

All the time the facility remains operational, no thought is given to the reasons why cleaning, security, reception, catering, heating and cooling and all other services work so well – until something goes wrong.

It was therefore highly encouraging to hear the response received by ERM head of facilities, Northern Europe Paul Roche, who received “many compliments and notes of appreciation” from staff working at the company’s central London office after introducing an initiative to reduce the use of plastic.

This involved switching from using plastic milk bottles to glass alternatives, communicated to staff members under the banner Our Milk is Going Green.

Mr Roche told PFM that this received the most enthusiastic response from his colleagues at ERM out of any of the other numerous initiatives implemented, including saving energy and raising recycling levels.

He estimates that the company’s London office would discard an average number of more than 1,500 four-pint (two-litre) plastic milk containers per year.

“That’s a lot of plastic and now we have none,” says Mr Roche. “My office is relatively small in comparison with other offices surrounding me in the City of London and elsewhere so the potential to eliminate even more plastic will be enormous.”

The initiative was completed in partnership with Anglo Office Group CSR director Russell Hodson, who says that a single, one-pint glass milk bottle removes 28 one-litre containers from the waste stream, with glass bottles re-used up to 50 times.

The company has launched its Glass Class of 2019 initiative with the aim of selling 250,000 pints of milk, which will remove approximately 7m single-use plastic containers from the waste stream.

Mr Hodson says that although milk delivered in glass bottles is more expense, there is less waste:

“This is mainly down to us putting the milk away into the customers fridges and only topping up what’s been used. This stock management element of the service enables us to proactively manage the quantities delivered and advise customers what levels they need instead of the other way around.

“Also, as a pint is a smaller unit than what they’ve normally been supplied with, we are finding its more likely all of the milk is being consumed. Whereas with the larger sized plastic containers, people are often suspicious of the last remnants and pour it away down the sink in favour of opening a new one.

“Because of this we are seeing between 5% to 15% reduction in consumption compared to when they were receiving standing orders in plastic,” says Mr Hodson.

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