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Collaboration is the key to Net Zero

17 April 2024

FMs are increasingly being expected to contribute to clients’ Net Zero journeys – but how does this work in practice? Amanda Vlietstra investigates.

As the race to Net Zero accelerates, it’s clear that facilities managers are set to play a pivotal role in helping clients meet their all-important sustainability goals. After all, as Simon Hayman, Regional Director, Equans UK & Ireland, a leading provider of technical services, FM, regeneration and energy services, points out: “Facilities managers not only operate and maintain the systems, assets and services associated with carbon emissions from buildings, but also have the expertise in monitoring, control and automation necessary to deliver ongoing carbon reductions.”

Legislation is, of course, playing a vital role in shaping the trajectory of Net Zero initiatives - but Hayman believes that FMs can and should go above and beyond this. “FMs must lead by example, advocating for proactive measures that exceed regulatory expectations,” he urges. “This involves investing in long-term, sustainable solutions that meet current standards and future-proof facilities against the ever-increasing climate change impacts on the built environment.”

“Additionally, FMs are well placed to actively engage with stakeholders to help implement change by cultivating an organisational culture that centres around environmental responsibility,” he adds. “By encouraging collaboration and knowledge-sharing, FMs can create a ripple effect, inspiring clients to embrace sustainable practices to drive the decarbonisation agenda for a greener, more resilient future.” 

Contractual obligation

Given all this, it’s not surprising that many new FM contracts being drawn up include the expectation that the service provider will actively assist the client on their FM journey. Director at professional facilities management consultants Cadaema Consulting Services, David Parrett MIWFM, states: “We are seeing an increasing requirement on FM services and contracts to contribute to clients’ Net Zero aspirations and journeys.” 

However, he interjects a note of caution; transparency by both parties is key to making a success of this kind of arrangement, and it’s vital that mutual goals are clearly stated and the metrics for measuring progress are put in place. “It can, and does, work well but only where there is comprehensive and transparent communication and objective setting so that all stakeholders understand what is trying to be achieved, by when and how,” he says. “Once agreed, these objectives should be communicated so that shared understanding is known and understood by all stakeholders.”

Parrett says that, in his experience as an FM consultant, the most focused impact FMs can deliver is through three facets. The first of these is intelligence – not just data. “FMs are privy to significant and vast resources of data about how their clients’ assets and buildings are performing,” he explains. “The strongest partnerships we have seen leverage this so that there is a cyclical relationship where data is used to inform wider Net Zero strategies, and where FM deliverables and successes are informed by these. This relies on empowered and knowledgeable people analysing data within the context of the shared Net Zero objectives and incentives.”

Operational controls

The second facet is all about operational controls. “FMs, especially – but not limited to – Hard FM contractors, control energy hungry equipment on behalf of organisations,” Parrett says. “Using the data they collect about how buildings are used, and making sure settings and controls are configured correctly, is the first step.  It’s also the most important one because it doesn’t have any cost implications and, where there is a shared understanding and incentive around objectives, it anticipates demand rather than react to it.”

Thirdly, Parrett believes FMs and their clients need to collaborate around investment.  “Alongside their technical expertise and building coverage, FMs also bring commerciality to the equation,” he points out. “This could be procurement of new equipment in larger quantities, but it could also be investment in significant infrastructure projects with longer payback periods where there is a shared risk – Energy Performance Contracting as was. Again, the joint development and understanding of objectives is key to success.”

However, none of these three facets can succeed at all without a willingness to collaborate. This, and a commitment to sustainability, are absolutely integral to any shared Net Zero journey – and they are central to Equans’ business values and strategy. “At Equans, we place sustainability at the forefront, actively supporting clients to accelerate their Net Zero journeys,” Simon Haymans says. “Testament to this is our client-centric approach, where we monitor and analyse their energy consumption, share best practices across our portfolio and in turn provide a carbon reduction strategy, laying the groundwork for targeted interventions.”

Equans conducts detailed decarbonisation audits to identify potential energy saving opportunities and develop bespoke-costed Net Zero transition plans to form the foundation of actionable strategies. “We are committed to fostering a culture of energy efficiency and sustainability across our client operations, and through our energy-focused FM offering we implement behavioural changes and optimisations to drive significant reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions,” Hayman adds. “Through innovative technologies such as smart building systems and IoT integration, we can interpret data to better understand energy usage to make efficiencies and improve building performance and occupant comfort. By leveraging our strong client and supply chain partnerships, we tailor solutions that align with our clients’ sustainability priorities to drive positive outcomes.”

Scope 3 emissions

For foodservice provider Sodexo UK & Ireland, the main Net Zero challenge lies around scope 3 emissions. “As we all know when looking at GHG emissions, we look at the different categories of scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions,” says Claire Atkins Morris, Sustainability Director, Sodexo UK & Ireland. “For our clients, the GHG emissions produced as a result of the services we deliver such as energy used, waste generated and products procured, fall within their scope 3 emissions. For us scopes 1 and 2 account for just 1% of our GHG emissions, therefore our indirect scope 3 emissions, of which our supply chain and services delivered on our client sites are the biggest contributors, are also our biggest opportunity and challenge.” 

Like Hayman and Parrett, Atkins Morris is clear that a collaborative approach is key to successful sustainability strategies. “We can support our clients in their goal to reduce their impact, whatever service we provide on our clients’ sites creates an impact,” she says. “This is through our responsible sourcing strategy, our commitment to ensuring that 70% of the main dishes on our menus can be labelled ‘low-carbon’ by 2030, our WasteWatch food waste reduction programme as well as our energy efficiency measures, green asset strategy, sustainable cleaning practices etc. Through our focus on decarbonising our activities this by default will reduce our clients carbon footprint.”

Last year, Sodexo’s Corporate Services division last year created its community of practice, which aims to bring together sustainability heads from some of the UK’s leading organisations to be change-makers through collaboration. “The benefit we, and members of the community, are experiencing include shared best practices, collective problem-solving and leveraging each other's experiences,” Atkins Morris says. “This collaborative approach ensures a more robust and impactful response to sustainability challenges, driving positive change on a broader scale.”

While businesses can, of course, be hugely competitive, it’s a fact that a struggling planet benefits nobody. Sodexo’s community of practice enables business leaders to put aside any differences and come together to navigate huge shared challenges such as calculating carbon emissions and influencing policy and regulation. This is something Atkins Morris believes that Sodexo is well-equipped to lead on. “We can use our impactful journey to share best practice; as the first foodservice organisation to have our long-term Net Zero commitment validated by SBTi we understand what is required to achieve Net Zero,” she states.

This is a good example, not just of how FMs can help their clients achieve Net Zero, but of how the whole business community can – and should – be pulling together to help the world tackle the growing threat of climate change. Net Zero is a step in the right direction but, doubtless, further collaboration will be needed down the line to ensure the safety of the planet – and FM will be the industry with the knowledge, experience and skills to put this into practice.

Image: Shutterstock

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