Why an integrated approach is the way forward for a sustainable FM future

It is becoming more of a common practise for organisations to take a wider look at the environmental impacts individual strands of their operation cause. That extends to suppliers and sub-contractors, and the emissions generated in the course of their activities.

Nurture Landscapes Group, a leading grounds maintenance services provider which achieved carbon neutral status in accordance with PAS2060 standards in October 2021, explores why an integrated approach is not only sustainable for the environment, but a company’s reputation.

There’s no need to reiterate the fact that ‘sustainability’ is a global responsibility and that there is no singular golden rule for reducing emissions. The specific responsibilities of each organisation and its people are determined by a unique set of characteristics.

One of these, as Nurture Landscapes Group has experienced first-hand, is the environmental impacts caused by the wider supply chain. It is becoming increasingly common for organisations to look beyond the emissions solely from using products and services, in favour of a broader view of their suppliers’ respective carbon footprints.

For many businesses, bringing down emission levels has been an inward process, taking into account the percentage of emissions generated by assets such as vehicles and daily activities including running boilers. Important, yes, but these only account for two of the three Scopes for reporting emissions.

Whilst these are in greater focus, they first appeared in the 2001 Greenhouse Gas Protocol. More than two decades on, the Scopes are now seen as the benchmark for greenhouse gas reporting (GHC) in the UK. One and Two are relatively straightforward to calculate, covering the direct emissions a company contributes directly, as well as bought energy used for heating and cooling the company’s buildings. It is within Scope Three where the difficulty is more likely to occur. Clearing this up requires less of an inward view and more of an integrated approach.

Scope Three emissions, as many of us are familiar with to some extent, are all the associated emissions a company is indirectly responsible for, generated through buying certain products from specific suppliers, distribution, and, if it has franchises, the emissions caused from the individual ‘branches’. Within the FM sector specifically, Scope Three accounts for around 20% of a provider’s full impact, yet most reporting data focuses solely on Scopes One and Two, resulting in a misrepresentation of the true emission levels. Such is the nature of a facilities manager’s role, multiple interior and exterior facets are monitored and managed. These range from plants through to gritting in winter and even pest control, all under one umbrella.

As a result, the sector has historically seen a fragmentation between each individual aspect, with a general lack of understanding [confidence] in identifying and latterly, reporting, emissions also an issue. In November 2021, part one of the Sustainable Facilities Management Index (SFMI), compiled with the support of leading trade bodies and FM partners, laid the foundations for a standardised approach for the FM industry which will later examine Scope Three emissions from a service level and client level perspective. It has been an increasing trend that facilities managers are being relied upon to identify areas where emissions can be reduced, but with individual suppliers all having their own respective carbon footprints, this is a task easier said than done.

To combat this, utilising multi-service suppliers which are also sector specialists streamlines the information gathering process and may even uncover areas of improvement not previously known or considered. As an example, a service provider delivering a combination of grounds maintenance, winter preparation, interior and exterior plant displays will, by the very nature of their role, gain insights into other elements such as the environmental impact of certain products or the calculation of service-related emissions. To go further, added value can be derived from this same provider advising on elements such as biodiversity planning, waste management and on other specialist services they provide. 

It is worth noting that a service provider will, itself, need to have a carbon reduction strategy in place. Think back to the definitions of the three Scopes; companies of this type, such as Nurture, fall within the Scope Three category. As a provider works towards net zero whilst off setting their carbon footprint in the interim period, so the services they provide become increasingly beneficial, not just in terms of the sector specific knowledge but also in reporting and reducing scope three emissions which can then be passed on to FM operators.

Both the FM sector as a whole and the supporting service businesses working in conjunction are in transition. It may take many years, possibly even decades, for net zero to be achieved, yet the signs are that a collaborative, singular focus may be the solution to making it a tangible goal.  

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