In The Netherlands, the topic of sustainability has been on the top of the “trends to watch-list” for years. Over 70% of all Facility Managers has even formulated sustainability goals or a more integrative sustainability strategy. Over 70%! Those are big numbers, even though on a global scale they are a bit lower still. But before I sit here talking about how awesome the Dutch are: many Facility Managers out here are struggling with actually implementing these sustainability goals or making their goals and ideas concrete in the first place. Global research showed that only 2% (!) of all sustainability projects meets or exceeds the expectations. Let that sink in.
Okay, so why would we still invest in sustainability projects? Easy. Because the pressure from employees (end-users), clients and politics increase every day. Organizations are expected to take responsibility for a more sustainable working environment. There are many reasons for the shocking 2%, including insufficient resources to see the project through. Unfortunately, there are often other priorities within organizations than starting (or finishing) sustainability projects. So, if you start, make sure to get that checked out before investing time, money and effort. Or start small, to prevent failure. So how do we get it right?
Let us present to you: three critical success factors for implementing sustainability features in Facility Management. One for each phase of the project. Implementing sustainability can be anything from separate sustainable elements such as green energy only, to complete sustainability strategies and everything in between.
These success factors are based on the basic assumption though that the Facility team has performed sufficient research and the team involved has sufficient knowledge of Sustainability practices, the skills and the resources to pull off an implementation process.
Preparation phase: start with the WHY
Us Facility Managers are a bunch of eager people and we often just get to work with a new project asap because we think we have a good idea and it checks out financially so let's go. Or… am I just talking about myself now? Anyway, it's really easy to read an article about re-using rainwater to flush toilets or about the transition to green energy and then go for it. But WHY do we do that? Just one sustainable feature will not make all the difference in the world, unless there is an actual thought or bigger plan behind it.
To understand WHY you would invest in sustainability programs, we go all the way back to the main organization. What is their WHY? What is their purpose? Would it make sense to set up sustainability goals or a sustainability agenda? Your projects and the organizational goals should always be aligned. Why? Because only then, you can always justify your projects to management. Plus, you will need senior leadership support during the implementation.
There's two reasons as to why senior leadership support is so important. We said it before: sustainability is often set aside because of other priorities. To prevent that from happening, you will need strong leadership support. But the second, maybe even more important, reason: lead by example. A very well-known slogan in The Netherlands and I very much agree with it. Human beings are programmed to follow – or be inspired by behavior of others. Especially when change is required, leadership is extremely important. If your manager doesn't care, would you? Exactly.
Implementation phase: Set up a Green Team and create awareness
In my opinion, this really is THE most important success factor. Well, actually that's two success factors isn't it?! J In most organizations, employees expect their employers to make an effort for a more sustainable working environment, but they don't expect to have to change their behavior themselves. However, many efforts in sustainability also very much depend on the behavior of the employees. A simple example: you can save thousands of dollars by using less paper, for example by printing less documents than before. But if people are not aware, they will never actually change their behavior and you will never reach your sustainability goals to the fullest.
A perfect way to create awareness is to set up a Green Team. This team can consist of people from different departments or floors, they don't necessarily need to be involved with the Facility department or sustainability goals in general. The Facility department is leading the Green Team. Once the Green Team gets together, the lead informs the team about goals, next steps to create awareness, and successes. The Green Team then goes out to the organization to share the information and inform others, creating a domino effect.
The Green Team should also undertake supporting actions, such as providing visual representation on every floor. It takes over 30 days for people to adopt a new ritual, so consistency and visibility is key. Also, just hearing about something will not stick in people's memory. People need to see or hear something for 7 times before they will take action, so talk about it, send memo's, create posters, set up a small event, etc. Only with the collaboration and a change in behavior of the employees, you will be able to achieve the best possible results.
Now I hear you think: who cares if we replace traditional energy with green energy? I'm telling you: people care, because they want to know what their employer is doing sustainability wise. So even though you may not need to change behavior as much, you still want to raise awareness as much as with the previously mentioned examples.
Post-implementation phase: measure results (and spread them like sprinkles)
It sounds so easy and still so many organizations forget to measure results. Whenever you start a project, you probably set some goals or at least some KPI's (I hope, or that's another critical success factor to add, you're welcome! ;-)). Then why would you not follow up with measuring these KPI's? Now, I know we said that only 2% of the projects achieve their goals, but you do have to measure to find out if you're in this lucky bunch! The best way to ensure following up with measurements is to set up a separate measurement plan. Based on your KPI's, you will think about how to measure each and every one of them. Because for some, you might not be able to perform the measures with the current resources or your will need to learn how to perform measures you have never done before.
Bonus tip: spread the word. We've worked with organizations that have been able to cut energy costs with up to 30%. Or organizations that have created green walking paths and bee gardens in the surroundings of their building, allowing for a better eco system but also a fun new place to meet whilst walking. Don't you want others to know? Of course, you do! Communication is key and makes all the difference in the world.
And off you go… Hopefully I've been able to provide you with a few pointers to keep in mind. So now… Let's show off our added value as Facility Managers!