Every year Acclaro’s Sustainable FM Index helps participants to identify the areas in which they can improve their sustainability performance, both in absolute terms as well as relative to peers. One of the key areas they judge when it comes to benchmarking the participant’s impact on the environment is circular economy.

In order to score highly in 2016 a company has to:

“Integrate resource efficiency into the services and can provide examples of initiatives that have delivered significant reductions in waste, reuse and closed loop recycling. The company can also provide performance data and targets relating to its waste and resources impacts, and show how reclaimed/recycling resources are preferred/choice edited.”

Waste has received a lot of attention from the facilities management sector, as well as many other industries, for many years. The obvious links between waste generation and climate change means that nobody can ignore their own role in its production. In people’s minds this impact starts from the mal-practice of landfilling.

Britain is better than it used to be when it comes to landfilling. For example in 2014/15 the total amount of waste dumped in landfills by Local Authorities came to something like seven million tonnes (out of a total amount of just under 26 million tonnes). This is massively improved from the 22 million tonnes in 2000/01 (out of a comparable total) but still far more than many would like.

Still people need to be aware that not all waste can actually be dealt with using a ‘cleaner’ process. Though the aim is admirable organisations that are aiming for, or even claim to have achieved ‘zero waste to landfill’ policies are chasing an impossible dream. Even though landfill has become one of the dirtiest words organisations can use and it is often the first target in any company’s environmental policy.

You can argue that the entire waste industry has been revolutionised in recent years. Incineration, Materials Recovery Facilities and Anaerobic Digesters have provided alternative solutions and filled a void in the market that in a number of cases now provide ‘waste’ with a new life.

However, there remains a small pool of waste rejects such as bottom ash from incineration that have not got an outlet. The innovation race is running its course and currently there remains a need to cut waste generation from its procuring source – rather than find newer ways to deal with a growing end of life re-articulation process. The result is simply that there isn’t actually any way that any organisation can achieve absolutely zero to landfill.

The Sustainable FM Index suggests that instead of just throwing more and more technical resolutions at the problem the whole approach to waste and materials needs to change. Cradle to cradle intelligence needs to be built in. Few FM providers are engaged at this sophisticated level of policy yet but they need to be. We are entering a critical chapter in a waste management story that desperately needs a happy ending.

Should FM providers choose to move towards full product transparency – they would understand at a materials-level what is being used and would then be able to manage their waste management processes better, as well as managing risk and compliance obligations including knowledge on conflict minerals and modern slavery. This is what is meant by a cradle to cradle model.

Once an organisation has embedded such a model of waste management, their circular economy approach will thrive, and other ways of conducting business will be seen under the same light – leading to continual improvement that is sustainable and accountable, and that minimises risk and builds true brand reputation on transparency and cost-effectiveness.

The SFMI benchmarking process enables Partners to step back and evaluate their business models from an objective point of view, alongside hearing from industry experts on how the right approach to governance can assist in achieving a circular economy for clients and their internal processes.

For example, ENGIE, a Partner of the 2016 Index, have worked with a prestigious government contract for many years, and have produced a number of ‘circular results’ within this contract, including implementing reduction innovations. Following a successful pilot, ENGIE moved from a tape to digital solution for transcriptions services for policy and fraud interviews. Leon Wilde, Head of Environment at ENGIE states that:

“ENGIE are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our clients by deploying solutions and innovations which follow commitments laid out in our Waste & Resource policy wherever possible. The solution Catherine Evans and Amer Iqbal brought a tangible benefit by reducing paper, tape, energy and fixed costs from repairing the analogue machines. The success of this excellent innovation has led to exploring further opportunities for circular solutions.”