October 2016 marks the commencement of the 2nd year of progress towards delivering against the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as outlined by the United Nations. The new 17 common goals are an integrated set of targets for a vision on a better world.

This is the 1st of 3 ‘briefing’ articles where FMJ will hear from the SFMI (Sustainable FM Index) on how their empirical evidence collated over the past 4 years provides a vision of its own – how the Facilities Management sector in the UK are contributing towards these UN targets, or in some cases, are not contributing to it at all.

SDG 1 – No poverty

This goal is highly relevant to the FM sector as ‘frontline’ staff such as cleaners, caterers, and security staff represent a group of employees who are paid the lowest wages of any firm. Walk into any commercial, educational, or healthcare building in the UK and the chances are you may not notice the value these employees bring – cleanliness, safety, and friendly customer service. The SFMI measures FM providers, who these people work for, against criterion such as ‘Sustainable Communities’ and others which encompass an understanding of the approaches taken to pay fair wages and oblige with new regulations such as the Modern Slavery Act.

STATUS UPDATE: Social sustainability has been creeping up the CR agendas in the past 4 years, however, slow progress is being made on committing to fair or full living wages as standard. So far, most assessed organisations have prepared Modern Slavery statements but proposed procedures on the statement’s implementation are less transparent.

SDG 2 – Zero Hunger

A part of the SFMI methodology for choosing ‘who to assess’ on an annual basis is drawn from the Government ‘Supplier Lot Matrix’ – a list of FM providers who have been chosen as that year’s chosen suppliers to the UK Government. There are 3 ‘lots’: Lot 1 ‘Total FM’, Lot 2 ‘Hard FM’, and Lot 3 ‘Soft FM’. Within ‘Lot 3’ is, amongst others, the provision of catering contracts to public bodies. As we all know, there has been an increased focus over the past decade on what we eat, its nutritional content, and the sheer amount of food waste that is produced every day. So how is your contract enabling the efficient use of resources and addressing the need to nutritional optimisation?

STATUS UPDATE: 2016 is the first year we are looking at ‘Circular Economy’ as a criterion and scores are, so far, looking bleak. Also, in 2015 we found that the average Lot 3 supplier was less ‘sustainable’ in comparison to procuring ‘Total FM’ provision. This indicates that choosing to compartmentalise FM into blocks of separate activities is restricting the long-term value a client would otherwise be receiving from out-sourcing catering service provision to a specialist provider of FM. Although ‘Zero Hunger’ may not be a topical issue in the UK, it is the role of large corporations to procure resources efficiently and limit waste.

SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing

This goal places an onus on the FM sector to foster resilient business models that address employee health, safety, and well-being. This in turn will have an impact on productivity, turnover rates, and absenteeism – resulting in added value to clients. The SFMI measures ‘Employee Well-Being’ and look at how the sector’s major players are able to understand their turnover and sickness rates, and design initiatives and campaigns that address their particular areas for improvement.

STATUS UPDATE: Turnover and sickness rates are monitored well, but understanding on how these link to productivity is low, and they rarely inform the design of well-being initiatives. Instead, activities are usually more influenced by popular calendar trends and meta-trends such as ‘mental health’. Whilst these activities are valuable and necessary, there is a growing gap of understanding the ‘bottom-up’ issues.

SDG 4 – Quality Education

The FM sector can contribute to this goal through the provision of FM services to schools and universities, and at the same time address the technical skills shortage facing the sector. The SFMI measures providers on ‘Employee Development’ – giving each a rating from ‘0’ to ‘5’ (‘0’ being poor) based on what infrastructure is in place, how they utilise matrices, and encourage career progression.

STATUS UPDATE: Robust development networks are rare thing in the FM sector, and where established, there are issues with communicating opportunities adequately. Whilst the assessed organisations may be aware of the skills shortage – there is a lack of an integrated approach to tackle the issue long-term.

SDG 5 – Gender Equality

The SFMI assessment framework features criterion for ‘Diversity’, ‘Employment’, and ‘Sustainability Frameworks’ which provide a view on how well equality and diversity policies are engrained into HR activities. The 2016 process has also been asking questions about the preparations to report on the Gender Pay Gap.

STATUS UPDATE: Sector leaders have been committed to this prior to the mandating of its reporting in 2017. However, approaches to addressing equality & diversity at Board levels remain vague as providers of FM avoid being open about any positive discrimination agendas.

VINCI Facilities’ Senior Sustainability Advisor Charlotte Osterman, states that “To support the SDG for gender equality many actions could be taken; so we needed to prioritise and make it relevant and deliverable for our business. In our UK FM setting, we’ve undertaken actions to promote equal wage for same work, empowered minority groups in general across our business and enabled employees to apply for flexible working arrangements that can help parents combining careers with school pick-up times. We have also put a great emphasis on engraining a culture of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect right across our operations, which has contributed to us achieving Investor in People Silver status and obtaining Leader in Diversity accreditation.”