The issue

When the topic of water is brought up countries such as Australia or Dubai come to mind, areas which experience high temperatures with little rain fall during the summer seasons. It is often assumed that the UK as a water locked island where it is known for its constant rain has enough water, but this is not the case. The SMFI was founded in 2012 and annually assesses FM providers on their integration of sustainability into their strategy, operations and supply chain.  Since it’s inception water has been one of the lowest scoring criteria from these assessments. Unlike carbon, energy and waste, it is often overlooked as an opportunity for reducing negative environmental impacts.

In a recent webinar delivered jointly between The SFMI and Methven UK we started to build up a picture of risks, challenges and solutions of water management in the UK.

Over the last 50 years rainfall has not changed in the UK but the population growth has. As a result of this, the water stressed areas of the UK have grown and spread.  In the 1950s the UK’s population was 50.6 million people. This has now increased to 68.2 million, an annual growth rate of 0.43%[i], but the amount of water available has not changed. An increase in population density has resulted in less water being available per capita. In addition to this, the amount water individuals consume has increased from 85 litres per day per person 150 litres (2020) and this number is still rising[ii]. This increase in consumption coupled with limited resources has led to an increase in water stressed areas around the UK. Despite this, many people, companies and the government continue to underestimate water issues in the UK.

One of a major issue surrounding water in the UK is leakage. A large proportion of water usage is lost through leakage, with more than 20% of firms confirming they have had a leak at their site [iii]. FM companies deal with and manage leaks whenever they occur on their sites, however these leaks are costly in time, money and resources, thus have a negative impact on the business.

Chris Billingham from Methven UK states – Large businesses are at greater risk from having to stop operations because of a problem with their water supply [iv]. Without functioning toilets and washrooms you are not legally allowed to continue your operations. This has a direct financial impact on a business which is clear to calculate. Leakages can not only impact business operations but also have a direct financial cost on the business as well, due to being often overlooked water is not often recorded and therefore cannot be easily financially calculated as a loss of resource. Only 46% of large firms and 33% of SMEs track their water usage. With non-households accounting for 30 % of the UK water usage this is very low.

Furthermore, there is growth in interest in ESG targets and data collection however the data being provided on water usage and consumption is poor. This can be due to poor financial motivations, and a lack of understanding of future risk when compared to other major issues such as the looming climate crisis.

Chris Havers from The SFMI adds – Currently energy and waste have a high level of corporate attention. This is due to the long association with cost savings,  the legal and compliance frameworks that have been developed, and the links as major contributors to climate change; this motivates solution providers to report data to a higher standard. With certification schemes in the built environment we often see a lower focus on water from the operational-use category, and much higher emphasis on the construction phase, which again highlights the barriers to uptake.

 

Solutions

Within the FM industry companies have the power and choice to make changes which will help and improve water management for their own operations and, sometimes, their clients. One of the key first steps is prioritising the problem. Water management issues have a lower financial impact but will not go away without direct action. Companies which prioritise improving water management can unveil opportunities as a business, see reductions in their carbon footprint, and also create benefits for society. By making strategic plans water can be easily managed and become less of an overlooked burden.

Another key solution to improving water management is through measurements. By using smart fixtures and fittings, water and its impact can be measured and financially calculated; consequently, companies can benefit from improved efficiencies.  By making water measurable the allocation of financial impact becomes easier and enables the business case of water to be made in a simpler and more efficient way. As a result, businesses will be able to push through water change with less opposition. In addition, smart fixtures and fittings also provide feedback and can offer suggestions on reducing waste, Methven UK case studies have found that urinal flushing can be limited whilst still providing he same quality of service. By setting a urinal to only flush after so many uses. This lowers water waste and focuses on using water when needed not just on autonomous schedule. Studies have shown that smart fixtures and fittings saved 85,170 litres through optimising flush duration and shutting off when not in use[v].

In addition, the use of smart fixtures and fittings also enables responsive communications Methven case study “Charter Hall, NSW Australia” found that by using these communications waste was lowered by 18%. Furthermore, it found that this could also be used to prompt better behaviour from employees, for example by communicating how long people wash their hands their triggers people to spend more time cleaning their hands and since the pandemic we all know the value of this, with most washing their hands for 6.2 seconds they found that simple signage increased this by 7%. This helps contributes to the wellbeing and health of the employees, this is another motivator for the business.

Another way to improve water management and efficiency is to improve the washroom design and layout.  This is something to consider predesign but can be implemented during refurbishment. Design can affect water consumption and impact both the efficiency and effectiveness of water fixtures and fittings. These consumption impacts can be from increased ease of repairs but also by influencing unconscious behaviour. Methven UK discussed this citing a case study where they found that the use of urinals has a substantially lower water consumption. However, often if one urinal was being used majority of men opted to use the cubicles if in line of sight. Methven UK found that if the cubicles were around the corner that this led to an increase in using urinals despite having another one in use.  Over 381,000 litres are saved through using urinals instead of toilets[vi].

 

The SFMI believe that more FMs should be prioritising water management as part of their sustainability journey. With the backdrop of the growing climate crisis, the issues surrounding water will only worsen. By taking positive action now, FMs can reduce their impact and help build the reputation of the FM industry as a sustainable solutions provider. Being a responsible business requires organisations to take ownership and responsibility of their actions. With the ever-growing attention and investment in ESG, now is the time for FMs to act. Water management can be efficient and innovatively manged if truly embraced. The SMFI aims to drive thought leadership and work alongside industry leaders to discuss and further the FM industry’s sustainability standards; the topic of water management will be tackled in the upcoming March Leadership Forum, and the findings from the Forum will be published in the Spring.

[i] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/january2021

[ii] https://www.neilmccoyward.com/articles/is-there-a-water-crisis-coming

[iii] https://www.water-plus.co.uk/news-and-events/leaks-and-water-emergency-plans

[iv] https://www.water-plus.co.uk/news-and-events/leaks-and-water-emergency-plans

[v] https://uk.methven.com/case-studies

[vi] https://uk.methven.com/case-studies

 

 

Embracing Technology in the FM Sector

Technology is all around us and continues to encroach into our lives. Whether through the applications on various office appliances, voice-controlled tech at home, or the sensors used to measure and improve the space we live in. We have an enthused world where anything is possible with the use of technology. The role of technology and its disruptive influence is one of the three key themes that was identified in the RICS Responsible Business Forum. This article explores some of the challenges ahead with the impact of technology on the built environment. Is your business fully embracing technology?

Setting the Expectations

Data-enabled systems have become the standard operating approach for many.  The potential opportunities to save costs and improve the workplace are widespread. But, cutting through the sales talk and communicating the benefits to your clients or your business is tougher.

The challenge with communicating the benefits is the balance between perception and what can be delivered today – which is very much about setting expectations. There is often a need to oversell the opportunities that can be achieved or underplay the integration costs. In part, this is led by misunderstandings by leaders on the role that technology can take, and a lack of experience on the ability to deliver and achieve results from data.

Simplifying what the technology is, how it is being used and the resulting data that can be utilised is fundamental for communicating the expectations. There are also lessons that older business leaders can learn from the younger generation in technology.

Getting Technology to do what we want it to do

So, what do we want the technology to do and how will it help us? We are all still the same people, but adding layers onto needs. Technology can help this and the interface is still important. In the built environment, we use technology to:

  • optimise or reduce plant run times through AI,
  • ensure space is optimised for user comfort,
  • help teams to optimise condition-based maintenance programmes; and
  • extend asset lifetimes.

Together this has significant benefits to the energy performance of the building, employee wellbeing and cost savings.

However, over-reliance on technology can mean we lose the ability to communicate with each other. People skills are vital in the FM sector, but with technology becoming the interface instead of the person, it promotes small changes in behaviour. For example, leaving a message instruction to another to close off an issue rather than seeing a problem through to the end. This encourages a loss of accountability for activities along with the loss of team working.

Rise of the Data Analyst in the Responsible Business

Technology can enable FM to be more customer-focused, but its advance requires new skills. For example, the ability to analyse the data that is being generated. Whilst AI tools are available, the dynamic approach of most organisations will require individuals who understand the data to translate it to a people/ business perspective.

Not only are employee skills sets changing, but the requirements on business is changing too. The level of data captured increasingly infringes on personal information. Therefore, disclosure and openness about what data is held is critical. Gaining confidence from workers on this subject will require communicating the reasons why data is held, and the benefits of holding the data. There will be kickback to this, and the use of opt-outs will help to provide a mechanism to act on this.

We are moving into a sphere where organisations are challenged about what they stand for. It is no longer about money, but increasingly about purpose, transparency and values. Those entering the workforce want to work for organisations that share their beliefs, which are becoming more altruistic. Commercials are good and an absolute necessity, but so too are the ethics – how do we get this mindset through to the FM sector?

Integrating Technology into FM

This provides a very different role for FM moving forwards. A role where technology is integrated into the service, and key skills revolve around customer service and data analytics. But being mindful of the disruptive influences that could be lurking on the horizon. Improvements in technology could easily lead to the ‘uberisation‘ of standard services – particularly maintenance and hospitality functions. Has the industry considered this though?

With new technology part and parcel of modern life, it is illogical for the FM sector not to embrace it. However, the integration of technology through the lens of a responsible business is necessary. Weighing the balance of environmental improvements with social and Governance costs is fundamental. Look out for the release of the RICS Responsible Business Leaders Forum Report at the end of the Summer 2019. We delve into these challenges further as we seek solutions for the sector.

For more information on the RICS Responsible Business Forum please visit the RICS website
Sunil Shah, Chair RICS Responsible Business Forum and Managing Director, Acclaro Advisory.

There is a new craze moving through sustainability teams. That craze is Social Value. It’s like the gold rush of the 19th Century. Ok, I admit, I greatly exaggerate. But observing the approach taken by procurers, corporate’s, service providers and NGOs is fascinating. Only instead of rushing for precious metals, there’s a rush for a perceived value that is generated from an elaborate spreadsheet.

A brief Catch-up

While Social Value came to notoriety in 2012 with the establishment of the Social Value Act, the regulation has made little impact. While generally well-intentioned, has lacked guidance, direction and proved somewhat confusing for all involved.

Occasional reappearances and drives progressing the Act have been made, but the tide truly turned for the masses in 2018. David Liddington provided a clear steer with his speech in June: “it is right that we use the government’s purchasing power to benefit society”. With this, the jockeying for position ramped up.

The Government has now released its consultation on its new approach to Social Value – it’s certainly an improvement. There is direction, and clarity. Read Acclaro’s account of the consultation. The short version is, more defined social value guidance for Central Government contracts, and a minimum weighting of 10% on contracts….

10%! – This now makes social value a competitive bid winner in a tender.

Current position – Measure my Social Value Now!

How do we measure Social Value seems to be the big question. Can we provide £800k in Social Value, or £1 million? Is this value larger than our competitors? Which tools should we use to calculate how much value we create? At Acclaro and the SFMI, we hear these questions frequently. We see a massive fixation on the numbers, and this is understandable, but not progressive.

But for a company to fixate on measuring their Social Value output without a fundamental approach to support the numbers means that risk awaits the unprepared. It is a dangerous tight rope to walk.
The Problem – Where Is The Substance To The Value?

With many trying to pull numbers from the sky using one of a multitude of tools, we are on the cusp of the new social version of greenwash. Social-wash (seems to fit). Tools are often based on what a company can provide in a theoretical sense.

X numbers of apprentices = £x’s of social Value.

But when a company bids, do they have the necessary narrative to back up their claims? In the short-term, it probably won’t matter. Companies will bid with their perceived Social Value number, and the highest will gain the points on the tender process.

But… what happens when a company is held account to that number? Can they be held to account through a contract if claimed that they can contribute £x million of social value? Probably, Yes. If not then it can be forgotten. Mobilisation of a contract will no doubt result in the 15 claimed apprentices turning to 5, or even zero. Also, will those apprentices be targeted groups of people that generate real value for the needs of the community? That will depend on the ethics and culture of the business making promises. I predict that the short term will become a period of Social Value without accountability. But things will change, and it will be the responsible business leaders that prosper.

Enter the True Leaders

There are real leaders in this space in the FM industry. The SFMI assesses FM companies annually. For example, in our annual assessment, we can state clearly that Vinci Facilities and Engie are ahead of the game on Social Value. There are others who are making progress as well because they see the long term value.

So now is the time for leaders to shine. Those companies who have a solid strategic base of social value embedded into their company culture will be able to provide their numbers alongside the important narrative that validates their claim. They can give past performance to instil confidence, and they can give systems and strategies on the way that Social Value is generated with their clients.

Acclaro’s Approach

It is for this reason, that Acclaro and the SFMI are measurement agnostic. We have developed the Acclaro Social Value Programme that is tailored to developing leadership in this space, and to give a meaningful substance to the numbers.

We are not about the numbers first. Numbers are the product at the end, but so many are seeing the numbers as the beginning and the endgame. We help a company to develop a structured approach to drive social value to truly benefit society based on the needs of the community. We follow a specified approach summarised below

The Acclaro Social Value wheel

The Acclaro Social Value wheel

Our approach is to base the numbers on a solid strategic foundation of generating Social Value at both the corporate and contractual level. If a bid contains a 15% weighting of social value, it is a natural progression to require validation of those numbers. Therefore in time, half of that 15% is the measured output number, and half will be the narrative, strategy and validation of those numbers.

This is where the Acclaro Social Value Programme is aimed at. In the Acclaro approach, we; assess, engage, define, execute and operate Social Value in a fit that is right for your company. You can be a company looking to create value for your clients, or you could be a client that is looking to generate social value from procurement. Our approach follows a similar approach with different detail. We build purpose driven leaders.

Acclaro helps you to plan for the long term and develop your approach to Social Value. We give you confidence in your numbers whether bidding for contracts, or procuring for services. Contact us to discuss further
Chris.havers@acclaro-advisory.com

Social Value – Where we were:

Almost 9 years since the Public Services (Social Value) Act was introduced it has become widely discussed, however, there are still issues in implementation. Despite a number of updates, the Act remained underutilised as procurement and procuring organisations were confused about its scope and application. Some viewed it as a replacement for CSR; some as additional.

The term “Social Value” steered many people away from its application in environmental improvements, though these too have social impacts. As industry and public bodies alike have been building knowledge bases on social value the understanding of its benefits has grown – along with knowledge of its complexity.

The Act so far has been adopted both in the public and private sectors. The UK Government has put out to consultation a new model for Social Value in Procurement. Although focused on government procurement, this model, as the initial Act, could be utilised across industries to inform social value approaches.

Acclaro’s opinion on the consultation:

The consultation out now proposes a “light touch” approach using a new model. It also provides high level and detailed guidance and links to relevant policy information that can support social value efforts. The model is split out into 5 high-level themes, 2 relating specifically to supply chains (Diverse Supply Chains; Safe Supply Chains), 2 involving staff (Skills and Employment; Inclusion, Mental Health and Well-being) and 1 on environmental sustainability. There are suggestions for each theme, in varying detail, of award criteria and measurement metrics to guide increased reporting. This would have a significant positive impact, encouraging accountability and long-term monitoring.

The additional detail will go a long way to expanding uptake of social value beyond large public sector projects as the concept becomes easier to understand, implement and report on. With the concept and practical application of social value still a maze to many the direction from government to other specific policy documents (including: Post-16 Skills Strategy; Integrated Communities Green Paper; Greening Government Commitments) and external guidance (e.g. Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter) will prove a welcome new structure.

What’s still missing:

The mandatory 10% social value weighting in contract tenders is good – though not a new or ambitious strategy. Other larger weightings for social value have already been implemented within some tenders. Issues with current social value measurement systems – their inconsistency, lack of accountability, and corruptibility – mean this would need to include both numbers and discussion for credibility. However, this takes time that many public sector teams do not have. Thus over-reliance on untrustworthy figures alone is likely to continue.

Though environmental improvements are explicitly mentioned and categorised in the model they are limited compared with others. Some of the additional detail will be effective, however, the policy outcome of “environmental impacts are reduced” is unlikely to provide much guidance to those looking to implement. They will need to rely heavily on the 25 Year Environmental Plan – which does not use the terms “social value” or “social impact” once. The connection between environmental and social value remains undefined in this guidance.

Although under consultation and therefore liable to change, this document provides a major improvement in structure and guidance for everyone implementing social value. It will be important to keep monitoring and improving on the process as it is implemented and continue to update the system as the landscape changes.

We welcome discussion

We will be writing to necessary consortiums and bodies to provide our opinion and discuss further. If you are interested in discussing the consultation with us, please do get in contacts. Cara.kennelly@acclaro-advisory.com

Implementing meaningful sustainability

Implementing meaningful responsible business attributes within the built environment requires engagement of all levels of the chain – the developer, constructor and operators of facilities. Increasing complexities of roles and knowledge involved means this is no longer possible through a single body or simplified framework across the property lifecycle.

Acclaro Advisory and the SFMI (Sustainable Facilities Management Index) are delighted to be a major contributor to a collaborative approach in partnership with RICS. The aim is to create the new model necessary to transfer knowledge of sustainability through the property lifecycle. Sunil Shah, MD of Acclaro Advisory will be chairing a series of discussions across the globe, with the SFMI team developing and building upon the necessary discussions to develop a single approach for the industry.

Why?

For a long time, collaboration has been key for organisations to deliver sustainability; it has been the subject of many reviews within the property sector from the Latham Review in 1994 through to the present discussions from the Hackett Review. We have experienced a rise in dialogue develop between a client and their major suppliers, together with a governance system between the two stakeholders. Much of this is measured in more complex projects to improve performance and outcomes – great news for the parties involved!

Professional bodies, on the other hand, are showing a different approach to advancing the sustainability agenda. An increasing number of groups are jostling for position and funding. They are focussing on what separates or differentiates themselves from their peers. However this doesn’t promote a sector or an industry in a cohesive way, nor does it show leadership internally or externally. Discussions are blighted by arguments over semantics (the most recent is that experienced on the definition of Social Value), and with so many opinions there is little room to tackle key areas that would give consistency and a common approach for the good of the sector.

What we need is a more joined up structure

RICS have been taking a lead on one area related to Responsible Business. As the appointed Chair of the Forum, I (and our partners at RICS) see the importance of collaboration across the delivery lifecycle for two main reasons. First, is to ensure that as a collective we are working together and that multiple points will drive changes in behaviour and the need to comply. Secondly, simply, is that no organisation knows everything and that to build a practical response spreading over the lifecycle of a property requires a number of actors knitting their specialisms together.

The journey that we have been on in the sustainability sphere has promoted environmental specialisms including energy, waste and water, largely because they were easy to measure and understand. Social aspects have been considered by organisations for a long time, slowly becoming more widespread. For example, it formed a fundamental part of the London Olympics legacy programme.

In fact, volunteering and philanthropy have been easy wins for businesses to prove corporate responsibility with minimal strategic considerations. However, we haven’t had a structured approach. Since 2010, there has been a step change in the role of society within the sustainability framework.

Regulation in supply chain management (through Modern Slavery and Social Value ), the conceptualisation of wellbeing (through mental health awareness and workplace productivity), and increased competition for talent have driven employee development up the agenda.

Looking into the future, we can see the increasing trajectory of societal and community needs as part of the built environment dovetailed into environmental requirements. Assessments of place and occupier services will be based upon the provision of these services and engagement with the community to drive improved satisfaction, a safer environment and a location where people want to work.

Technology will play a significant role in this. The deployment of technology is driving the collection and use of data, but we have yet to answer the question of who owns this data. We are entering into space where knowledge is being captured that can denote the behavioural characteristics of individuals to help provide a tailored working environment. Should individuals be made aware of the data held and how it is used? Protocols are necessary –technology and data are a vital part of our necessary progress. – but a negative perception can damage the brand of an organisation quickly.

The Solution – The Responsible Business Forum

So, RICS has been working with Acclaro Advisory, UKGBC, Arup, Business Services Association and others to capture insight and identify solutions required for a responsible business to operate property assets. This work aims to influence the corporate culture, operational level and interaction with the supply chain to ensure the long-term sustainability of the built environment. See here our opening discussion in the UK, and the finding that we took home from a business leaders roundtable event.

Utilising partners, frameworks, tools and events from across the world, we will look to capture the knowledge, benefits, challenges and risks that will affect the management of property and integrate responsible business practices that will improve society and the environment that we live in.

RICS is calling on strategic thinkers and decision makers across the supply chain who have a desire to embed responsible corporate values in their business, to join the conversation. Together we can deal with challenges and look to shape clear solutions and drive responsible business leadership.

Visit the RICS website and download the RICS Responsible Business Leaders Forum summary report to gain further insight
To get involved in these discussions and for further information on what RICS is doing in this area, contact us or get in touch with Ana Bajri, Property Standards Project Manager, RICS 

Article Image : RICS