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.
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
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
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.email@example.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.
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
Your Sustainability Shopping List
We are almost at the end January and there is already a growing list of activities and aspirations for the proactive Sustainability Manager in 2019. It’s now time to focus on the priorities of a Sustainability Manager.
If you are looking for inspiration, and want to freshen up the tired strategy from previous years, read on. Before reading Acclaro’s top 5 sustainability priorities, we should remind you that underpinning all of these areas is the need for good quality data to be captured and interpreted. Without which little can be achieved.
1. Developing a Social Value Approach
Globalisation offers many positives, but the drive for cheaper goods and services has affected not only, supply chains but also the communities that companies work within.
Social Value is currently measured on the value and impact of the corporate, rather than the benefit derived by the community. Some are scrambling to measure a monetary value. Assessing the benefits that supply chains can bring, or engaging with communities we operate within, is surely the first logical step.
We suggest, take a step back. The first stage is to understand what already takes place across the business coupled with assessing the needs of the community in which you operate, (or serve if you are a public-sector body). Capturing this information will help to develop a cohesive programme of engagement. This can be structurally managed across internal, supply chain and community programmes. There are many benefits to gain from a social value programme. This includes an increasing number of tenders requiring some form of disclosure of the value you create, so now is the time assess what your organisation can bring to society.
2. More accurate GHG Supply Chain Emissions
The reporting of greenhouse gases provides an ever-greater understanding of how our organisations impact climate change. However, when it comes to affecting change, it can be difficult to understand which areas of a business to target that will yield the most effective results. Carbon emissions from the supply chain is being increasingly scrutinised. Therefore, understanding these burdens and your ability to target them effectively is critical.
Using economic models based on annually updated economic data can map supply chains and associated emissions. The data from industrial Supply and Use tables is combined with emissions factors to create a model that maps national emissions linked with the spend of an organisation. This maps the entire organisations economy using matrix algebra to link environmental and economic data. Save yourself time and move away from the bottom up approach that sees us plot only a small proportion of supply chain emissions very inaccurately. There are other ways of doing it, and you can have a greater impact on climate targets by using correct data to being with.
3. Energy Audits and Reporting
Carbon emissions and energy consumption remain some of the biggest risks and contributors to climate change. The move towards nearly zero carbon buildings is accelerating with standards being developed as part of the wedges associated with science based targets.
The first stage should always be to minimise emissions and the energy being consumed through an effective understanding of how and why energy is used the way it is. Regulations are asking for public disclosure allowing for greater scrutiny and the need for verified and accurate information to be disclosed.
Significant quantities of information exist, but translating this into usable data and tangible outcomes from dynamic systems is the challenge – but can yield significant savings in excess of 15% energy reduction.
4. Environmental Risk Management
Whilst often initiated and implemented as part of management systems, the recent driver for climate and biodiversity related risk evaluation has come from the investor community. The premise is simple and equates to understanding the environment’s impact on you. These disclosures are targeted at mainstream investors and are intended to help them assess whether climate risk is appropriately priced in to their valuation of your company, enabling investors to make more informed decisions
Techniques and approaches for the scenario testing are still in development, but this year will see an increase in the understanding of the risks and early stages of validating the implications. Early movers will benefit from the opportunities available.
5. Building a Responsible Business Culture
Finally, this is the piece that joins the dots together. Business culture is changing and the expectations of new employees and our major consumers are dictating different terms – we now have a language of Purpose.
Responding to the societal pressures, the increased level of data, reporting pressures and investor requirements will necessitate a different response from organisations. And that culture needs to extend beyond the four walls of the sustainability team, into business and towards supplier management and sales programmes.
This is a long journey, that connects together forward risks, social benefits and environmental impacts, a develops a long-term strategy. Ultimately it will mainstream your role, but a concept we need to grapple with is, will it make it redundant? In time, perhaps some day-to-day operational parts. But there will always a need for strategic thinking and forward planning.
Acclaro Advisory wishes you a belated Happy New Year, and we hope to see you at many an event to discuss the direction you are taking for a sustainable future.
Good luck with putting your priorities as a Sustainability Manager into action.
Conformance to the ISO 14001 standard has become synonymous with “good environmental management” in contracts worldwide. The recognition of the standard has been achieved as an increasing number of organisations rely on its structure to systematise their actions, and trust in its name to promise the delivery of legally-compliant services. The updates published in 2015 introduced new requirements for the certified masses – this blog looks at two rather intangible new key terms that are difficult to evidence but are essential to success: “integration” and “lifecycles”.
Integration is a cornerstone of management systems, as without buy-in from both company leaders & management boards together with other employees, the system would be viewed as an “add-on”. Multiple stakeholders and champions will ensure its longevity and effectiveness. Integration’s inclusion has come at a great time, as millennials increase their numbers in the global workforce, and with this – a raised expectation of employers to be conscious of their business activities. However, proving that your organisation has ‘integrated’ ISO 14001 across the business and within its culture is a difficult task. There are 3 locations where integration is mentioned: leadership, performance, and management review. Clear guidance from this standard is to ensure that the EMS is not a stand-alone system.
Control and influence of the EMS in a lifecycle perspective is an interesting area as it is much more obvious how to evidence it in a company that makes products, in comparison to a company that delivers a service. Useful angles for these companies to take, are:
- look at supplier spending power as ‘influential leverage’;
- engage sales teams to ensure what is promised is delivered, and
- work with the internal supply chain team to align the procurement and environmental policies and procedures.
Many other opportunities exist with the new updated standard. Integration and lifecycle are the two that I feel are critical to ensuring that an organisation achieves its goals when adopting a certified ISO 14001 system.
- DO conduct a gap analysis of where you are and where you need to be.
- DO schedule a ‘sense check’ visit with your external auditing body once about 75% of the developmental phase is complete.
- DO engage as early as possible with influencers in the organisation. Escalation for slow progress through the correct avenues will be critical to keeping to your timeline.
- DO take the transition opportunity to streamline and reduce previously burdensome processes. This may include central document storage and access, to ensure that companies across a global system are able to support each other.
- DO refer out to processes within your organisation that already exist. E.g. management review groups whose remit for discussion could be expanded slightly; or reporting frameworks like GRI that already establish a structured process for communicating environmental information to interested parties.
- DON’T duplicate. To ensure consistency in application, especially with global multi-site certificates, its important to standardise approaches. However, along the way, keep a record of processes that are seen as duplication, and be sure to address these duplications once transition is complete.
- DON’T tick all the boxes. There are only certain clauses which require documented evidence. There is no need in over-doing it with new processes and documented ways of working. By referring out to existing documents and even other departments which specifically own critical areas (e.g. sales teams [for lifecycle considerations in service-based companies]), you are then also able to show the level of business integration that your environmental management system has achieved.
For me, the most important ‘update’ to the system is checks on its integration into a business. As without this, and executive advocacy, the EMS will fail to prove its true value to an organisation implementing it.
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