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

 

It is a year since the collapse of Carillion and we have accepted that the facilities management side of their business was not the result of the failure. Important lessons have been learnt from the downfall and progress made by both the Government and the industry towards rectifying problems. This article looks at a number of these areas from the perspective of supplier activities and gives an insight into how the Sustainable Facilities Management Index (SFMI)  can help you to manage these activities.

SUPPLY CHAIN RISKS

One area of real change has been the management of suppliers. In the past, suppliers were used as an extension of the balance sheet to delay or avoid payments should cash flow get into difficulty. As a result, many suppliers have gone into administration, and many more livelihoods have been impacted. Suppliers have recognised the high risks of relying on a single client and vice versa.

The Government is asking suppliers to draw up ‘living wills’ to protect against supply chain risk. The Sustainable Facilities Management Index (SFMI) looks to incorporate these changes into the relevant sections of the assessment to understand how they are being delivered with an ongoing low margin model. The SFMI continues to drive best practice across all aspects of sustainability to the industry and sees these issues as a method to improve the reputation of outsourcing tarnished by bad practices.

SOCIAL IMPROVEMENTS

Greater responsibility is being mandated to clients through regulation such as Modern Slavery Act and the Social Value Act. This is driving a different conversation for both clients and suppliers.  In particular, the role of social value has significantly increased as we look for different metrics to the simple financial ones to base decisions on.

Clients need to understand which social and environmental improvements are necessary and which suppliers can be engaged to help deliver them. This will require a mapping exercise to understand the local community needs. These needs can be aligned with the values of the organisation to develop a longer-term programme.

RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS APPROACH

Developing a deeper relationship with suppliers is necessary to enable two-way dialogue, transfer of knowledge and the understanding of what true value and innovation can be achieved. The SFMI has supported several supplier workshop programmes to help critical suppliers understand the main environmental and social impacts and to foster a dialogue to deliver shared services.

These themes play a fundamental role in a responsible business approach. The SFMI is driving this approach in FM – there is a long way to go, but there are some real cases of best practice out there to learn from. You can read the latest reports and Research from the SFMI here.

If you are an FM service provider, being part of the SFMI in 2019 will give your company the pathway it needs to be managing and implementing key issues that a responsible business needs to address.

Clients that procure FM services can also benefit from the SFMI. Look out for our tools that you can use to quickly assess if your FM is providing real long-term value by managing environmental and social issues responsibly for you.

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.

Materiality is prized across Social Value stakeholders, yet nowhere in the market does there exist an agreed upon method of testing this materiality. There are many working groups, I sit on one myself, that are trying to plug this gap but the truth is that it’s a tough nut to crack. Built environment industry leaders, Social Value experts, and all those in between are struggling to pull together a standard interpretation of Social Value, let alone a standard approach.

Partnerships Exist

Collaborations, such as that between VINCI Facilities and Social Value UK, are becoming more commonplace. These should be commended as the industry realises its need to contribute to the development of Social Value and the improvements they can offer the communities in which they work. However, such projects still occur at a relatively high level, requiring time and experience to gain maturity and so are the beginning of a long and complicated process.

Data Exists In Silos

Although some databases of knowledge exist (e.g. Social Value UK, Social Value Portal and Social Enterprise) there is still a fundamental lack of understanding around these datasets. Those directly involved in collecting the data may have some local and specific knowledge, but this is rarely shared outside of the project, let alone into the wider industry. Information silos are a well-known problem in all industries, and it is common knowledge that sharing learning is, more often than not, to the benefit of all. In the case of Social Value this is particularly true, because the enormous range of potential actions to improve Social Value on any given contract leaves more opportunity than usual to build strategies and activities that may already have been implemented elsewhere.

Variation And Innovation

That being said, there is also a significant amount of specificity required. Each contract is different, as is each location, and so every chance to implement Social Value will be different also. This should in no way preclude contractors. Variability on this scale is an opportunity for market leadership and innovation. When each situation is unique there are infinite ways to give back to the communities you work in, through employment, skills, business support, education, and countless other crucial ways. Ensuring engagement occurs effectively is even more crucial so that the activities undertaken are appropriate to the need of the community.

Be In It For The Long-Run

None of this negates the good work being done in the industry. I could showcase many great examples of Social Value implementation that I have seen myself, but they almost always happen in isolation. Constructing meaningful Social Value requires long term and cyclical thinking with frequent review and editing – as contracts and communities both grow and change, requiring different types of Social Value and different stages in their growth.

However, despite the vast amounts of opportunity there is little Social Value coherence in the market. What contracts need is practice – practice listening to stakeholders, practice identifying and understanding their options, practice implementing and evaluating these options, and practice sharing knowledge, experience and best practice.

Football’s World Cup is about to start again, hosted this time by twelve stadiums in Russia. Like any mega-event, there will be environmental impacts from transport, accommodation, broadcasting, and custom-built infrastructure to cope with extreme but short-term demands.

Football’s World Cup is about to start again, hosted this time by twelve stadiums in Russia. Like any mega-event, there will be environmental impacts from transport, accommodation, broadcasting, and custom-built infrastructure to cope with extreme but short-term demands.

For people who work towards sustainability goals, it’s an important concern. So, let’s celebrate the mega-events that prove their legacies hold more opportunities than threats.

Olympic Games, London 2012

London literally set the standard for sustainable events: it was the catalyst for ISO 20121:2012, the standard for event sustainability management systems. The organising committee, the Olympic Delivery Authority, and some event sites were certified to the new standard, which helped to ensure greener choices were made in, for example, transport, construction techniques, and choices of materials. The social legacy is mixed, but at least facilities like the aquatics centre are still being used.

FIFA World Cup, Brazil 2014

Brazil’s Local Organising Committee required all the tournament’s direct greenhouse gas emissions to be offset through the Clean Development Mechanism, funding emission reduction projects. That was around 545,000 tons of carbon equivalent, or 220,000 Brazilians’ emissions for a year. They also promoted social development with locally-sourced equipment, as well as the Football for Hope festival aiming to improve the lives and prospects of young people around the world.

Eurovision Song Contest, Vienna 2015

Other Eurovision hosts, like Malmo and Copenhagen, have tried to use the event to drive sustainable development, but Vienna decided to use existing infrastructure, bringing together transport planning, utilities management, and behavioural leadership to control and minimise environmental impacts. Its ridiculously comprehensive sustainability report documents some impressive achievements, like reusing or recycling almost all stage material, running on 100% renewable electricity, and the average visitor at the event venues producing just 74g of non-recyclable waste.

Most food or drink was served in reusable containers, and visitors were encouraged to put their recyclable waste into the right bins. Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

Strategies for sustainability

To achieve sustainability targets, every mega-event needs to carefully tailor its approach to make sure it is right for its time and place, but here are some guidelines:

  • Implement an event sustainability management system that complies with ISO 20121. A structured and effective approach brings credibility with regulators, business partners, and the industry (the same way that compliance with standards like ISO 14001 does).
  • Use event sites with certified high energy or environmental performance. Venues with low energy use and low water consumption reduce costs and emissions.
  • Engage the local community: Co-operating with different community groups as well as planners, developers, and service providers will make sure the organisers have support where they need it. This is highlighted by the example of what happens when the local community is not involved: city bids for Olympic games being rejected by the public, as has happened in Innsbruck, Hamburg, and Budapest.Sustainable Mega Events

Both client and provider must invest in a long-term relationship to truly harness the potential of timely and specialist support.

While environmental requirements on companies – due diligence, transparency and performance progress – have increased over the last decade, environmental team sizes have rarely recovered from the contraction experienced during the recession. Beyond the sheer weight of the environmental workload, CR managers are increasingly finding that the diversity of skills needed to satisfy the requirements is rare to find contained solely within one team. Outsourcing some or all of the environmental functions is becoming more popular. But to be truly effective, long-term relationships are needed.

The sole “environment manager” within large corporates in the late 1990s – often tasked with an array of activities including health and safety, supply chain management, environmental management, social impact management, communications (if the company engaged in this), quality and community giving – began to be replaced in the early 2000s by a larger team, with more specialised roles.

Even so, the increasing external reporting requirements on large corporates – including the various rankings and the need to produce a complete CR report each year – effectively shut down progress on performance for around three months each year unless data collection and copywriting was outsourced, as well as verification. CDP, DJSI, FTSE4Good and GRI amongst others led to a fundamental shift by connecting the investment and fund bodies with environmental performance data. As reporting requirements became stringent – and a clearer picture of ‘best practice’ more prescribed – some companies struggled to keep up with the new imperatives, now with the additional impetus of potential investor sanctions. Additionally, stand-alone research pieces were commonly commissioned from consultancies, often focussed on a defined issue affecting strategy and frequently inspired by the latest ranking requirements.

Compliance and due diligence obligations also increased over this period, led initially by regulatory pressures and financial penalties, particularly in the US. Overall, outsourced support in this period tended to be piecemeal, with providers called on occasionally on a task-by-task-basis and changed frequently, without investment in a long-term relationship or a deep understanding of the company culture.

As reporting requirements became stringent – and a clearer picture of ‘best practice’ more prescribed – some companies struggled to keep up with the new imperatives,

The economic turmoil of the past decade saw environmental teams cut and a retrenchment in Government policy globally on green issues – but emerging from this came incentives for companies to promote their environmental and social credentials directly – particularly to a new generation more interested in social value, hungry for transparency and well acquainted with the new tools with which that need could be satisfied.

What does this mean for today and the future? Certainly, we can expect that the need for transparency will continue to play a stronger role in environmental progress than compliance alone. For a generation well-schooled in sustainability matters and sceptical of regulatory effectiveness, environmental performance inherently includes aspects of social value, well-being, and value chain impacts.

The skill sets required to deliver this change are becoming more complex requiring a mixture of change management, data analysis, strategic insight, in-depth and targeted two way communications, and operational management. The reporting calendar is still a huge influence, meaning different skills sets continue to be emphasised at different times of the year.

Outsourced environmental teams can provide the right kind of technical support for the time of the year, and give a pool of specialist skills to be dipped in to when necessary. To truly harness the power of an outsourced team – to truly have a ‘team’ – the provider needs to be able to invest in a long-term relationship with the client and become well-versed in the company culture, with their own internal network. Only then can they work semiautonomously, and ensure their work becomes business-as-usual within the client company rather than the dreaded report-gathering-dust-on-a-shelf.

Conclusion

Outsourcing isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be seen as a panacea to achieve higher rankings scores and deliver better results – the outsourced parties still need to work within the bounds of the strategic direction that can ultimately only be set by the company. If a company is willing to invest in a long-term relationship and truly immerses the provider within the day-today running, an outsourced team can become an invaluable pool of insight and workforce in the face of shifting priorities and constrained resources.