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Where to Next for Responsible FM in 2021?

Published on 14/12/2020 by Acclaro Advisory

2020 was a turbulent year for most industries and successes and struggles for FM providers have mirrored those of their clients.

Resilient providers who have weathered the storm have shown they can be flexible, efficient and develop close working relationships which have proved immensely valuable. The biggest disruption has been seen by corporate services in city centres due to a massive reduction in occupancy, and hospitality due to unstable opening regimes. Airports and other transport hubs have also had significant footfall reduction, however these facilities still require maintenance and upkeep to manage utilities and meet health and safety requirements. On the flip side, public services and industries on the frontline have never been busier. New Nightingale hospitals have been erected, cleaning regimes have been increased at schools and universities, and new facilities have been set up for the management of COVID ready installations – testing sites as an example. Each of these rapid changes has necessitated fast effective management in the FM industry, under strict health and safety measures. This flexible style of working has launched FMs as recognised vital frontline services and given them a seat at the top table.

But what happens next? If the vaccine cavalry we have been promised proves as effective as we are hoping, does the FM sector sit back and resume its previous role in the pecking order?


Since 2013, the SFMI has been promoting how FM should be embedding sustainability across the management and implementation of its services: Whether cleaning, catering, M&E, security, managing projects – Sustainability has a role to play in all these activities and more. The SFMI assesses top FM Providers across the UK against its sustainability roadmap. 2021 will prove another vital year for the industry, because there are large, long-term forces converging that the FM industry needs to understand and be prepared for, and only some have started this process. But what are these areas of growth that FM Providers need to consider beyond COVID-19?

Converging Forces – Green Industrial Revolution

The UK Government has released its Green Industrial Revolution plan, a 10-point plan focused on achieving zero carbon across the UK. The Government will be working hard to demonstrate progress against this plan ahead of hosting the COP26 conference in November 2021 – a global gathering of countries to tackle climate change. With the US under a Democratic leadership from 2021, the UK wants to make a statement that it is an international leader post Brexit, and climate change is a common ground with the new administration. A wave of public sector funding has been unleashed to build back better from COVID, with £1 billion granted to public sector bodies including schools and hospitals to fund low carbon heating upgrades and energy efficiency.

Corporate zero carbon strategy

There has been a recent wave of corporations announcing zero carbon plans. Large businesses have been quick to impress their clients, customers, and investors by announcing a flurry of zero carbon and net zero targets and strategies. These targets range in credibility levels, but demonstrate that companies are showing the ambition, direction and drivers that are pushing them to their goals. Zero carbon is being driven by risks at the enterprise level of major companies and Governments, and this is trickling down to other businesses in the value chain. The cascading effect is taking on a form of its own, and the topic is fast becoming a prerequisite for entry to new business.

Social Value

The related but differentiating topic of social value is currently being driven by the public sector. Against a backdrop of a decade of austerity, the sector is asking the question – how can you as a major supplier bring social and environmental improvements to the communities that we serve? The social value journey has had a slow start since 2012. It has had ups and downs, but a recent Government definition has brought clarification to what is needed. This defined approach is a shot in the arm for social value supporters, and will focus the minds of the procurement professionals, and lead suppliers to organise themselves to deliver a structured impact within contracts. For more information on Social Value, download our free ebook – https://www.acclaro-advisory.com/social-value-programme/.

Where does FM fit in?

FM can bring value to all three.

With a vast range of clients in both the public and private sectors, FM providers are operating refurbishment projects, life cycle projects, M&E projects. They are managing buildings, operating them for efficiency, and engaging with building occupants. A responsible FM should be actively engaged in the zero-carbon journey. They should be helping to reduce energy, water use, and waste. They can manage their projects to reduce impacts. They can procure goods and services that have lower impacts. They can source suppliers who incorporate circular ideas that remove waste and increase reuse of products. They can incorporate technology that will help to inform smart decisions. A sustainable FM should be a driving force that can easily plug into a zero-carbon strategy, or even lead the strategy themselves.

With regards to social value, FM is a large employer of people and can bring the benefits of social mobility to deprived communities and disadvantaged people, whilst also embedding sustainable practices and CSR commitments at the local level. An FM provider that is tuned in to these issues can strategically adapt how it brings benefits to an area and can communicate this to its customer, leaving it well positioned for future business wins.

The FM of 2021 should not be content with delivery of the vital services provided in the year of the global pandemic but should be aiming to launch itself from this role and bring solutions to the bigger long-term problems that face our society – including social mobility and climate change. The SFMI incorporates these essential issues into its annual assessments and provides a roadmap to seize opportunities.

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