09 March, 2022 | Posted by Colm McDonnell

ROI a Barrier to Sustainability Funding in FM says Arup's Europe Leader

ROI a Barrier to Sustainability Funding in FM says Arup's Europe Leader

There is an ongoing battle between the willingness for short-term investment and the patience to see a return on that investment in relation to sustainability in the facilities management industry.

This is according to Conor Cooney, Europe Facilities Management Leader and the Europe Assets & Operations Leader at Arup who recently spoke at Portobello Institute's FM webinar.

When discussing some of the barriers to more sustainable practice Conor said one of the wider barriers in affecting change in the area of sustainability was ROI and the overall mindset within the industry.

There is an ongoing battle, he said, between the willingness for short-term investment and the patience to see a return on that investment. This is coupled with an actual substantial plan and a list of objectives that are desired.

“What I’ve seen missing so far to date is a sustainability roadmap. What are we trying to achieve?" he said.

Data and Education in Sustainability

Rachael McGinley, Head of Sustainability at CBRE, highlighted data or lack thereof as a key component in the move towards sustainability. Be it data when it comes to water use or electricity use, Rachael described this data as ‘crucial’ to evaluating the environmental capabilities of properties.

One of the ways in which sustainability can be made more of a priority is through education but Rachael says that can’t just be used as a blanket solution.

With those in FM already working tightly packed schedules week-to-week, it can be difficult for many to fit in further upskilling.

“Education can definitely help but you have to be mindful of people’s time and make sustainability relevant to people’s day-to-day job,” Rachael said.

She added that the best way of implementing a sustainable strategy across an organisation has to take a top-down approach, with those in the higher up positions showing the leadership necessary that those in positions below follow their lead and the organisation as a whole has a unified approach.

Who is Responsible for Sustainable Practice?

The conversation was then brought on to outsourcing and the question of whether the responsibility of sustainable practice falls on a client or service provider. With outsourcing accounting for around 50% of FM activities, according to Bernard, it is a key area of debate within the industry.

Conor estimated that about 63% of Arup’s carbon footprint comes from outsourcing. He said that about 40% of Arup’s activities come from strategic sourcing on behalf of the client. A lot of the work that is done is based on the client’s needs and what they are looking to achieve. However, ‘because sustainability is everything to Arup’, he says that they try to push ideas of sustainable practices on to the clients.

Something that can get in the way of what Conor and Arup are trying to achieve is the question of where the extra cost of sustainability falls. Does the service provider pick it up in order to drive their clients towards sustainable practices or should the client availing of the service be expected to take on some if not all of the extra financial burden? For Rachael, it’s a challenge.

“I think that the more that sustainability can be part of the core of what you do and the more ways you can find to make it streamlined and aligned with existing processes, you can treat it as part of your standard service rather than a bolt-on.

“But it is very challenging. You’re being asked to do more and more for the same price. I think everyone needs to be aware that it’s a requirement and we need to work together towards doing it well, not just meeting compliance or greenwashing,” she said.

It is certainly an area of interest that will only become more prevalent as we move closer to the target dates of sustainability for both public and private companies.

You can watch the full conversation on the Portobello Institute YouTube channel here.

There is not long to go until the Facilities Management Awards 2022 take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel on Golden Lane in Dublin, on Thursday, March 24th.

Portobello Institute, in partnership with Berka Solutions, is proud to sponsor the award for Excellence in Sustainability.

Among the hopeful nominees for the award are An Post, CIM and Gilead Sciences Ireland.

More information

For more information you can visit www.fmawards.ie or get in contact at team@fmawards.ie or +353 (0)1 906 0686.

Looking for a course?

You can browse the FM courses Portobello has to offer here.

If you are interested in any of our Facilities Management degrees or qualifications you can book a consultation call with our expert FM advisor Brandon McLean here, email brandon.mclean@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0035. 

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