Despite 30 years of experience in facilities management, Ciarán admits that sustainability has only become a key focus for him since 2016 when he took his current role with estate agents, Knight Frank.
“It began when I took over the running of the building here in Knight Frank in 2016. We inherited a building which quite frankly was in a fairly poor state with regards to green credentials and environmental sustainability.”
Since then, however, Ciarán has overseen the implementation of multiple sustainable practices such as the introduction of beehives that amass to over 100,000 bees currently, the installation of a water harvesting facility as well as changing many of the lighting systems to LED fixtures.
Sustainability as a concept has been accused of just being a buzz word associated with the larger umbrella of greenwashing, how companies appear to be more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
“If companies at a board level don’t get involved and don’t champion sustainability, then everything we do will be a bit of greenwashing. It’s not just simply ticking a box. To be truly committed to it you have to be able to show the physical evidence of what you’ve actually done on site,” he said.
Ciarán concedes that while sustainability should be top of the agenda for companies, enough is not being done to encourage that, particularly at a governmental level.
“Unfortunately, I think with the actions the government is currently proposing, they’re making it very difficult for companies to put sustainability on the agenda.
“At the moment everything we do costs, but there’s no financial benefit on the other side of it.
“For example, if you wanted to install solar panels on a large building, it’s very difficult to do that because there’s no marketplace for any excess power you may generate. There’s no structure to export energy onto the grid. That’s the sort of thing the government has to facilitate before sustainability becomes anything other than a buzz word.”
It is this lack of incentivisation that is the biggest hindrance to companies adding sustainability to the core of their decision making. As Ciarán describes, the government must adopt a “carrot and stick” strategy.
“You’ve got to penalize the polluters, but you’ve also got to make it financially and practically beneficial for other people who are willing to turn around and move forward.”
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