Sustainability and corporate social responsibility efforts are now significant factors for successful organizations as regulations and consumers drive change. Organizations that don’t take account of their environmental impacts face potential backlash from consumers who are increasingly sustainability minded.

While not previously top of mind, environmental and sustainability issues are more central to facilities management than at any point in the past. Facility managers are increasingly aware of this movement and are changing their values and how they respond to this change.

However, what steps are required to meet these challenges?

Sustainability in facility management

Going green is gone. Evergreen is now the full-scope approach. Sustainability is serious, so facility managers must capitalize on decisions to reduce any potential negative impact on the environment.

Sustainability efforts in these cases are more than reducing the amount of waste produced, using fewer resources, and developing new processes leading to sustainable initiatives.

Implementing sustainability measures

Sustainability efforts within a facility management environment must focus on carbon and energy management services. Doing so means creating a culture that can adequately respond to the commercial, social, and environmental impacts these can have on the environment. Therefore, any resources used or procured must consider all effects and benefits.

For example, regarding emissions, facility managers much understand that emissions mean costs. Reducing emissions reduces costs, which is the definition of a win-win scenario. Implementing an accredited carbon offset program means you can deliver environmental and social benefits.

By creating and implementing a sustainability strategy, an organization can remain up to date on environmental compliance.

The creation and rollout of sustainability programs may need support from outside experts and advisors. During these engagements, facility managers must learn how to minimize heating and lighting consumption, eliminate unneeded lighting, implement lower wattage technology components, and other technical outputs.

Other considerations include structuring the workforce to travel less, and analyzing sustainable water consumption, for example — through low-flush or no-flush toilets.

The point of this exercise is to allow facility managers the ability to carefully consider any potential emission drivers, waste, and inefficiencies. Facility managers also may create an approach for reducing emissions and cut waste wherever there is an opportunity.

Sustainability efforts can boost employee morale and motivate them to perform better than working in an unsustainable environment. The best, most environmentally progressive organizations attract the best employees. In this manner, facility managers drive the success of the organization in more than just the quality of the buildings.

Implementing a sustainable workplace means "things" are done differently than may have been in the past. Innovation is required. However, some buy-in is required of those throughout the organization. Without this buy-in, sustainability only can go so far.

Engagement is required across the board. Management must agree on the strategy, and the rest of the team must be and remain on board. If employees claim a sense of ownership in the program, they are far more likely to make sure it succeeds.

Measuring sustainability

Success benchmarks create a baseline for all future sustainability efforts, allowing for the establishment of targets and a framework to manage operations and report future results.

Most sustainability programs are usually achieved within three to five years over the course of stages. Return on investment and program costs must be measured to ensure resource outcomes. Data outcomes must be studied, too, rather than using generic figures that don't lead to an accurate painting of the program or its requirements.

Achieving real sustainability must be more than lip service and goodwill. Effort is required, and metrics must be established to work toward its full impact. Ultimately, if the program is not measurable, it cannot be profitable and, therefore, is not sustainable.