Green Building, Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

ESG Excellence: Navigating Facilities Management Towards a Sustainable Future

A recent Capgemini Research Institute report found more than half of business leaders globally plan to increase investments in sustainability this year, up from only a third who reported plans to do so in 2023.

The study, “Embracing a Brighter Future: Investment Priorities for 2024,” surveyed 2,000 business leaders from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, across multiple industries and 15 countries. More than half of the respondents view sustainability as fundamental to their organizations’ long-term viability, with 61% of business leaders stating the lack of sustainable practices and processes will pose a long-term existential risk for their organizations.

ESG for Today’s (and Tomorrow’s) Workforce 

Countless other studies highlight the correlation between environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs and employee morale and retention, especially when it comes to millennials and members of Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2010). In a 2022 Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey, 46% of Generation Z and 55% of millennials view ESG as important.

In the same survey, 86% of employees who work for organizations with ESG-related goals said their employer’s ESG goals make them proud to work there, make their jobs more meaningful, and make them want to continue working at their respective organizations.

The social component of ESG also continues to grow in importance in today’s business environment as organizations double down on hybrid and remote work. Flexible work alternatives often provide better options for people with disabilities—a number that continues to rise. (In 2022, 21.3% of people with a disability were employed, up from 19.1% in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.)

Smaller Footprints, Increasing ESG Goals

With the understanding that ESG considerations are crucial for reputation, stakeholder value, and employee retention, the question now becomes: “How can facilities teams add ESG initiatives to their growing list of 2024 (and beyond) priorities?”

Many facilities managers already face the realities of shrinking office footprints, with the mandate to do more with less space. Budget restrictions also remain, with the challenge of balancing cost management with the need for facility upgrades and ongoing maintenance.

The good news is that the right mix of collaboration and affordable technology can help drive ESG forward—with facilities managers playing a major role in moving the needle.

One large biopharmaceutical company provides an example of how a global facilities team helped to make its new headquarters “the healthiest building in the world.” The company’s goal was to create a space that drew its 9,000+ hybrid workforce to the new facility. In sum, building a commute-worthy destination or ultimate workplace experience for its employees.

Just Breathe…Better Air

In addition to a safe and productive workplace environment, good indoor air quality (IAQ), easy-to-manage room and desk booking for employees, and seamless communications were all must-haves on the facility team’s list. Another main goal was the ability to monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in meeting rooms.

The pharmaceutical company relied on a joint solution from Appspace and Metrikus, an IoT software company, for an easy way to measure and display meeting room CO2 levels. Appspace created custom cards for digital signs, which are located inside and outside of rooms. With Metrikus feeding information into the Appspace platform by way of APIs, the content on the screens displays current CO2 levels—it also notifies employees.

When the air quality changes, a broadcast feature delivers an on-screen alert that says it’s time to exit and book another room. Moreover, rooms with elevated CO2 levels show up as “unavailable” in the system, meaning employees can’t reserve them.

Facilities managers also are turning to advanced technologies like intelligent device scheduling to conserve energy. For instance, turning off digital displays during non-operational hours could save a substantial amount of power annually.

Metrics that Matter

While the cost savings will vary depending on company size, intelligent device scheduling can easily align with an organization’s ESG efforts. At the same time, power-saving strategies generate metrics companies need for inclusion in annual reports and other ESG summaries. (As early as mid-January, the World Economic Forum announced the Stakeholder Metrics Initiative, with more than 150 companies planning to implement sustainability reporting figures.)

While reporting ESG success externally is important, facilities managers can turn to existing technology, like digital signage, to seamlessly broadcast sustainability initiatives to internal audiences. Keeping employees informed and excited about environmentally friendly company practices cultivates a culture of sustainability within the organization. Other technologies like a modern intranet and employee apps ensure all employees receive important ESG messages and milestones whether they are working on the frontline, from their home offices, or elsewhere.

Facilities leaders play a pivotal role in enhancing workplaces that prioritize inclusivity and accessibility. Facilities teams can contribute to the positive move to ESG practices by ensuring that workplace environments, both physical and digital, are designed with sustainability and inclusivity in mind.

As we navigate the complexities of 2024 and beyond, facilities leaders can achieve effective facilities management with ESG excellence as a central tenet. By leveraging innovative technologies and fostering a culture of sustainability, facilities teams can meet the rising expectations of employees and other stakeholders, while contributing significantly to the global drive for a more sustainable and socially responsible future.

Carolyn Voelkening is the senior vice president of service delivery at Appspace, a workplace communications and management platform provider.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *