Earth Day 2021
Spare a thought for the planet …
Earth Day motivates us to consider which parts of our environment need the most attention and which tactics we need to apply such as conservation, restoration, legislation, etc. The focus of actions such as these is to ensure that the natural environment is there for future generations to benefit from and enjoy. Consequently, the large-scale vision of Earth Day as it was conceived in the 1970’s had the desired effect of bringing forward legislation and raising awareness.
A deep concern focused on large scale issues such as air pollution, oil spills and the threats posed to the natural world through negative human intervention brought about the first Earth Day in 1970. It was conceived as a grassroots movement that would be driven by concerned individuals and groups who wanted to act for a better future for the natural environment. The increased public awareness and support of the necessity of caring for the environment led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. This in turn led to a ten-year period of environmental legislation to regulate the protection of water, land, endangered species etc.
A decade later, the concept of sustainable development emerged in the Bruntland Report (1987) within the context of imminent ecological disasters and gave a definition of sustainable development as ‘…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. As a result, sustainability became an umbrella term that considered the common concerns, challenges and endeavours faced by earth’s population in caring for the environment for the current and future populations. In the Bruntland report, the effects of human behaviour on the environment and the causes of environmental issues were scrutinized on a global scale. Additionally, the report also suggested ways whereby we could enable sustainable development.
Sustainability in business…
Sustainable business practices have developed due to demands from stakeholders, society, and government legislation. There are many areas of sustainability that may be addressed through business strategies, some of the frequently cited areas of concern include climate change, income inequality, pollution, human rights issues, fair working conditions, and gender inequality. Some advantages for an organisation implementing sustainable business practices include mitigating risks, creating a competitive advantage through a shared purpose and that there is a market for goods and services that consider these issues. Consumers have developed an increased awareness of sustainability issues relating to the products and services they buy. Consequently, sustainable practices such as reducing waste or ensuring that workers are paid a fair wage have become influential on business strategy.
Sustainability in Facilities Management…
The built environment has a significant effect on sustainability as it accounts for a significant consumption of natural resources and waste and greenhouse gases emitted (Elmulaim, 2011.) Consequently, the goal of creating a sustainable workplace can be accomplished through combining sustainability policies and processes with a strong facilities management presence. Areas such as reducing energy and water consumption, increasing recycling and reuse of items, improving the indoor environmental quality, and increasing the use of environmentally friendly products are some of the approaches that can be used to increase a buildings ecological performance. An ecologically sound building is commendable, however, without the correct implementation and management of policies and processes to maximise the sustainability, the effectiveness or efficiency of a facility is not guaranteed. Consequently, having a strong and knowledgeable facilities management team present is necessary for several reasons. Some of the practices and tools that facilities management use to improve the sustainability of a building include sustainability audits, asset management, their technical knowledge, regulatory knowledge, an ability to evaluate and adhere to quality standards and measure and monitor the performance of a building.
The effect of applying and managing sustainable processes to facilities management is the supporting of organisational goals. The value of sustainability within an organisation is evident in its ability to reduce costs, maximise asset value and enhance operational efficiencies and effectiveness.
Earth day is a reminder that sustainability is a continuous process. Applying sustainable practices to the built environment requires careful management and technical expertise to maximise the advantages.
Elmualim, A & Kwawu, W (2011) ‘Sustainability in Facilities Management: A Review of Drivers & Policy Issues’ (University of Reading)
‘Our Common Future: The Bruntland Report’ (1987)
Tortell, P. D. (2020) ‘Earth 2020: Science, Society and Sustainability in the Anthropocene’ (pnas.org, 2020)