Misconceptions about sustainability
Leading a sustainable future in facilities management is the theme of World FM Day 2022. Sustainability is a continuous process of improving how we manage our client’s facilities. As sustainability becomes a greater focus for businesses and individuals, it becomes evident that it affects everyday life and is here to stay. The news is full of headlines that remind us that addressing the issues benefits everyone on the planet. However, sustainability is a nuanced and sometimes complex area and consequently, misconceptions exist.
Misconception 1: Sustainability is only about energy savings and efficiency
Energy saving is part of sustainability, but it is not the whole story. The visibility of the energy we use is one reason energy savings are front of mind when considering sustainability. Using sensor technology for lighting, carrying out energy audits and energy efficiency upgrades are effective ways that facilities managers reduce energy consumption and deliver cost savings. The environmental benefits of energy efficiency are the most well-known as it reduces pollution and affects carbon emissions and climate change.. However, energy efficiency affects the economic and social parts of sustainability too. The 7th UN sustainable development goal is affordable and clean energy. This means that it has a considerable influence on the quality of our lives. Energy efficiency increases competitiveness, creates jobs and improves consumer welfare. It is also a tool to address energy security and reduces dependency on energy imports.
Myth 2: Sustainability poses a threat to jobs
Sustainability challenges us to change our behaviour across many areas. Change usually brings a degree of uncertainty as industries that have existed for a long time are now being challenged on their ability to be less harmful, such as fossil fuels. The awareness that sustainability has created about the need for jobs in industries that support it has grown. Additionally increasing consumer awareness means that consumers want to buy from and work for organisations that take sustainability seriously. The awareness of sustainability has been recognised by governments and because of these factors’ direct subsidies for R&D in ‘green technology’ or indirect subsidies (e.g., tax exemption of investments in sustainable production) have increased the creation of jobs. Additionally, taxing organisations that are not sustainable can have a motivating effect to become sustainable. Organisations immersed in recruitment such as LinkedIn have noted a significant change in the types of industries in which people are employed. LinkedIn jobs data has noted a shift away from oil and gas jobs. In 2015 the ratio of oil and gas jobs to jobs in renewable energy was 5:1. In 2020 this has changed to 2:1. Sustainability is creating new job opportunities.
Myth 3: Sustainability is mostly focused on environmental concerns
Sustainability considers not only the environment in which we live but also the social and economic elements that affect people. Social sustainability is when a society can consistently ensure the wellbeing of its citizens. Economic sustainability means that a business or a country makes considered choices about how best to use the resources available to it and carry out business in a sustainable manner that optimises profits for it. The three areas intersect and influence each other in many ways; For example: instead of pouring raw sewage into the sea or a river, the sewage is treated. This means that there is first a recognition that the presence of raw sewage in the sea and river negatively affects human beings, animal, and plant life. The technology to treat raw sewage is invented and sold the technology to treat raw sewage and then built a sewage treatment plant to ensure it’s done properly. The effect of caring for the environment by treating the sewage has created jobs for people, is caring for the wellbeing of its citizens and reduces the negative effect of human behaviour on the environment.
Myth 4: Sustainability is hard work
Difficulties associated with sustainability or sustainable development are sometimes due to factors that are cultural, policy related or due to poor communication of the benefits of sustainability. Additionally, a challenge that is frequently cited is the upfront cost of trying to be more sustainable. Each of these challenges would suggest that change is the hardest part of sustainability. Facilities management is familiar with these challenges as detailed here in our blog about the topic. Dealing with the challenges of being sustainable means that while technology is useful, it changes rapidly making it difficult to know which technology will maximise your sustainability efforts. Broad government policies about sustainability can be difficult to implement for some organisations as they lack enough detail. Being aware of the factors that make sustainability challenging assists in understanding where to begin or improve your sustainability efforts.
Acacia Evergreen is our sustainability initiative which we use as a roadmap for building our sustainability efforts and supporting those of our clients. Facilities management is in a unique position to understand and support sustainability as it provides an overview of an organisation’s way of working. We would be interested to hear your concerns and questions about becoming more sustainable and how we can support your business. You can contact us here.