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Sustainability makes facilities future-ready

How can the employee on the ground participate in the service provider’s sustainability journey? Tarun Ramrakhiani, CEO, SMS Integrated Facility Services offers many answers.

Shifting sands

There is a significant shift in the facility management community with regards to how and why they procure and value various services. Globally, on account of political, economic, legal, technological and societal factors, investments into industries, businesses & companies are being determined by an ability to create and sustain long-term value in a rapidly changing world.

The Environmental, Social & Governance (or ESG) frameworks and their reporting determine investments and growth, and are moving from peripheral ‘nice-to-know’ concepts to ‘need-to-do’ realities. This covers a gamut of activities ranging from climate change responses to energy efficiency; health & safety to diversity & inclusion; employee engagement to ethical behavior.

Earlier, most customers were procuring ‘manpower’ to do specified services. Today, when their Board tasks them towards driving items in ESG frameworks, they are looking to procure ‘outcomes’ aligned to goals/targets/road maps. Essentially, this is leading to a situation wherein clients want to be ‘Future Facility Ready’. For service providers, the language changes from ‘housekeeping’ or ‘security’ or ‘pantry boy’ to the outcomes that such services are intended to drive – namely, clean and immune buildings that have digital operations and hence are well managed, and that over time become more energy-efficient and sustainable.

Future readiness

Essentially, to align the planet and hence industries, businesses and companies with various goals, there will have to be a shift in the way we conduct business.

For example, if we must conserve 20-30% less resources (when measured for specific and total consumptions), we would have to retrofit much of all infrastructure by 2035 and build in new technologies/solutions in much of all upcoming infrastructure. This gives companies a window of under one decade for their existing assets and two decades for their upcoming assets.

The challenge isn’t the availability of either technology (most of it has been around since the mid-1980s) or finance (exists very liberally for viable projects); the challenge is having service providers that have the domain experience, technical and commercial ability to conceptualise, architect, deploy and sustain strategic programs over a multi-year horizon. It’s a case of too many problems to solve and too few specialised service providers.

Financial benefits

ESG frameworks have great built-in business cases and payback rationales. For example, great sustainability projects can provide business benefits for 15-25 years (relative to current baselines) with payback periods from 6 months to 36 months. In fact, the Indian ecosystem makes it very easy to design programs on a pay-as-you-save model for 5-7 of the overall 15-25 years.

Similarly, great facility digitisation projects can achieve a net operating expense reduction of at least 5% per annum, without making investments and after adjusting for inflation. This is significantly driven through improvement in service delivery and employee productivity.

Overall, we could create great assets that attract better clients, employees and customers while ensuring that the total cost of ownership, in many cases, is significantly lower, relative to current baselines.

Great sustainability projects can provide business benefits for 15-25 years (relative to current baselines) with payback periods from 6 months to 36 months. The Indian ecosystem makes it very easy to design programs on a pay-as-you-save model for 5-7 of the overall 15-25 years.

Tarun Ramrakhiani


Transforming employee behavior

A lot of work has been done in driving sustainability in the realm of upgrading assets, investing in efficient assets, switching to sustainable sources of energy et al. But the real work that remains to be done is converting each and every individual into a sustainability champion through self-behaviour modification.

A few practical suggestions for the same are:

Communication: Going beyond buzzwords and communicating through words and action at all levels (top down & bottom up) and making this a way of life.

Green office practice visibility: Coaching and showcasing how every employee action links to sustainability goals – from an employee using disposable pantry items to the janitor using cleaning chemicals.

Rewards system: Recognise and reward early adopters, towards building and institutionalizing sustainability and its champions.

Gathering feedback: 360-degree holistic feedback on what’s working well, what needs improvement and what innovations can be done. A great idea can come from anywhere.

Professional training: Building expertise on complex sustainability issues at every employee touchpoint. As a result, no matter what function the employee plays in a company, they will help in achieving sustainability goals.

Sustainable consumerism

This is essentially about sustainable purchasing, which places an overarching emphasis on prioritising items and services related to sustainability. Basic measures include paperless offices and the elimination of all single-use and short-use items.

During the next few years, 85% of the building stock will still be standing, but it will require a lot more upgradation. How can you link that to local conditions, sustainability, refurbish to reuse, consider long-term durability, and have an attitude of fixing rather than replacing things? These are the questions we need to answer.

Many organisations focus on aesthetics but end up using tough-to-maintain materials and systems, resulting in increased use of chemicals, people and equipment, potentially causing additional environmental deterioration.

Reducing the use of harsh solvent-based cleansers and replacing them with green, eco-friendly, non-hazardous, biodegradable alternatives promotes a healthy working environment for staff. Switching to low VOC products reduces overall volatile compounds.

Our assessment is that these low-investment measures can reduce and then sustain baseline consumption by 7-15%, without even making any capital expenditures.

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