Business confidence on sustainability declines

2nd July 2015

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Harrison Bayliss

Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to implement and manage sustainability policies, research by the trade body for facilities managers has revealed.

The annual British Institute for Facilities Management (BIFM) survey found that respondents’ confidence in their ability to implement and manage their environmental and sustainability policies had declined from 60% last year to 40% this year, the steepest year-on-year decrease in the nine years BIFM has been conducting the survey.

The sharp decline in confidence coincides with a reported increase in barriers to fulfilling sustainable practices. Financial constraints were highlighted by 71% of respondents, while 69% said they were held back by a lack of organisational engagement.

The survey also found that over a third (36%) had no formal reporting system or data collection process for measuring sustainable initiatives, resulting in a lack of evidence for building and reinforcing the business case for sustainability among leadership teams.

The research discovered a disconnect between the perceived importance of sustainability among varying tiers of management. Despite 81% of chief executives and senior management reporting sustainability as being a very important issue for their businesses, only 61% of middle management and 63% of front line management reported the same. This suggests that messages are being diluted as they pass through business and need to be better aligned and communicated, the BIFM said.

The institute’s chief executive, Gareth Tancred, said: “Despite increased pressure on businesses to be more sustainable, we are actually seeing a decline in their ability to do so. In nine years of conducting this survey, 2015 has seen the biggest year-on-year decrease recorded and historically, sustainability has been dominated by a tick-box mentality by business, which is undermining the long-term value of sustainability investment.”

Businesses must adopt more formal processes to monitor and measure progress and avoid a short-term view of sustainable business practice, Tancred said. Companies need be more collaborative and look beyond purely environmental connotations of sustainability to incorporate social issues, such as the living wage, he argued.

Tancred’s message echoes that of the UN Global Compact, which last week said that businesses were making progress on sustainability but needed to scale up efforts to achieve transformational change.


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