‘Sustainability crunch’ facing businesses says BIFM report

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BUSINESSES are finding it increasingly difficult to implement and manage sustainability policies, ac- cording to research by the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM).
The annual BIFM Sustainability Survey, now in its ninth year, reveals a 20 per cent decline in confidence among businesses in their ability to implement and manage their envi- ronmental, sustainability and CSR policies compared to 2014. Despite sustainability pledges featuring within all of the political manifestos this year, the response from busi- ness appears muted, with 40 per cent of respondents saying they thought their organisation was ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ at implementing sustainability, compared to over half (60 per cent) last year, and 43 per cent in 2013.
This noticeable drop coincides with a reported increase in barriers to fulfilling sustainable practices. Physical constraints were highlight- ed by 80 per cent of respondents, while financial constraints (71 per cent) and a lack of organisational engagement (69 per cent) were the next most commonly cited ob- stacles, requiring organisations to sharpen their focus and modify their sustainability strategies if they are to reap the benefits of long-term sus- tainable business practice.
The annual survey, this year in collaboration with Cambium and Acclaro Advisory, explores how UK organisations are approaching sus- tainability, what the key drivers and barriers to their sustainability poli-
cies are, and how they could be im- proved.
In addition, the survey also found that over a third of respondents had no formal reporting system or data collection process when measur- ing effective sustainability outputs, resulting in a lack of evidence when it comes to building and reinforcing the business case of sustainability among leadership teams.
Furthermore, a disconnect be- tween the perceived importance of sustainability among varying tiers of management is apparent. Despite 81 per cent of CEOs and senior management recognising its im- portance, only 61 per cent of mid- dle management and 63 per cent of front line management reported the same. This suggests a dilution of messages as they are passed through the business.
Gareth Tancred, CEO of BIFM said, “Despite increased pressure on businesses to be more sustainable,
we are actually seeing a decline in their ability to do so”. He said it ap- pears firms need to re-think their ap- proach to sustainability in the face of increasing barriers. “In nine years of conducting this survey, 2015 has seen the biggest year-on-year de- crease recorded and historically, sustainability has been dominated by a tick-box mentality by business which is undermining the long-term value of sustainability investment.
Firms need to avoid “a short-ter- mist view of sustainable business practice”, he said. “What is need- ed to address the ‘sustainability crunch’ is more collaborative work- ing, to look beyond purely environ- mental connotations such as energy consumption, climate change and waste management, and integrate policies aligned with societal sus- tainability, such as the Living Wage. The risk of not doing so is that or- ganisations are accused of only paying lip service to sustainability.”

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