2. Facility management - the agent of environmental responsibility?


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Baldry, D. (2000), "2. Facility management - the agent of environmental responsibility?", Facilities, Vol. 18 No. 3/4. https://doi.org/10.1108/f.2000.06918cab.030



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

2. Facility management - the agent of environmental responsibility?

2. Facility management - the agent of environmental responsibility?

David Baldry David Baldry is a Lecturer in the School of Construction and Property Management at the University of Salford, UK.

Keywords: Building works, Environmental impact


The creation of a building invariably results in extensive, often profligate, consumption of resources and materials, with substantial and often irreversible impacts upon landscape, amenity, and ecosystems. Similarly, the management and operation of a completed built facility demand significant resource usage, particularly that of energy, whilst seeking to create healthy, safe, and fit-for-purpose physical environments to meet social and economic needs and the satisfaction of corporate operational objectives. This paper speculates upon the prospect that effective and well considered facility management can be, and will probably need to be, the agent for the long-term, durable, and sustainable operation of built environments without compromising functional requirements.

The role of facility management

There is a growing awareness that industrial and business practices will have the most significant impact upon the future wellbeing of natural systems, and it is noted that "sustainable development ... recognises that economic growth and environmental protection are inextricably linked, and that the quality of present and future life rests on meeting human basic needs without destroying the environment on which all life depends" (Schmidheiny et al., 1992). The conventional role of facility management is to act for the client/occupier in such a manner as to seek to optimise performance criteria in respect of technical performance and operational satisfaction. This pursuit of optimisation inevitably results in the sub-optimisation of certain outcomes which may include environmental impact. However, the success criteria for evaluating operational performance are increasingly extending beyond compliance with technical standards to embrace some degree of social responsibility and ethical behaviour. Sustainable facility management practices are capable of being delivered where a condition of mutual benefit can be created, that is where a sustainable approach can be recognised as coincident with sound business practice whilst still being driven by market incentives and stakeholder pressures (Hutchinson and Hutchinson, 1996).

The discipline of facility management offers the potential to exercise the greatest influence to achieve the formation and operation of built environments in ways which recognise and satisfy both operational and environmental needs. This influence will arise from:

  • the increasing awareness amongst facility users and managers of the resource implications of the facility life-cycle;

  • the ascendancy of the facility function in corporate decision making with a predisposition to contain space formation and resource consumption;

  • the growing acceptance of the leadership role of the facility function in major project development and realisation;

  • the increasing national and international expectations for resource efficient operation and commercial activities and the raising of ethical sensitivities associated with the exercise of commercial responsibilities.

The view of the economist Milton Friedman (1984) that "good business is good ethics" is persuasive and engaging. The inverse of that statement has historically not been widely found to be true but it is suggested here that the facility management discipline will be increasingly required to be one of the primary agents for the achievement of corporate objectives whilst upholding standards of ethical performance including, specifically, those of environmental responsibility.

Critical moves towards a sustainable future

In order to exercise this pivotal role an increasingly proactive and assertive facility management discipline will need to emerge, one which has more effectively coalesced its activities into the primary business of the host organisation, rather than remaining as a support activity responding to a prescribed set of expectations and duties.

Major strategic steps will need to be taken to integrate the facility function into business processes in order to meet raised ethical expectations of customers, legislators, regulators, and other significant stakeholder interests.

Facility management will be required to be the catalyst for corporate activities which can achieve coincidence between successful business practices and goal achievement, and the realisation of environmental and ethical modes of operation.

The achievement of the above will depend upon the raising of facility management awareness and expertise from the level of the operation of technical and managerial systems to that of whole business planning and delivery within a more demanding framework of social obligations and environmental responsibility. This will be brought about by the culture of a breadth of vision which can find common ground between sustainable facility practices and corporate goal achievement, as noted by the CEO of a major industrial organisation (Margretta, 1997): "far from being a soft issue grounded in emotion or ethics, sustainable development involves cold rational business logic". This will be one of the major, most important, challenges facing the professional management of facilities.


Friedman, M. (1984), "The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits", in Hoffman, W. and Moore, J. (Eds), Business Ethics (1990), McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

Hutchinson, A. and Hutchinson, F. (1996), Environmental Business Management: Sustainable Development in the New Millennium, McGraw-Hill International, London.

Margretta, J. (1997), "Growth through global sustainability", Harvard Business Review, January-February, pp. 79-88.

Schmidheiny, S. and the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) (1992), Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment, BCSD and MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

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