Seizing the high ground – FM Insights from Elliott Chase

FM industry perception

The FM industry does a lot of things really well. What if we added one more to the list that could lift our perception, our value, our reputation?

What if we became the champions of the cause that sits within that nexus of principles already close to much of FM practice anyway – the ideas and objectives captured in terms like social value, sustainability, ethical procurement, responsible business? What if we could make FM known for its commitment to ‘doing the right thing’?

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for many FMs, who are already operating to clear policies and principles around people, the environment, health & safety, business ethics etc. And it is certainly in tune with the times: consider the government’s steps to improve procurement and contract management post-Carillion, the slow but steady corporate recognition of climate change as a reportable business factor, the preference especially among younger people for an employer that is a ‘responsible business’; even the ‘trusted’ models spreading through consumer services markets.

What discipline is better placed than FM to take a lead on these issues? I’m not suggesting that we can necessarily be the leader – there are plenty of other disciplines and groups that have a role to play – but we can ensure we are there at the front, ready with information, advice, guidance and ideas to help our clients (or employers) navigate challenging times.

How would we achieve such a goal for FM? This is more than just a PR job – though good, ongoing communication would be essential.  We would need a real programme, inter-linked, coordinated and managed, and delivering some sort of ‘seal of approval’, perhaps best third-party vetted. There are some partial models around: the professional institutes RIBA and RICS both operate codes of practice for members; BESA members are assessed periodically on their stability and performance; there are numerous supplier review systems around; and of course the ISO standards provide both a model and a context.

It seems to me there’s a big upside to this – yes, the PR value: what a good story to tell about how facilities management is leading the way in responsible business practices. But there is also more tangible value in the form of helping clients to deliver consistent benefit to people, communities and the wider environment. If there is a serious downside, I don’t see it.

What if IWFM, RICS and IFMA UK formed a working party to look at this and other ways we could all help to build FM’s reputation as a leading, business-critical profession? There must be some common goals, so why not some common effort within a clearly defined brief?  What are the chances of that?

We can talk through some of these issues at next week’s Workplace Futures conference. It’s not too late to book – and all of the FM institutes/associations will be there.

Elliott Chase
Managing Editor, i-FM
elliott@i-fm.net