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Facilities Managers Key to Circular Economy

Posted: 12th December 2018

Sandy McNaughton is uniquely qualified to advocate the enormous benefits of businesses prepared to unlock the potential of the circular economy…

As the Scotland Chair of the Institute of Workplace & Facilities Management (formerly known as British Institute of Facilities Management) he heads the professional body that promotes excellence in the way we manage our buildings, plants and processes. As part of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s engagement programme, Sandy chaired a Chamber Breakfast Roundtable event, last month, in which discussed how SME businesses can start to embrace Circular Economy principles in the office setting.

In Scotland alone, Facilities Management represents a c. £12 billion industry in 2017 with that figure set to rise.

There are more than a million people working in facilities services in the UK – around 10% of the country’s workforce.

Published on World Facilities Management Day, a report by IWFM valued the annual global market at $1.1tn. It said the UK market was regarded as the ‘most mature and competitive in Europe,’ with most estimates putting its value in 2017 as high as £120bn. This is expected to rise to an estimated £139bn by 2021. This increase in value is attributed to the number of ‘total FM deals’ where providers are integrated into their clients’ operating teams.

Sandy said: “Given the reach of facilities services and the scale of the industry, there is a huge revenue potential in a circular economy approach, as well as substantial potential to make a positive environmental and social impact. Stopping the use of single-use plastic packaging, cups and introducing biodegradable options would massively impact each organisation’s ability to contribute to the bigger picture. If we can standardise across the industry and introduce a change of product life expectancy then this will have a positive impact.” The facilities industry can focus on extending the life expectancy of assets; reuse, refurbish, and/or recycle the products associated with the built environment, i.e. furniture, fittings, steel work, IT equipment, and so on.

“Organisations like to change their FM provider every 3 years, however what they must ensure is that they are clear on what they need their FM provider to do – by working collaboratively they can achieve a much more circular approach to service provision. Contracts should be driven by value and not cost.”

We need to move away from the existing linear economy that makes, uses and disposes, creating waste along the way. A circular economy looks to keep the flow of materials and products within the economy for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use. It’s where businesses, industry and consumers work together in making things last.

It offers opportunities to Scottish business to develop new products, services, and business models, for example: leasing, repair, or take-back services, or designing new products from another industry’s ‘waste’ through effective collaboration.

The Circular Edinburgh initiative, funded by Zero Waste Scotland, and supported by funding from both the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the £73mn Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme, supports this work through a programme of knowledge sharing events, workshops, and roundtable discussions in order to promote the “Circular Economy” to local businesses.

Keeping resources in high-value use is key to circular economy success in the same way that minimising waste from systems is one of the key components to circular economy success. Where there is waste, the facilities management industry is keen for organisations to design it out. “Technology has moved forward; more environmentally friendly products are widely available and so every segment of FM can get involved.”

“Review your organisation, your processes, identify ways you can be more circular and then make a step change. Don’t roll it out because while you have both systems in place, people will revert to the previous way of doing things. Look at your procurement processes, talk to your sub-contractors, and look at your employment contracts, your waste policies, your recycling. Can you redirect waste to other organisations and not just recycling companies? Do other organisations need your waste to produce their product?”

Sandy believes companies of all sizes can and should get involved. “There are support and frameworks for SMEs to get involved in projects and offer a circular approach, but more could be done through building robust processes and procedures, backed up by an infrastructure that supports Circular Economy thinking and knowledge. There is a great opportunity to refine the delivery model, and IWFM is contributing to that refinement by offering recognised courses (such as levels 4 and 5 in a Diploma of Facilities Management, and an HNC offering to attract school leavers into the industry) as well as being a centre of excellence.

“Success for us, would be to extend the partnership we have with other higher education providers across Scotland , to offer a nationally recognised academic programme that students want to participate in.”

For further information on any of the topics discussed in this article please visit or contact Mayan Grace or Aileen Boyle on 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or email

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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