I was observing how the topic was becoming just as important an element of overall sustainability as ‘traditional’ environmental sustainability. Several conversations since have reinforced my view that what is perhaps more commonly referred to as social value will continue to drive the news agenda as 2013 progresses.
Much of what companies are now saying about their greater use of apprentices, their engagement with local community groups and their commitment to training local workers can be traced back to the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which was enacted in March of last year.
Let’s be clear – organisations of all sizes, and certainly not just those offering FM services, were gradually moving to embrace this way of thinking anyway. But what we were seeing prior to the introduction of the act, and have seen a great deal more of since, are a variety of innovative service delivery models, where engagement with the local community is a key focus. It’s nothing if not a dynamic area of activity.
Contrary to what some see as an issue that emphasises the capabilities of larger service providers, others tell me that the opportunities presented by tying service to social value will in fact empower smaller to mid-market FM service providers. Smaller means more local, and more local means greater bespoke attention on the needs of the local community – at least, that’s the theory.
So, OK, it’s easy to understand why service providers would seek to influence prospective clients, particularly those in the public sector, by putting forward plans that allow them meet their own social value commitments.
But what does social value mean to the in-house facilities manager? The drivers of social value for in-house FMs may be quite different, and they are certainly more likely to result from the public perception requirements and legal obligations of the organisations for which they work.
That said, the famously people-friendly nature of the typical FM makes he or she a potentially superb manager of initiatives that involve interaction with their local communities. As to the potential impact of social value on how FM is perceived within organisations, it’s easy to visualise social sustainability initiatives showcasing what FM delivers across the organisation and workplace. Local engagement and apprentice initiatives would in many cases be logically routed through the FM department, and of course the obvious connection is FM’s strong existing involvement with sustainability of the environmental kind.
FM can lead an organisation’s social and environmental sustainability charge – two issues that just happen to have a huge impact on the way an organisation is perceived, or wants to be perceived, by the outside world. FM is perhaps uniquely placed in this regard.
Martin Read is managing editor for FM World