Churchill hosts sustainability roundtable

On Tuesday 22nd October, Churchill hosted a roundtable to discuss sustainability in the facilities management (FM) sector, in particular in the cleaning industry. Portfolio managing director Antony Law and Churchill environmental sustainability manager Daniela Eigner were joined by clients from a range of industries to discuss a variety of topics, including single-use plastic, waste reduction and chemical-free cleaning products.

Also in attendance was Amy Meek of the charity Kids Against Plastic (KAP). Amy and her younger sister Ella started the charity in 2016 after being inspired to do something about the proliferation of single-use plastic. Amy started the roundtable by introducing the main campaign of KAP, ‘Plastic Clever’, which focuses on four of the biggest polluters – bottles, straws, coffee cups and lids, and plastic bags.

Amy explained how the initiative was applicable to all sectors, from schools to businesses. Churchill has been working with KAP throughout 2019 and has introduced some of its clients to the charity.

Amy summarized by noting that while going completely plastic-free is almost impossible, there are lots of small changes that can have a big impact. Trying to leave your environment in a better state than you found it is a great goal.

The discussion on plastic then opened up to the floor, with some attendees stating that the Blue Planet series had made single-use plastic a lot more socially unacceptable. While this lowered resistance to making changes, some still found it difficult to get buy-in from senior management and staff regarding reducing plastic usage.

Some attendees shared successful changes they had been able to implement, particularly in reducing plastic cutlery and cups. Staff were disincentivised from using plastic by charging them for cups, and not having plastic options on display. Education is also a key component of encouraging behavioural change, with most agreeing that more needs to be done.

There was a consensus that although recycling is very important, the main goal of businesses needs to be on waste reduction. This can be more of a challenge depending on the industry. For example, restaurants and takeaway delivery companies face a daunting task in reducing use of plastic boxes, bags and cutlery.

The discussion then moved on to cleaning. Churchill has deployed the chemical-free cleaner Purex; each client at the roundtable has at least one building that has adopted the product. Despite some challenges that arise whenever a change is made, all clients and buildings tenants were delighted with the new solution. In fact, most resistance has come from cleaning staff which highlights a need for retraining when introducing alternative products.

Finally, there was a debate about the role of the workforce and leadership teams in sustainability efforts. The general agreement of those present was that the younger workforce is much more invested in environmental good practice and hold their companies to account. At the same time, having members of senior management who are passionate about sustainability can make a big difference in making positive changes.

There was so much to discuss which highlighted one of the key takeaways as the need to bring like-minded organisations together more regularly. Continued education of staff, being more proactive in implementing change and sharing successes internally were also identified by all clients as very important.

The roundtable gave Churchill a great insight into what is important for clients and the challenges ahead. With so much focus on this area, there’s a real opportunity for facilities managers and FM companies to take the lead. In many instances, that will mean taking the leap and then finding the solution, as sometimes a solution won’t become apparent until a change is instigated.

Along with our clients, we recognise that we need to get better at communicating our sustainability efforts and successes. We have plenty to be proud of and hope to inspire others with our actions. We’re excited to take on board all of the great comments from the roundtable and continue our sustainability efforts.