The interviewee: Keith Chanter, chief executive, Emcor UK
The issue: Sustainability, recruitment and sector growth in FM
20 October 2014
The creation of a ‘virtual’ ‘sustainability supply chain school’ to educate suppliers was announced a few months ago.
The online school, which officially launches in 2015, will have support resources specially designed for FM and services suppliers, contractors and clients.
Emcor UK, along with Interserve and Cofely, is one of the FM contractors signed up as a partner to pool its knowledge and nurture these sustainable supply chain relationships.
Keith Chanter, Emcor UK’s chief executive, says the move was a “fundamental building block in establishing more efficient, productive and sustainable working environments, which will deliver long-term benefits to both clients and suppliers”.
Chanter says Emcor UK takes a “holistic” view of the issue.
“You can’t address the areas of sustainability from a narrow viewpoint – you have to do it from a corporate viewpoint. [The organisation] needs to be totally consistent, from top to bottom, in how it deals with sustainability issues. Maybe it’s how you deal with relationships, maybe it’s how you deal with energy use or partnering; all of the ethical standards of your company must be consistent with the desire to improve sustainability issues.”
Sustainability means different things to different people, says Chanter, and for some, “it will be the very narrow definition of how we sustain our planet by using economically resources such as waste, water, utilities”.
For others, he adds, “it is a much broader question about dealing with biodiversity and how we deal with the issue of inequality of income”.
A holistic approach
Chanter thinks the sustainability school supports this holistic approach to sustainability. “All of the key drivers for sustainability in terms of temperature, carbon dioxide, consumption of resources, population increases, look pretty desperate.”
If these areas are not focused on, says Chanter, “we’re going to be in a less nice place in 2050”.
He adds: “An FM company – or anyone in the supply chain can address this… as a self-interested supply chain partner – I don’t wish to denigrate anyone if that’s the way someone wishes to pursue it. If you can offer really great sustainability solutions to your partners and you profit, that’s a pretty good motive for me. It aligns the commercial motive with the environmental one.”
Emcor UK claims its pursuit of this agenda helps the company to “cement us as a preferred supply chain partner delivering whatever [a client’s] agenda might be”.
Chanter believes that Emcor UK’s increased influence as a company – and in the industry – in driving sustainability into the FM industry is one that attracts clients because “the profession is in a great position to influence the outcome of the 2050 debate [on climate change]”.
What do sustainable buildings mean for Chanter and Emcor UK?
“From the point of view of a chief partner of an organisation like KPMG, he might not want a lot of detail, but he’d want to know whether buildings are being used efficiently and are they consuming less resources than the norm. But an FM player can look at the M&E, plumbing, heating and water systems and that can save money and make a company greener.”
There is a softer side to sustainability, he says. “The FM of a building can have some influence. What I mean by that is that an FM can change the behaviour of those using the building… the behaviour of turning lights off when you are not using them, for instance.”
Chanter believes FM is set to grow. “There’s a genuine belief that the amount of work that will comes to external FM agencies such as ourselves will grow… We think the FM outsourced business in the UK is set to grow from about 3.5 per cent to 5 per cent a year.”
He thinks this will also mean a rise in recruitment levels. “If you looked at FM historically, about 20 years ago… FM was regarded as a fairly low-level, fairly mundane operation and managing it wouldn’t necessarily attract the right kind of people over a long period of time.”
But now, he says: “If growth will happen… I don’t think you can sell an FM role as being purely in FM sector… without defining what [the role] means. It means providing a solution to a customer that could be in just about any industry… you could be working in a pharmaceutical company or financial services or telecoms.”
But the skills – mechanical, technical or front-of-house – are what counts, says Chanter. “These are not as easy as you might assume to assimilate. Front-of-house is an intense customer service position… you really need to be good at that.”
The role and the skill set needs to be “sold” to attract the right people to the industry “no matter what sector one might get into”.