The corporate reality today, regardless of the sector, is digital and, even to accommodate this format that demands speed and urgency in the constant updating of information, it is also full of acronyms to simplify the reference to the various mechanisms and tools that are available to professionals.

This article deals with 3 of these acronyms and aims to expose their correlation with emphasis on strategic points, to assist facility management (FM) in implementing an effectively sustainable and transversal culture.

ESG, what is it?

Let’s start with ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), a key player in the corporate media that has brought a new look and parameters to transversal sustainability (in terms of the environment, people and business).

First mentioned in 2004, ESG was originally linked to parameters to support sustainable or responsible investments, in a context of guidance or orientation for investors.

Since the boom of the acronym in recent years, accompanied by legislation mainly at European level, the concern with environmental, social and governance aspects has become notorious in the corporate environment and already quite linked as having an impact on the profitability of companies.

It is interesting to note that, despite the apparent simplicity in understanding its 3 major components, ESG holds within itself a great diversity of sub-themes, with more or less relevance depending on the nature of the business or sector.

Each sub-theme unfolds in different aspects and nuances, being the object of investigation and analysis by different sciences and, increasingly, from a multidisciplinary perspective.

In an attempt to summarise, it is worth highlighting some of the main aspects (noting that each letter is not limited to these aspects) to be observed in terms of E, S and G:

E – Ways of impact on the environment:
— Direct and indirect emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG).
— Energy use and efficiency (emphasis on renewables, but concern extends to the entire production, transport and consumption chain)
— Life cycle of materials and their reuse, to reduce waste (circularity of materials)
— Water resource management and conscious water consumption

S – Internal and external social
— Health (physical and mental) of employees and members of the company
— Working conditions
— Employability of workers
— Diversity and inclusion
— Human rights
— Impact of the company on society

G – Internal and external governance
— Definition and transparency of ethical parameters
— Definition and transparency of roles
— Diversity on the board and in the decision-making process
— Engagement and transparency with stakeholders and shareholders
— Monitoring of company performance and its impact

what is ESG

It is precisely the diversity of topics, as shown above, coupled with the constant dissemination of information, news and legislation on them, that leads us to the second acronym of this article: FOMO.

What is FOMO?

This is also an English acronym meaning “fear of missing out” and corresponds, according to the Cambridge dictionary, to a concern or fear that we feel in the face of the enormous flow of information and subjects that we believe we cannot keep up with and that, therefore, leaves us “behind”, out of date and, consequently, in an inferior or less strategic position with respect to others.

According to the World Journal of Clinical Cases, FOMO, curiously like ESG, has its first mentions recorded in 2004, the year Facebook was launched and which inaugurated a professional and personal culture of incessant sharing of information on social networks, which remains until today. The ESG trend was therefore already born in this digital context and the abundance of virtual information sharing, with an outstanding sense of urgency and speed in publicising issues.

As could not be otherwise, there is an identified, and growing, FOMO on the subject of ESG among professionals from a wide range of sectors. The avalanche of data, tools, metrics, reports, directives and cases on Environmental, Social and Governance and its impact on business returns from large corporates to SMEs (another acronym!) generates the constant feeling that it is not possible to keep up with — let alone master — ESG issues.

It is at this point, more than ever, that we must then take a step back, preferably away from screens and networks, and think:

  • What are the most important ESG concepts for my activity?
  • What are my priorities?
  • What are the data or metrics regarding (i) the current state of what I am working on or want to focus on and (ii) the final target or where I want to get to in this respect.

In times of FOMO, especially in relation to ESG, it is important to remember that we cannot change situations or manage what we cannot measure. And we can’t measure what we don’t really know. Hence the importance of taking a step back from the flood of information and news to get to know the macro concepts and, in your professional context, select the most impactful ones that will be prioritised.

In this moment of identification of applicable concepts, which precedes the verification of the numbers involved or metrics, it is better to (i) read quality content selected by reliable sources, (ii) in full, that is, avoiding fragments of news or articles and (iii) in smaller quantities, so that we can reflect and absorb the content. In the solidification of concepts and their conception of meaning for application, a well-read text and calm reflection is better than several fragments that do not lead us to a solid idea structuring.

How to manage FOMO in relation to ESG

This technique, which I apply purely and simply for empirical success in my case, since I am not from the fields of psychology or human behaviour, helps in managing the FOMO we feel in relation to ESG, in order to become effectively productive in relation to the implementation of measures that make sense in our professional day-to-day.

Having made this point, the hope is that this article will help FM professionals to manage FOMO in relation to ESG by starting to understand how ESG concepts impact their activities. Once the concepts and context are understood, I believe it becomes easier — and more efficient, since it is faster and with more results — to incorporate ESG into FM and this represents, without a doubt, an acceleration in transversal sustainability.

From reading what was considered in this article to comprise the aspects of E, S and G, it appears that, perhaps by the very nature of facility management activities, these professionals are more accustomed to the parameters and requirements brought by E. Especially with regard to energy efficiency, GHG emissions and management of water and materials consumption, professionals working in the infrastructure and construction sectors — even if in the subsequent management of these — are accustomed to the climate emergency and the measures imposed on it.

However, ESG is not only about E measures (although this is still the main issue), but a set of measures aimed at sustainability at all levels (environmental, people and business), which also corresponds to aspects of S and G. Perhaps because of this holistic approach that ESG requires, the FOMO for FM professionals is growing: how to address the requirements of E whilst paying attention to S and G?

Integrating ESG into facility management operations

Let’s start by integrating the letters of the acronym. Once again: conceptualising ESG as a whole, a set of measures aimed at cross-cutting sustainability, is the way forward. Sustainability as the ability to sustain ourselves over time, to last or endure with efficiency and good results. Such an ambition of durability with efficiency will only be possible if we incorporate measures to preserve natural, human and business resources.

This is therefore a crucial point for FM: to avoid associating ESG with the E measures they already know, and to see what has been done in terms of E only as a step or slice of a “whole” that now requires attention.

As a sequence of steps that reflect the reasoning advocated here, I suggest the design elaborated by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA):

ESG into FM

It is well known that, for various reasons mainly of E origin, FM companies are feeling the pressure to adopt ESG practices to be part of the solution of implementing cross-cutting sustainability in society. The way to address this pressure, however, needs to be efficient, and methodologies such as the one illustrated above can help.

In this sense, conceiving of ESG as a way to reinforce the purpose of FM activity itself is also quite productive: it can be seen that facilities management is a direct way to add value to organisations and companies, not only in the implementation of energy-saving projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (E), but also in the selection of products manufactured in a way that is responsible to society (S), and with transparent decision-making processes (G), among others. In order to truly incorporate ESG, there must be in the FM, above all, a greater concern for the ecosystem of partners involved, with attention also to S and G at all stages.

Understanding how that particular facility is related to the company’s activity and the purposes for the client or user, combining this knowledge with ESG concepts is the best starting point on this journey.

Then, as indicated, we move on to the metrics phase and the calculation of numbers and data on the sub-themes chosen as a priority and which will create the two universes (where we are and where we want to go) whose bridge will be the ESG strategies. The creation of parameters in this strategic process must always take into account a long-term and consistent approach over time, so that it is effectively sustainable. Monitoring and compliance checking is, therefore, essential in this process.

The debate on the scope of ESG and its business implications will continue, accompanied by an abundant digital dissemination of information and a growing sense that we have not mastered the topic. However, we can master our business strategies and we should not divert attention from certain fundamental principles and purposes of the concepts we want to apply.

Sustainable and resilient businesses are proven to be profitable and must consider the risk and impact they generate in their entirety — in E, S and G aspects — and on an ongoing basis. And it is on this path, with these values in mind, that FM can contribute to transversal sustainability.

Alice Khouri is a lawyer, teacher and founder of Women in ESG Portugal. She is a PhD student in legal and economic sciences at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon. Master in Public Law from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais. She is currently a collaborating researcher at NOVA Law School and at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon.