Portico & Friends: The role of Facility and Office Management in delivering ESG strategy for the business

Earth Day Portico & Friends
18 April 2024

In the run up to the Earth Day (22 April), we are delighted to share the insights from our recent Portico & Friends panel discussion, focussing on ESG strategy and the role FM and Guest Services play in its delivery. We were thrilled to have a panel of industry leaders sharing their knowledge, real world experiences and examples, leaving our guests with actionable insights to implement successful ESG strategies within their business and teams.

What better venue to host this vital discussion than at The Conversation Room in the Home of British Science. The Royal Institution hold a proud legacy of over 200 years of ground-breaking discoveries, standing as a testament to the transformative power of science.

Delve into our thought-provoking panel discussion with our new blog series, exploring our key takeaways in more detail.

Before we dive in, let us introduce you to our esteemed panellists…

Annelie Selander, Chief Sustainability Officer at WSH

With more than 25 years of experience in the food industry, Annelie Selander is WSH Chief Sustainability Officer. She was previously the Group Sustainability Director for Nomad Foods, the parent company of Birds Eye, Findus, and iglo. Annelie has dedicated the last six years to guiding businesses towards more sustainable practices. Her ambition is to accelerate transformation in the food and hospitality industry and effect positive change for people and the planet.

Melanie van de Velde Author, and Founder of Big Tree Global

With her talks, training, workshops, and immersive IMPACT trips, Melanie aims to inspire business leaders and executive MBA students to tackle our key global issues for a 200-400% higher impact return compared to most, as well as improved business growth, productivity and brand value.

Her tools and insights are based on 20 years of experience and award-winning research, nominated by the Research Director at Cambridge University. While her thought-leading framework is simple to apply it underpins the best impact strategies from around the world.

Prior to her research, Melanie managed Asia Pacific markets at a multi-billion dollar tech company. She worked in senior management at IT start-ups. And she ran an impact business in Nairobi.

Duncan Kendall, Managing Director of Extract Coffee Roasters

Duncan is the Managing Director of Extract Coffee Roasters, a business dedicated to making coffee better for communities, growers and planet. Extract is one of the founding members of the speciality coffee scene in the UK, with training and event bases in London and Manchester, as well as the roastery in Bristol, which is home to Betty and Bertha, their vintage Probat roasters lovingly restored by hand.

Denise Allen, Director of People at Portico, Searcys and Benugo

Denise Allen brings over 20 years of extensive experience in the hospitality industry, with a strong foundation in HR and people management. Currently serving as the People Director for Searcys, Portico, and Benugo, she is dedicated to fostering a diverse and talented workforce while addressing the recruitment crisis and promoting continuous development opportunities. Passionate about people development, wellbeing and inclusivity, Denise is one of the pillar leads for the company’s ESG strategy, Second Nature.

Kicking off the discussion we wanted to know, what role does Facilities Management play in advancing ESG agendas within an organisation?

Annelie: The simple answer is that all businesses absolutely play a role. All businesses use human and natural resources, meaning we have an impact on the ESG topics, so we have a responsibility to act on them.

Looking at Portico being a service provider, there are impact areas around energy and water efficiency for example, that we can all act on, but its business is about service delivery, so it is all about people, so I think it’s about finding the balance.

in the ESG Strategy that we put in place is called ‘Second Nature’, hence the title of the of today’s session, we look at the data to gain an understanding of what areas we impact the most and what we should be addressing. That’s how we can make the biggest difference.

So, we do have a massive role to play and I think everyone here who works for business has a massive role to play.

Denise: From a people perspective and with emerging talent, the expectations are very different now to ten years ago. There’s a desire of workspaces being more collaborative with teamwork and flexibility, which has massive impact on what we’re doing from an ESG perspective and Second Nature.

We then asked Melanie what the secret is of how a business can be commercially successful whilst leading the ESG strategy. Through extensive research for her book ‘Lead like a Genius’, we were keen to understand Melanie’s findings and correlations.

Melanie: I wouldn’t say it’s just one thing but if you look at those that have really good outcomes, there are a few patterns that they have in common.

A good question to ask is are you’re really tackling the underlying issue or just dealing with the symptoms?

I love the analogy of running a bath and taking a phone call. By the time you step into the bathroom, it’s overflowing. What would you do? Most people would turn off the tap or pull the plug. You wouldn’t mop up the floor and leave the tub running – it doesn’t make any sense.

If we think about the plastic that enters our oceans each year or climate change, poverty and rising inequality, that’s exactly what we see a lot of. There are lot of initiatives that deal with the symptoms. Consider tackling poverty as a company, what can you do? Maybe donate or fundraise, but is it really developing a solution?

Looking at the plastics crisis, we’re all consuming five grams of microplastics each week, and scientists have only begun to scrape the surface of how it’s impacting our health right down to our DNA. There are initiatives that clean up plastic from our oceans – dealing with the symptoms – but it’s easy to see it’s a losing battle. It’s more upstream, innovative solutions.

Sweden is a brilliant example in many ways, particularly in the grocery and retail sector. They have implemented a system that delivers produce to supermarkets in one standardised crate across the whole sector, saving working hours, reducing product breakages and completely avoiding the plastic issue.

Another powerful example which shows that simply changing the model around can have a huge impact, is ‘Light as a Service’ by Schiphol Airport.

Light, like many of our products, are designed for obsolescence. Schiphol has asked Philips, their lights supplier to think of a new way to provide the service – they no longer want to buy light products anymore and would rather run a contract which placed responsibility of fixtures, fittings and electricity bills at a fixed rate. This completely changed the incentive for the designers, who created more durable and energy efficient products, reducing energy usage by 50%, just simply by changing the model.

So, I think that’s where we see the fully effective outcomes, in those upstream, innovative solutions.

Find more from our Portico & Friends panel discussion here.