Facility managers are increasingly following a master plan when implementing sustainable practices and are tying their efforts to measurable goals and business strategy, according to the results of a new International Facility Management Association survey. The study, “Green Practices 2008,” shows that while recycling and energy conservation initiatives are being practiced by the vast majority of facility practitioners, financial challenges still present the biggest impediment to going green.

Based on a survey of 573 professionals from around the world, the new research report examines the forces driving sustainability, the green practices being employed and the challenges facility managers face in implementing sustainable initiatives.

While most survey respondents say they are implementing green building concepts without a master plan, 17 percent say they are adhering to one — an increase of 9 percent over similar data from 2002. The percentage of respondents who say they have not implemented any green strategies and do not plan to fell from 16 percent in 2002 to only 5 percent this year.

Ninety-two percent of survey respondents say they are working to make their facilities more sustainable, and the same percentage say they have measurable goals related to sustainability. Seventy-nine percent say these goals are linked to their organization’s business strategy.

“For years facility managers have been advancing sustainable practices with the aim to lower operating costs and improve efficiency,” said IFMA Director of Research Shari Epstein. “This study demonstrates the gradual shift toward incorporating sustainability into the overall business strategy in addition to the overall design and operation of the facility.”

The new survey also presents some of the first data on sustainability in food service operation. In addition to recycling and changes in packaging, facility managers are also turning to sustainable purchasing, such as reducing shipping distance for food products, and tray-less cafeterias, which discourage excess waste.

“Food service is perhaps one of the least explored aspects of sustainability, yet it can impact virtually hundreds of thousands of people,” said Teena Shouse, CFM, senior FM consultant at Facility Engineering Associates, who also speaks and teaches on food service sustainability. “Whether it is simply reducing disposables or significantly changing the behavior of the customers and the practices of the food service providers, there is a huge opportunity here that is cost effective to investigate and respond to. These results illustrate that efforts are improving, but we have many opportunities available to us through education and the exploration of possibilities.”

Results of the new survey will be presented at the World Workplace 2008 Conference & Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 15, during the Global FM Sustainability Project, which seeks to compile and share the sustainability initiatives and best practices of leading organizations and businesses around the globe. For a complete list of survey results, or to view other IFMA research reports, click here.