This round-up is usually reserved for the week’s top news stories. But with Christmas and New Year just days away, we thought we’d use this as an opportunity to look back over the past 12 months. What follows is a list of the headlines that interested and excited us in 2018. Some are specific to the built environment and others are huge, era-defining stories that we couldn’t possibly ignore.
For everyone working in the built environment, the year began with news that felt both shocking and predictable. Following months of rumours, profit warnings, company restructures and reassurances, Carillion entered into compulsory liquidation after lenders and the government failed to save it. Reports revealed that the construction and support services giant had run up debts of £1.5 billion.
The fallout included months of uncomfortable details and recriminations including executive bonuses and the revelation of a ‘late payment epidemic’. For people like Martin Pickard, founder of The FM Guru Consultancy, Carillion’s demise was indicative of some longstanding issues in the built environment sector. “It seems to me that Carillion (in common with some others) has spent the last 10-15 years pursuing an aggressive commercial policy chasing revenue at the expense of profit and service, often to offset the cash position of its construction business,” he wrote in i-FM following the organisation’s collapse.
In March, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) announced its intention to change the organisation’s name to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) and begin the process to become a chartered body. Members were told they would have the chance to vote for or against the proposal at the institute’s AGM on 5 July.
Commenting on the announcement, BIFM Chairman Stephen Roots said: “This step is not taken lightly or without thought. In making this move we are responding to the challenge to provide leadership in an industry which has not yet shown all it is capable of, and hence, has not achieved the status it deserves.”
However, the move firmly divided opinion among FM practitioners, as this passionate debate on Linkedin shows.
Following hot on the heels of the BIFM’s news was the launch of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) UK Chapter in early May. Petitioners including Fellows of both IFMA and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors described the move as “strategically important that IFMA be a leader in the FM conversation in the UK”. By July, the new IFMA UK Chapter had a full committee including Pickard as president and Churchill Service’s Antony Law as vice president.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the political consulting firm was found to have harvested the data from thousands of Facebook user profiles, gave the launch of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in late May even greater significance. The regulation was formed to help strengthen individuals’ rights over their personal data. It also meant that businesses had a fight on their hands to keep the vast amount of consumer information they had collected over the years. For a month prior to GDPR’s introduction it seemed like the only emails arriving in people’s inboxes were from marketing departments desperate to have them opt in to receiving more emails – cue a million jokes and memes on social media.
For three weeks in the summer everyone (in England at least) seemed to forget about liquidations, rebrands and data protection, as they watched Gareth Southgate and his young squad reach a first World Cup semi-final for England in 28 years. Approximately 18 million people saw England’s 2-1 win over Tunisia on 17 June, while some estimates suggest that absenteeism rates at work quadrupled the next day. This was great news for football fans but bad news for employers, with sick days already costing them up to £29 billion a year according to PwC.
2018 was the year plastic pollution, previously a hobby horse for a narrow group of marine biologists and environmental activists, turned into a huge, sweeping social issue. At the tail-end of 2017, footage of birds and dolphins feeding their young plastic waste in the BBC’s Blue Planet II seemed to shock the nation into action. By April the UK Plastic Pacts had launched – a joint commitment from the Waste & Resources Action Programme, the UK government, and a number of commercial giants to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years.
While it is an issue that demands collective action, smaller businesses and individuals can play their part too. Magenta even launched its own commitment to cutting plastic waste in September. Here is a short guide that explains how you might be able to make a difference in your business.
When a UN report in October warned that the world has just 12 years to stop total ecological disaster, you’d be forgiven for thinking that nothing else really matters. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a 700-word document stating that hitting the Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5°C target requires a 45% reduction in carbon emissions below 2010 levels.
Having won the vote to change its name to the IWFM by a very narrow margin at a heated AGM earlier in the year, the institute officially launched its new brand in November. Reporting on the special ‘Welcoming Workplace’ evening for i-FM, Magenta’s Cathy Hayward wrote: “The event was a definite step forward from the AGM back in July when people argued passionately for – and against – the name change. There was an acceptance, by even the fiercest detractors, that the change was happening.”
Commenting on the change in i-FM’s annual Trends & Opportunities report, IWFM’s Director of Insight, Chris Moriarty, said the move allows the institute to “empower FMs to obtain the necessary interconnector skills of the workplace professional and educate organisations to regard the contribution of that position as a vital organ to their business”.
The year threatened to end much like it started – with the collapse of another large construction and outsourcing company. In November, the BBC reported that Interserve’s shares hit a 30-year low.
The company had to quell fears over its future as far back as 2017, following financial warnings and a strategic management review. Though the government said it was monitoring the situation closely, it claimed that none of its other major suppliers were in a similar position to Carillion.
In December of this year, however, Interserve was seeking a rescue bid to save it from its £500 million debt. i-FM wrote a story on the continuing problems of numerous FM-related companies including Interserve, Amey and Kier.
If one thing is for certain at the end of 2018, it’s still too early to tell if the government and outsourcing sector have learned any lessons from the circumstances surrounding Carillion’s demise.
And there you have it – an entire 2018 news round-up without a single mention of Brexit. Damn.
From everyone at Magenta Associates, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
See you in 2019.