Sustainability Starts with Project Management

Can an organisation ensure that its strategy on Sustainability becomes a reality?


The Situation

Sustainability is very topical these days. However, it should be much more than just topical, more than just something that we ought to have on our organisation’s profile?

As a responsible global society for our present and, more importantly, for our future, we need to do than publishing “strategies” on sustainability and plans to address industrial activities on the environment. We need to ensure that the sustainability of our environment, in a multitude of areas, becomes a reality,  not just remain as a strategy.

It is increasingly evident that individuals and corporations are becoming more aware of the need to have a sustainability strategy in place, however, sadly, are currently doing very little about actually acting on these strategies. There is a need to have the tools and methods to deliver that strategy, and the best mechanism for delivering business and sustainability strategy is through project management.


The Standards

The UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles for Sustainable Development, provide an important framework, and in partnership the Global Reporting Initiative Framework, (GRI G4), enables organizations of all types to start with a common point of publicly presenting their initiatives and status.

In conjunction with these are the ISO standards that also need to be addressed, such as ISO 14001 The Environmental Management Standard, ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility and ISO 50001 The Energy Management. ISO 9001 The Quality Management Standard also needs to be included and ultimately adhered to.

How will organizations be able to identify others with the same ideology? As more and more organizations take this direction, they are likely to restrict their partners to those who are showing that they are taking Sustainability and management of their environmental impact as seriously. The GPM Sustainable Centre of Excellence in Project Management is a distinction for organisations that have committed to environmental, social and economic stewardship through the use of green and sustainable project management practices.


The Solution

PRiSM™ (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods) is the sustainability based project delivery method, which incorporates tangible tools and methods to manage the balance between finite resources, social responsibility, and delivering “green”project outcomes. It was developed for organisations to integrate project processes with sustainability initiatives to achieve business objectives while decreasing negative environmental impact.


Governance and control for that change is effected through project management, using various formal methods such as PRINCE2® or Agile Project Framework/Management™, in-house developed methods or whatever the project manager(s) is/are experienced with. The issue is that these methods, as they stand, do not have tools or methods for analysing what the impact that the project delivery method, or what the project is actually delivering, will have on the environment and so address sustainability.


The P5 Standard provides the method and tools to analyse the organization’s strategy on sustainability and the goals of the project/programme in hand. These goals are then rated against the processes and products of the project, paying specific attention to the “triple bottom line” (John Elkington, in his book ‘Cannibals with Forks’ – 1997) as the Social, Environmental and Economical aspects, often known as People, Planet, Profit, incorporating the UN Global Compact and standards detailed earlier. With this toolkit the project manager will be equipped to deliver a project addressing and adhering to sustainability goals and strategies, which he/she does throughout the project.


The Benefits

How are we, as individuals, going to ensure that the sustainability strategies now in place will be acted on and become part of the organization’s culture, ideology, and not just words on a website or annual report, when delivering business change.

The project manager now has the opportunity to become certified as a Green Project Manager – Foundation level (GPM-b), by following a PRiSM based course. The next levels following the foundation are the Practitioner and Masters levels, which are competency based, (the foundation is examination based). As a certified GPM, the project manager will bring to an organization and shareholders the assurance that their projects will incorporate and address sustainability.

Today, projects are THE way of effecting business change for an organization, and Project Management is the profession employed to deliver these projects, by project managers, who therefore have a very important role to play when it comes to addressing sustainability of our environment.

Sustainability starts with Project Management.


To find out more about Green Project Management visit the website


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