In this blog, we want to discuss how the notion of sustainability can be used in practicing project management within your organisations. The notion of sustainability has become ever present in recent years. Whether it be food or goods production, travel requirements or even in sports, the idea of a sustainable solution to a given problem has become hugely important. But what is sustainability in project management?

What is sustainability in project management?

The Association for Project Management (APM) Body of Knowledge defines sustainability as “an environmental, social and economically integrated approach to development that meets present needs without compromising the environment for future generations”.

In other words, a project must ensure that it takes an environmentally and socially responsible view of its impact, as well as the traditional focus on financial impacts. This is a simple, clear and focused definition that provides a solid framework around which project management offices can understand the concept and apply it to their work.

How do I practice sustainability in project management?

In reality, the notion of sustainability can still get somewhat pushed out in major projects, with financial issues still hugely important in shaping the core focus of the project. More environmentally responsible materials are starting to be used in major projects, but there is still a strong focus on delivering short-term savings at a potentially unknown environmental cost.

On a more positive note, there is clearly more attention being focused on these issues and how they can be dealt with. It is entirely understandable why certain projects may need to make savings in order to be viable and therefore simply introducing a major change and expecting smaller firms and projects to be able to afford this is unfair and unrealistic. The solution has to be multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder if this is to have a long-lasting impact.

What can companies involved in projects to do to contribute?

  • Focus on the use of smaller companies and contractors more local to the project in question.
  • Implementing basic measures such as the Living Wage campaigns.
  • Understand that races to the bottom in terms of wages, zero hours labour and offshoring/ tax avoidance can and do suck demand out of the economy, therefore ultimately damaging prospects for all of us.

Where does that leave us today?

At PL Projects, we believe that things are certainly moving in the right direction and there is clearly a major shift going on in the public mood towards these issues. These changes to ways of thinking are welcome, as people become more aware of how environmental and social responsibility can be integrated into traditional financial models. However, more work is still needed and will undoubtedly also have to come with investment to support significant industry change.

The picture overall is therefore one of cautious hope but there is still significant work to do.