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What is Sustainable Project Management?

Sustainability is a word in much use these days and is usually associated with economic, environmental and social issues which prevail in today’s world. These issues have become part of the United Nations (and many other local and global organisations) initiative to make the world a better place for all.

Sustainable development is an organised concept relating to the continuity of economic, social, institutional, and environmental aspects of human society as well as the non-human environment. The Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1987 defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is quite a general statement however if we consider it to encompass both small local situations to say the global balance of production and consumption, then we can determine its significance.

I think of it in terms of looking after the pennies and the… etc.

So what is the starting point and where is the best guidance on how sustainable development can be put into practice? Consider the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed and supported by the United Nations since 2015 (figure 1.0).

17 Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable Project Management

For organisations, this means focusing on performing tasks and services that are effective and efficient in their production and promoting sustainability for all of society. Therefore products and services should be provided in a way to reduce raw material use, energy use, supply and distribution costs and other forms of business and environmental damage.

This can be challenging for many organisations that have embedded processes and systems which need to be changed to move them to more sustainable outcomes.

A project is a temporary initiative designed to deliver a specific output or outcome. Projects are a means by which we introduce change and thus shape the organisation and hence our society. Project Management represents the how we do it and can help our organisations and society to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability shouldn’t just be an afterthought in the project but represent a fundamental goal of our projects.