I'm A Project Manager, What Does Sustainability Have to Do With Me?

I've been managing projects my entire eight-year career…and not once had I heard project management and sustainability mentioned in the same sentence. So when I finally decided to pursue sustainability consulting, I was pretty confused as to how I could incorporate these two; they seemed pretty disjoint in my mind.

So I went looking in the on-demand webinar section of ProjectManagement[dot]com (the knowledge management site for PMI) to see if there were any trainings on sustainability for Project Managers. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few, but disappointed that only about 2% of the on-demand webinars had a sustainability angle. Pretty tiny!

But the more I thought about it, the less disjoint project management and sustainability seemed. Here's why:

Project management is needed to manage sustainability initiatives: An organization's strategy usually flows right down to its projects. So project management is the perfect tool for shaping the success of sustainability initiatives. The quality of project management that is used reflects the value the project will bring. And since more and more organizations are pledging to incorporate sustainability principles, project managers had better equip themselves to think that way too. That way, these initiatives have a higher chance of success.

Project Management methodology has many opportunities for thinking sustainably: Project management methodology (at least the PMP) is already full of opportunitiesto easily think sustainably. From expanding stakeholder management (to include societies and environment), to procurement management (sustainable supply chains), and of course, the almighty risk management (sustainability is about hedging your risks after all). You can think sustainably in practically every project management process. It's such an easy fit.

Project reporting can feed into sustainability reporting: Sustainability reporting is all the rage! How else do people know what you're doing, unless you report it. Sustainability managers have reported that writing a sustainability report is painful! But imagine if your project documents already describe the sustainability issues. These documents can then act as a feed, and your sustainability report will practically write itself.

Use project management to realize organizational change: Change management is a big part of the project management methodology because most projects require people to make a change, however small. That's why project managers are trained to deal with change. When a company goes green, it's a huge change!  So a project management team that understands the sustainability issues of the organization will be better equipped to deal with the green transition.

Sustainability is topical and here to stay: Discussions about sustainability have been around for longer than you might think. And the discussions have gained momentum with the recent COP21 agreements. This wagon has started rolling; why not hop on it already?

Bottom line, more businesses are talking about sustainability and attempting to take action. Even the project management community is taking note. For example, there's the PMI Sustainability Community of Practice, and the Green Project Management Certification. But these efforts are nowhere near mainstream yet. I reckon it's only a matter of time because sustainability and project management fit together.