Top Ten Things You Need To Know About Sustainability In Your Projects

In this post, we’re going to summarize – and point you to – an excellent resource from an outstanding source of all kinds of excellent resources, called the Network for Business Sustainability.
The resource of the subject line is actually designed for folks who “are asked to lead …company’s sustainability efforts”.

But as project managers, we know a couple of secrets.

Secret 1: Sustainability efforts are often shepherded in via projects, so project managers had better know this stuff, even if they don’t have a formal “Czar of Sustainability” title

Secret 2: Projects are like little “core samples” (sometimes huge) core samples” of the enterprise and thus, each PM really is indeed leading sustainability efforts in a microcosm of the company.

Here, from this outstanding document, is our spin on the 10 things project managers need to know – about sustainability.

1. Do sustainability investments pay back?

Short answer: yes, based on decades of research, the rewards are tangible and show in terms of share price, cost savings, and customer loyalty.  We’d also say from our own research, that another aspect of the pay back is innovation – and thus, MORE PROJECTS!

2. How can we make sustainability part of our project culture?

See the answer from the referenced document for a corporate view, but from a project standpoint, understand how your project fits into the context of the program(s) and portfolio the enterprise has launched, and most importantly, “hitch your wagon” to the the corporation’s public statements on sustainability.  Also – drive home the point that sustainability isn’t limited at all to ecological aspects but runs across economic and social planes as well.

3. How can our supply chain be more competitive and sustainable?

Use this framework from NBS.

4. Will our customers pay for sustainable products or services?

Yes, depending on a whole set of factors, laid out by NBS.  However, you should also be aware that instead of framing the question this way, be prepared for customers who may not be interested in your project’s product if the sustainability efforts of the project or the enterprise are viewed as inadequate.

5.  How can I best engage stakeholders?

As PMs we already know about stakeholder analysis.  Simply add an aspect to your stakeholder register which includes sustainability for each stakeholder.  How do they feel about it, prioritize it?

6. What are the best measurements of my company’s (project’s) environmental impact?

We suggest the LCA as the tool for PMs to use.  See these tools.

7. How can our corporate (project) sustainability practices attract and retain great employees (project team members)?

See the entry for Question 7 on the NBS document.  The principles are the same for employees and project team members – or at least they overlap significantly.

8. How can my company mitigate and adapt to climate change?

Depending on the project, climate change (whatever its source!) may have to be considered as a threat when you are identifying risk.  Even if it’s not climate change itself which presents a threat or opportunity, you need to consider climate change contribution factors also as risk triggers (again, consider both threat and opportunity).

9. What is business sustainability?

We like NBS’ definition of “organizational resilience”.  We also like the way Auden Schendler, of the book  Getting Green Done says it: “it’s about planning to be in business forever”.

10. How can I find resources on other questions or find out about new research or research in progress on other issues?

Go to NBS’ knowledge center.

2 Comments

  1. World class renewable energy innovation enterprise zone revealed for Los Angeles – Proposed by YJ Draiman

    YJ Draiman welcomes innovative renewable energy zone approach which will create 200,000 + new jobs over the next 5-10 years.

    An ambitious project that will transform the way universities, business and industry collaborate, and establish Los Angeles as a world leader in the research, development and design of next generation renewable energy technology, was announced today, January 2, 2011. Spearheaded by YJ Draiman and the Economic development agency, Draiman Enterprise, and National Technology Renewable Energy Zone, will be established in the city of Los Angeles with the Universities of Southern California Technology Innovation Development at its heart.

    A large parcel of land will be allocated to set up the renewable energy enterprise zone site, which will be within the boundaries of Los Angeles. There will be an academic center which will be transformed into a center of excellence for academic research, commercialization and industry collaboration.

    The renewable energy zone initiative, which would span further than the confines of the City of Los Angeles and include Southern California, is expected to create 200,000 + new jobs over the next 5-10 years and give a boost to the Los Angeles economy through further industry academia collaboration and inward investment.

    The developer said: “This new vision of the Renewable energy Technology Innovation Center will be the cornerstone of Los Angeles Technology and Renewable Energy Zone. The developer’s vision for The Renewable energy Zone is to provide a breeding ground for ambitious companies to harness cutting-edge research, access the best people and develop the products which will shape the renewable energy industry of tomorrow.

    “Southern California has already claimed a place on the renewables map attracting energy heavyweights and pioneers in the solar and wind sector and we believe that by establishing this zone we will help reinforce Los Angeles position as a location of choice for the rapidly expanding renewables industry.”
    Developer said: “The Universities in the Los Angeles area’s Technology and Innovation Center is a transformational project for Los Angeles, building on California’s great tradition of innovating new technologies and developments in fields; including energy and engineering while creating and supporting hundreds of jobs. Through this collaboration, the aim is to quadruple the scale of research program investment in Los Angeles in areas key to economic growth by up to $10 billion + in five to ten years. “And now, as an integral part of Los Angeles Enterprise’s new Technology and Renewable Energy Zone, which aims to establish Los Angeles as a premier location for inward investment into world-leading technology and renewables research and development, we have the potential to deliver huge economic and social benefits, not only in Los Angeles but nationally and beyond.”

    The developer said: “The Technology and Innovation for renewable energy zone will help transform Los Angeles and Southern California. By capitalizing on our leading, industry-relevant research, the renewable energy zone will attract billions of dollars of inward investment to the city of Los Angeles, drive global businesses, create jobs, and support the development of our highly-qualified graduates and postgraduates. “As a leading technological hub of Universities, they are committed to sharing knowledge to address challenges that affect every area of society, including energy, health, manufacturing and economics. The renewable energy zone will forge new levels of collaboration between researchers, the public and private sectors to accelerate the pace of research and development and deliver benefit to companies, the economy and Southern California.” The collaborative approach with the Universities, Los Angeles Enterprise and existing pioneering renewable energy leaders means that companies locating in the zone will have access to government support and some of the world’s best industry and academia in the fields of technology, engineering and energy. The project represents a supportive government and business environment where companies locating in and around the zone may be eligible for additional support for job creation, innovation and staff development, delivered through various California Enterprise schemes.

    When the need arises we will establish facilities within the existing Zone that offer temporary accommodation for prospective tenants until construction of the research center is complete or, if required, a purpose-built industry engagement building is created within the Zone.
    Renewable energy Zone is designed to draw on Southern California’s existing competitive advantage by providing the right business environment for the renewables industry to continue to grow and further develop. Recent announcements from industry leaders have reinforced Southern California’s position as a world leading city in solar, wind research and development. A leader in energy innovation with unrivalled human and natural resources in renewable energy, Southern California is building on its rich history of oil and gas exploration and developing an infrastructure to cement its position as a world class location for international companies looking to invest in renewable energy and Energy efficiency.

    “Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”
    “It is Cheaper to Save Energy than Make Energy”
    YJ Draiman for Mayor of Los Angeles

  2. I think number 2 is key. We are not all managing projects that have an obvious environmental impact, but sustainability is key in every sector. All businesses will agree with financial sustainability. Online project management is one way to ensure that sustainability is built into your project from the earliest stages of planning, and with online project management software (like Clarizen http://www.clarizen.com/ProjectSoftware.aspx) you can check your progress throughout the project.