HAPPY PLANET….?

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We, project managers, love indices, benchmarks, or anything else we can use as a number for quantification.  When we, EarthPM, were researching our book, we looked for company facts and figures to show how much savings can be realized by greening your projects and greening your organizations.  We found this “index” that provides a measurement of how well the world does with sustainability as it relates to our well-being, something we are all concerned with.

According to the website http://www.happyplanetindex.org/ “The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an innovative measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives. The second compilation of the global HPI, published in July 2009, shows that we are still far from achieving sustainable well-being and puts forward a vision of what we need to do to get there.
The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. If a country is doing all that it can to encourage practices such as sustainable farming, or recycling, then they will rate higher on the index. Alternatively, they might be helping big businesses to reduce their non-renewable energy consumption, in the way that companies such as o2 in the UK are already striving to achieve. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.

The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being, and that it is possible to produce high well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.”

The emphases in the above statements are ours.  We wanted to point out some parallels with our own thinking and how that relates back to us project managers.  Resource, resource, resource, has almost replaced the PM mantra communicate, communicate, communicate, especially when it comes to one of the more important concepts in green project management, and of enterprise project management, protecting and efficiently using limited project resources.  Project resources in the case of green project management include environmental resources.

I was especially interested in the map detailing the environmental footprint.  Interesting to note that the most developed nations, US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand had the largest footprint, as much as 4 planets worth.  It says a couple of things; (1) those developed countries have the resources to reduce their footprint if they have the inclination and (2) developing countries are going to have lots and lots of projects to do, building and upgrading infrastructure being one of them.

Because projects use resources, projects are where ideas become real, and project managers implement the reality, projects will have to move forward cautiously so as not to follow the “West” model.  So what can be done about reducing and controlling the environmental footprint?  That’s what we are hoping to provide with our book and blogs, the information for the project manager to lead the effort because Assertion 1 says “A project run with green intent is the right thing to do, but it also helps the project team to do things right.”