Sustainability as a PM career-builder

Back in 1843, when we founded EarthPM (okay it was a bit more recent than that, but it seems so…long…ago), we based it on 5 Assertions, which we have updated slightly:

1. Doing the right thing helps the project team do things right.
2. Adding sustainability thinking in PM helps better equip you and your team respond to project risks.
3. Sustainability thinking added to PM helps the project and the product of the project.
4. An environmental lens is a necessary part of a PM’s toolbox.
5. Greenality, like quality, must be planned in, not bolted on.
We also had a list of Five Things You Can Do Right Now with respect to Sustainability

Thing 1

Accept the idea that you are a change agent.

Thing 2

Connect your organization’s Environmental Management Plan to your project’s objectives.

Thing 3

Dare to think beyond the delivery of your project’s product to the sponsor.  In fact, dare to think beyond that sponsor.

Thing 4

Understand the concept of Greenality.

Thing 5

Build your own credibility in sustainability thinking.

As we’ve spread the word about sustainability thinking in PM, via our book, webinars, seminars, in our LinkedIn Group, and of course here on our blog, we have had pushback and criticism – and that’s a good thing.  We can take it, and we want to learn from it.  But turnabout is fair play, and that’s the purpose of this post.
Recently we’ve had people tell us that as a PM, we shouldn’t push sustainability issues because it may make you as a PM come off as an extremist.  We’re here to tell you – even better, to *show* you that that could be a *good* thing.  We’ll focus on Things 1, 2, and 5 above, and we’ll use an article from today’s news (see this news story) to help make our point.
In the story, which is about Ford Motor Company’s focus (excuse the pun) on electric vehicles, there are some striking statistics:
  • Ford, debuting five battery-powered models this year, is spending $135 million to design electric-drive parts and double battery testing capacity.  We read that as “blah blah blah, blah, projects, more projects, and project managers, blah, blah, blah”
  • Ford is moving more battery research in-house and has hired 60 engineers in the last year, bringing its electric-vehicle engineering staff to more than 1,000, according to a statement today. The moves help reduce the cost of hybrid systems by 30 percent and speed development by 25 percent, Ford said.
  • Ford has said hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric cars will account for as much as 25 percent of its new vehicle sales by 2020, from less than 3 percent last year. That’s a 20+% increase and the trigger for the launching of hundreds of projects and the need for many project managers.   The second-largest U.S. automaker is competing in the nascent market for electrified vehicles with Toyota, General Motors, Nissan and startups such as Tesla and closely held Fisker Automotive, who are also loaded with portfolios of programs and projects and who need project managers focused on sustainability
  • Ford said it plans to hire “dozens” of additional engineers (and of course this will also mean project managers as well) for electric-vehicle development projects. It’s also renaming its 285,000-square-foot advanced engineering center in Dearborn, Mich., the “Ford Advanced Electrification Center.”
  • Electrified vehicles accounted for 3.4 percent of the U.S. market in this year’s first half, up from 2.2 percent a year earlier, according to researcher LMC Automotive.
  • Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has made fuel- efficiency central to his turnaround plan for Ford. He said in April that Ford wouldn’t back off its ambitious sales goals for electric-powered vehicles just because they get off to a slow start.  “We believe that the electrification of vehicles is going to continue as the battery cost comes down, as we move to generate electricity cleanly,” Mulally told reporters in Laguna Niguel, Calif., that month. “We see this as continually growing. This is a long-term journey.

So that is the reality and the news.  Let’s step back now and look at ‘extremism’ and ‘credibility’, both of which, according to our detractors, are problems for sustainability-minded PMs; the former a liability and the latter in danger.

Here is a snapshot of Ford’s corporate home page, taken today.  Have a look at it.  If you can’t read it here, or, if you think we’re making this up, just go to

Notice any…theme?

After reading the messaging and theme of this site, can you truly assert that as a sustainability-minded PM you would be somehow an extremist?  Do you think that a sustainability-minded PM or engineer would have a credibility problem at this firm?


We would assert that (as in our “5 Things”, which we stand by even more firmly than originally) there is indeed a theme and it is sustainability.  We would assert that as a sustainability-minded PM your ‘extremism’ would be anything but a detriment, but rather a career-builder.  And we can say now with certainty that your knowledge of sustainability and recognition of that aspect of your career was anything but a credibility buster.  Having a command of a sustainability vocabulary and a skillset built around holistic, life cycle thinking would be a credibility boost.

Do you agree?  If so, stick with us, folks.  We will be helping you become an ‘extremist’.  And you – and your employer – and your project teams – will thank us.