A General Introduction to Sustainability

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Executive summary
This module is not a detailed study of all aspects of sustainability. The goal of this module is a general introduction into sustainability with a focus on the impact and the effect on projects © University of Southern Queensland

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throughout their life span. With this knowledge it should be possible for you to identify, understand and address the key issues related to definition and delivery of projects that adhere to current concepts of sustainability, and how to plan for the sustainment of those projects throughout their life span.

The concept of sustainability is explored in terms of consumption of resources – this can apply to inputs that are required to the project ‘system’ in order to deliver the project outcomes, the processes by which the project is managed, and the nature of the outputs and their need for resources throughout their useful life span. A range of project sectors is considered in order to understand the different implications for each sector. Also, it must be remembered that sustainability works inside of a closed loop system. In all of your deliberations about sustainability and project management you must remember the need to maintain a systems approach.

1.1 Sustainability issues in a project environment
Sustainability is a term that evokes emotion in people about certain events or practices that affect our long term survival of ourselves and all other aspects of our planet. We need to be able to work through this emotion and focus on what is important in an objective and reflective way.

By their very nature projects use and affect many resources throughout the life of the project. Some of these resources are consumed or adversely affected by the project. For example, if there was a project to build a new major airport, there would be many issues to consider, and the issue is can their resolution be sustained for the life of the airport? So, the question we need to ask when addressing the project is ‘Can this project be sustained and for how long?’ The resources required to sustain the project may be physical (natural resources) or they might simply be people (human resources). They could also include local resources as well as imported resources. As a result there are many dimensions of sustainability to consider in a project environment.

In 1983 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) convened under Gro Harlem Brundtland a commission to address the growing concern about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development. This became known as the Brundtland Commission. The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development in its 1987 Report titled Our Common Future as:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987)

A full copy of the report is available at http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm There are other definitions but this one is often used as the baseline definition. The question that needs to be proactively addressed as we look at the resources required to construct and sustain a project, ‘will it be possible to sustain current and future resources?’ There are two aspects of sustainability to a project. In the design and construction phases of the project, resources of all kinds are consumed. Similarly, during its operational life there is a need to © University of Southern Queensland

MGT8021 – Project sustainability management 3
provide resources so that the project can continue to operate profitably and efficiently throughout its life. This through life provision of resources is also known as the sustainment phase. This term is used by Defence, but it is also being used in the wider commercial areas. Blanchard...
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