Project Management

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Taking Responsibility: The integration of Sustainability and Project Management

A.J.Gilbert Silvius and Jasper van den Brink HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht Corresponding author: gilbert.silvius@hu.nl

Abstract Sustainability is one of the most important challenges of our time. How can we develop prosperity, without compromising the life of future generations? Companies are integrating ideas of sustainability in their marketing, corporate communications, annual reports and in their actions. Projects as instrument of change are crucial to sustainable development. Association for Project Management (past-) chairman Tom Taylor recognizes that “Project and Program Managers are significantly placed to make contributions to Sustainable Management practices”. And at the 2008 IPMA World Congress, Vice-President Mary McKinlay stated “the further development of the project management profession requires project managers to take responsibility for sustainability”. It is for that reason inevitable that „sustainability‟ will find its way to project management methodologies and practices in the very near future. But how is this responsibility put to practice? This paper explores the concept of sustainability and its application to project management. Based on the studies on the application of these principles in project management we will build the argument that the project management profession should take responsibility for not just for the process of delivering a project, but also for the content and the results of the project itself. Including the sustainability aspects of that result.

1. Introduction

In the last 10 to 15 years, the concept of sustainability has grown in recognition and importance. The pressure on companies to broaden its reporting and accountability from economic performance for shareholders, to sustainability performance for all stakeholders has increased (Visser, 2002). The recent world crises may even imply, that a strategy focused solely on shareholder value, is not longer viable (Kennedy, 2000). Following the success of

Al Gore‟s „inconvenient truth‟, awareness seems to be growing that a change of mindset is needed, both in consumer behavior as in corporate policies. How can we develop prosperity without compromising the life of future generations? Proactively or reactively, companies are looking for ways to integrate ideas of sustainability in their marketing, corporate communications, annual reports and in their actions (Hedstrom et al., 1998; Holliday, 2001). Sustainability, in this context, being defined as “Adopting business strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders today while protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future.” (Deloitte & Touche, 1992). The concept of sustainability has more recently also been linked to project management (Gareis et al., 2009; Silvius et al., 2009). Association for Project Management (past-) chairman Tom Taylor recognizes that “the planet earth is in a perilous position with a range of fundamental sustainability threats” and “Project and Programme Managers are significantly placed to make contributions to Sustainable Management practices” (Association for Project Management, 2006). Also in academic research, the relationship between project management and sustainability is explored (e.g. by Gareis et al., 2009; Labuschagne and Brent, 2006; Silvius et al., 2009) as one of the (future) developments in project management. But how does this attention for sustainability find its way to the shop floor? How is sustainability taken into account in project management processes, methodologies, competencies, etc.? If organizations „put their money where their mouth is‟ on sustainability, it is inevitable that sustainability criteria and indicators will find its way to project management methodologies and practices in the very near future (Silvius et al., 2009)....
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