"As the century closes...major, unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters, among plants and animals, and in the relationships among all of these. The rate of change is outstripping the ability of scientific disciplines and our current capabilities to assess and advise."
(Brundtland Report, United Nations, 1987)
Environmental sustainability is not a fad or luxury. As project managers, we have the ability to make a positive impact on every project. Being able to contribute to the practice of environmental sustainability is worth pursuing and demonstrates personal leadership.
How do we do this and where do we start? It happens by our individual actions whether large or small and it means that we initiate a change in best practices for project management. Some organizations already embrace the concept of environmental sustainability while others ignore it or avoid it altogether.
Where to begin?
1) It starts with the project manager having a dialogue with the customer or project sponsor and, if presented properly, should result in an agreement to incorporate environmental sustainability practices into the project. With a business case approach, it can be shown that the benefits far outweigh any costs. Becoming environmentally friendly is working for companies such as IBM, IKEA, Unilever, and Adobe. Starbucks struggled with environmental responsibility and that failure became highly visible through negative publicity. So the company took responsibility and made changes to become one of the 'greenest' companies (Newsweek). If businesses get stronger by becoming green, then projects will be more effective as well.
2) Next is the discussion with the project team. This is an ideal opportunity to show leadership, take responsibility and allow the team to contribute. In terms of the team's daily working schedule even simple contributions matter such as using recycle bins, bringing in personal mugs instead of buying plastic water bottles and using electronic devices instead of printing massive amounts of documents. In many cases employers offer the ability to work remotely either full-time or on an occasional basis which promotes a better atmosphere (pun intended).
This is a call for action to all project managers. Let's improve our projects by encouraging environmentally sustainable thinking with all our stakeholders and making the changes that we need in order to include this concept as a project management best practice.