I have always loved project management as an area of knowledge.
In fact, I spent 5 years in University studying project management. I also have a few years, of work experience in Construction Project Management, and Petroleum Project Management. Yet, nothing comes close to how effective, knowledge of project management can be in the new field of Sustainability Leadership.
In 2015, I learnt about sustainability leadership as a field of study, when I enrolled in Lagos Business School. I found most of the concepts strange, despite the fact that I was a recent graduate at the time. It is embarrassing that our tertiary institutions have not really given youths, the ability to align a concept as unique as sustainability into project management practice. Even though, no project can succeed or meet its objective without sustainability being built around the project charter, or project plan.
KEY INSIGHTS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP
- The concept of sustainability came into the limelight in 1972 ,when the ‘Club of Rome’, an independent think tank, published its book “The Limits to Growth”. In the book, the authors concluded that ‘’if the world’s population and economy would continue to grow at their current speeds, our planet’s natural resources would approach depletion’’. Hence the attachment of sustainability to environmental degradation and global warming
- There was also a 1987 report, “Our Common Future ”, that defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability is nothing other than making sure that you achieve your aim, or become prosperous, without frustrating the efforts of future generations to achieve theirs.
The concept of sustainability is not just about environmental degradation or global warming, or whatever problems most professionals would have you believe.
SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP IS VITAL TO PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Integrating sustainability in the project management process should not be optional, but necessary if a project is to live to its expected life span. As a project management professional, you have to be conscious of the social, environmental and economic, (Three Bottom Line) impacts of your projects. Focus should not solely be on the profits, the project would generate. As failing to address these impacts would lead to failure of the project in the long run. Stakeholders must now demand accountability and reporting from project managers as regards to the social, environmental and economic impact of a project to their community.
WE ARE STILL IN THE EARLY DAYS OF SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP.
According to Gareis et al., ‘The relationship between sustainability and project management is still an emerging field of study’. So it is understandable that adoption is still low among project managers. For example, many Nigerian firms and brands are yet to integrate sustainability, into their corporate strategies. Little do they know that, when sustainability is taken for granted it can lead to failure of the entire project, embarrassment of the project sponsors, and in most cases, it can cost the firm millions of naira.
What’s the Next step…?
- Project managers can ensure, their projects are sustainable by looking at their Work Breakdown Structure and ensuring that it meets sustainability standards (economic, social and environmental needs). Managers do not have to, wait till the project handover date, or termination phase to include sustainability. Sustainability has to be integrated at all phases of the project life cycle.
- Project sponsors should educate all project team members on the importance of sustainability and systematic sustainability reporting. This will go a long way in ensuring that the project meets its intended need.
- A Project Sustainability Management Plan should be developed and used as a working tool alongside the project management plan. This will give the project a direction with respect to how its value will affect people, profit and planet.
Here is a befitting quote from Albert A. Barlett to think about; “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”