Perspectives on Sustainability

Perspectives on Sustainability

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2371-0.ch003
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Thirty years ago, Brown, Hanson, Liverman, and Merideth (1987) predicted that institutions and individuals concerned with the relationships between humans and the global environment would increasingly use terms such as “sustainable development,” “sustainability,” “sustained use of the bio-sphere,” and “ecological sustainability.” This prediction, made in the 1987 issue of Environmental Management (an international academic journal), has come true in today’s world. Brown et al. (1987) discuss the meaning of sustainable development and explain sustainable biological resource use, sustainable agriculture, carrying capacity, sustainable energy, sustainable society, and sustainable economy. The meaning of sustainability, or sustainable development, also covers areas beyond the natural environment (Badiru, 2010).

The main theme of this book is “managing project sustainability.” Some authors prefer to use “sustainable project management” or “green project management” to describe the principles and activities that integrate sustainability aspects into project-management process. Sustainability requires methodological, scientific, and analytical rigor to make it effective for managing human activities and resources (Badiru, 2010). “Managing project sustainability” would better describe the way project managers handle project-related sustainability activities. “Managing” involves taking action to achieve objectives. “Managing projects” is the core responsibility of a project manager, who takes action to deliver project outcomes, reflecting the project manager as doer. “Sustainability” is a discipline with its own body of knowledge, and a project manager may not be fully conversant with the theory and practice behind the subject. Arguably, “managing project sustainability” is the work of project managers (generalizing specialists) who specialize in project management and have developed general sustainability knowledge related to the delivery process and the outcome of the project. The profession of project management is uniquely positioned to facilitate managing project-sustainability activities within project-development management processes, particularly as they relate to the environment, resource deployment, and human interface.

Project management is one of the drivers for sustainability. On the other hand, some authors argue that sustainability drives project managers to innovate (e.g., development of electric vehicle with no pollution). This means that sustainability adds value to project management. Are they symbiotic? It depends. Unfortunately, not every project contributes to building a sustainable society. Some projects, by their very nature, would hardly contribute to better environmental and social sustainability without the support of a project sponsor or senior management. The support links to corporate policy, strategy, and resource allocation. In his book, Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, Adam Werbach puts down “Nature’s Rules of Sustainability”:

Diversify across generations.

Adapt and specialize to the changing environment.

Celebrate transparency.

Plan and execute systematically, not compartmentally.

Form groups and protect the young.

Integrate metrics.

Improve with each cycle.

Rightsize regularly, rather than downsize occasionally.

Foster longevity, not immediate gratification.

Waste nothing, recycle everything, and borrow little. (Werbach, 2009, n.p.)

Project managers in organizations adopting such “nature’s rules of sustainability” in their operations would have a higher chance of success in delivering projects sustainably. Without such vision and commitment at the corporate level, it is unlikely that a project manager and his or her project team could meet the goals and objectives set at the project level. In fact, there may be no such sustainability goals and objectives set for the project.

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