Project Sustainability Profile

Project Sustainability Profile

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2371-0.ch007
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The Sustainability Criteria

Sustainability is about what we do and how we do it, for the benefit of society today and tomorrow. Researching sustainability as a stand-alone subject would be neither effective nor comprehensive. The rationale is that achievement of sustainability or sustainable development in a society requires the support of contributions from various disciplines. Sustainability partners with other disciplines to study such areas as environment, ecology, food production and consumption, the just and equitable society, education of youth, and corporate management for sustainability actions. These are interdisciplinary or even multidisciplinary studies. Project management is an academic discipline and professional practice that, together with the discipline of sustainability, can take positive steps toward a sustainable world.

Sustainability must be treated as part of project vision. The commitment to it must be planted as early as possible to ensure smooth flow of process and acceptability among project participants (Abidin, 2005; Addis & Talbot, 2001). Griffiths (2007) finds it important to raise awareness and develop mindsets within the project team to establish a culture of care for environment, people (stakeholders), and the communities involved. Clear understanding of various project life cycles, the interaction between life cycles, and the external environment and society is a prerequisite for aligning project management frameworks with the principles of sustainable development (Labuschagne & Brent, 2004). To complement such efforts, we must determine project-specific sustainability criteria and indicators for tracking changes in the respective dimensions.

Traditional project appraisal or assessment has much concentrated on financial and technical feasibility (Lopes & Flavell, 1998). Grundy (1998) indicates a similar effect in doing strategy implementation projects: “We hold the view that wherever possible, benefits (however soft and less tangible) should be targeted—and preferably in economic (or financial) terms. This does not mean that projects should be exactly evaluated (in financial terms)—but one would want to see potential benefits illustrated financially” (Grundy, 1998, p. 45). Nowadays, other considerations are becoming important, such as environmental and social impact effects of the project process, or sustainability impacts of project results on the community. Their respective criteria are adopted for the purpose of meeting certain objectives.

Project appraisal, including the assessment of nonfinancial aspects (such as the managerial role; strategic and synergistic issues; social, political, environmental, and technical links; and organizational factors) help to identify risk dimensions (Lopes & Flavell, 1998) and their relative importance for the success of a project. Remember that these are project specific. Strong emphasis on efficiency in the traditional project appraisal process can lead to outcomes that are unacceptable from the point of view of intergenerational equity. Intragenerational development and intergenerational equity together form the two core principles of sustainable development (Labuschagne & Brent, 2004). Project managers with determined sustainability criteria must review environmental and social impacts at the project decision gates (Labuschagne, Brent, & Claasen, 2005). They must ensure that any future environmental liabilities and costs, as well as social impacts resulting from project implementation, are taken into consideration.

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