Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Sustainability in Project Management

Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Sustainability in Project Management

Ramanda Achman (TU Delft, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4177-8.ch020
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More projects today are driven by sustainability goals than ever before. The need for sustainability as a critical factor for project success is clear. However, it is interesting to investigate the link between project management and sustainability more comprehensively. Especially by taking into account the importance of stakeholders’ involvement in project management activities. Thus, this chapter examines whether stakeholders’ perspectives on sustainability can provide a positive contribution to project management practices. Four different projects with goals related to sustainability in the Netherlands are studied and used as case studies to know the differences between the perspectives of stakeholders involved in the projects. One of the findings that was discovered is that the inclusion of “People” and “Planet” performance indicators in the management and delivery of projects is still rarely implemented, although the stakeholders categorize their projects as sustainable projects.
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The research used the definition of Sustainable Development (SD) from Brundtland’s report, which leads to the formulation of three fundamental aspects of SD, known as the 3 Ps: People, Planet, and Profit. Sustainable solution can be achieved by balancing the 3P’s. It means choices need to be made and priorities need to be set without any possibilities that one P will have more profit at the expense of another. Each P related to actors and interdependency among them is crucial. It shows that SD has multi-actor characteristics in nature. Therefore, sustainable solution is not a top down solution to balance among the Ps, but it is a consensus solution where stakeholders are involved in the decision making process (Bergmans, 2006). The involvement of different stakeholders needs to be taken into account more seriously, since they play a crucial role in the successful planning and implementation of project management activities. Stakeholders in this respect may consist of national or local government institutions, academia, Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs), business companies, locally affected residents or individuals.

Furthermore, the characteristics of SD projects or sustainable projects can be regarded as complex problems, in both technical and non-technical aspects, where various stakeholders with different interests, value structures, and expertise are affected by the problem. It is important to consider their interests and demands, especially in the decision making process, to ensure the success of a project (Cleland, 1986; Olander & Landin, 2005; Aaltonen, 2011). Because stakeholders can be considered as all parties or actors who either affect or who are affected by a corporation’s actions, behavior, and policies (Mitroff, 1983). Different stakeholders do not share the same organization’s definition of “problems” and thus they do not in general share the same solutions. Therefore their perspectives play an important role in this stage.

Understanding stakeholders’ perspectives means understanding the whole of beliefs, values and presumptions that stakeholders use to cope with a particular problem (Cuppen, Breukers, Hisschemoller, & Bergsma, 2010). A perspective shapes a stakeholder’s perceptions on a particular problem and its solution (Cuppen, Breukers, Hisschemoller, & Bergsma, 2010). The perceptions of the stakeholders are therefore particular to the individuals involved and are subjective (Bots, Twist, & Duin, 2000). Hence it implies that by understanding perspectives, stakeholders can have a better insight on what they should do to arrive at the same agreement.

Other than that, it is important to investigate stakeholders’ perspectives on sustainability since these perspectives can be used as a supporting tool to stimulate the implementation of more sustainable projects. One such example is the formulation of new regulations by the government or the improvement of corporate strategic plan.

Therefore the main objective of this research is to investigate the perspectives of stakeholders on sustainability in projects and project management.

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