Sustainability on Project Management: An Analysis of the Construction Industry in Colombia

Sustainability on Project Management: An Analysis of the Construction Industry in Colombia

Hugo Fernando Castro Silva, César Hernando Rincón-González, H. Mauricio Diez-Silva
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1934-9.ch012
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Ensuring the conservation of current resources for future generations has become a challenge that from day to day turns to be more important and urgent for society. Despite the fact that sustainability and project management have been subjects of interest in the academic community, few investigations are related to the integration of sustainability within project management, even fewer in the Colombian context. This empirical research work presents results about the perception from a representative sample of project managers from the construction industry in Colombia related to the implementation of elements of sustainability when managing projects established in the maturity model of Salem Azahrani. The results indicate, on one hand, a low average level of maturity and on the other, a higher orientation toward aspects of the economical dimension of the projects in comparison with the social and environmental dimensions.
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The modern times, characterized by the demographic, industrial, and technological increase in a consuming society, have faced humanity with big problems related to the sustainability of the planet. Issues related to climate change, contamination from human, industrial, and transportation activities, low incomes for a greater number of inhabitants of the planet, and the constant and overwhelming increase of the population have generated an urgent need to implement global strategies focused on satisfying current needs without compromising the resources needed for future generations. This reality has been placing a growing interest on the sustainable development on top of mind of the world (Silvius et al, 2012). On the field of sustainable development, great and important challenges for countries had been placed, on the economic, social, and environmental dimensions seeking to inherit a better world for the generations to come (Pope, Annandale, & Morrison-Saunders, 2004).

Like in many other disciplines of knowledge, different theories and approaches have emerged in matters of sustainable development, nevertheless, one of the terms that is widely accepted by the academic community is the one that integrates the economic, environmental, and social dimensions known as the Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL) by John Elkington (Gimenez, Sierra, & Rodon, 2012). When studying concepts about sustainable development, there is also an approach that involves four perspectives: environmental, economic, ethic, and sustainable governance (Viso, 2005). Nonetheless, this last approach like others that have emerged in the study of sustainable development involved the model proposed by John Elkington in 1994 (Elkington, 2004; Martins, Mata, & Costa, 2006), Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL), which as shown in this chapter is also the foundation of the maturity models for sustainable project management.

Sustainable development has moved to all the aspects of public and organizations management, of course, project management is not the exception. Projects have traditionally been thought of as a unit of development, reason why it has been a growing matter of study focused on proposing and implementing bodies of knowledge and singular methodologies for project management. Currently, the study of projects has strengthened the approach that the standards and methodologies of project management are fundamental for the fulfillment of the global objectives of sustainable development (Aarseth et al., 2017).

As a discipline, project management has gained spaces on the academic and organizational contexts due to the generalized acceptance of the benefits in the achievement of the objectives of the organization in the private and public sectors (Pinto, 2015). Important professional associations in this discipline have issued project management methodologies that are generally accepted (Errihani, Elfezazi, & Benhida, 2015). At the global level, projects participate widely on the distribution of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of nations and on scope; projects are present on the totality of human activities, reason why they are considered crucial in order to reach purposes of sustainable development (Schipper & Silvius, 2017).

Nowadays, sustainable project management has come to play a fundamental role both on the academic and the practical fields, it is so that besides the objectives of fulfilling projects in terms of scope, budget, and time, it is necessary to add sustainability as a project objective and as an additional element within the processes of project management (Gareis, Huemann, & Martinuzzi, 2013). However, it has been verified that the bodies of knowledge of project management, generally accepted, hardly consider in an explicit manner the techniques and tools to manage the life cycle of a project from the perspective of sustainability (Schipper & Silvius, 2014). Therefore, the integration of sustainability in the field of project management and the design of strategies, techniques, and associated tools to be implemented in the Project Management (PM), poses an important and current challenge for the discipline.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Dimension: It consists of the capacity of the society to implement practices to ensure the respect to human rights, diversity, cultural traditions, and the rights of communities in order to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor and social justice.

Sustainability: It refers to the capacity of a society and of nations to implement strategies that allow satisfying the necessities of humanity today, compromising neither resources nor the development of future generations.

Project Management: It corresponds to the application of hard and soft skills during the life cycle of a project in order to meet the objectives of the project.

Economic Dimension: It refers to the capacity of public and private sectors to implement profitable practices from the economic point of view, without compromising the equilibrium with the social and environmental practices.

Environmental Dimension: It refers to the capacity of the current society to use natural resources in a rational and efficient way in order to ensure its conservation for the use of future generations.

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