Understanding Project Sustainability

Understanding Project Sustainability

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2371-0.ch005
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Having discussed different perspectives on sustainability and the three-pillars approach, the reader may have already grasped some ideas about project sustainability. Each organization and, to a greater extent, its project teams should develop a sustainability strategy and framework to guide their actions. As an example, the World Bank promotes a sustainability philosophy and the vision of a “Green, Clean, and Resilient World” a strategy that recognizes the importance of economic growth with sustainability considerations. Income-producing opportunities should not be pursued in a way that limits or closes off opportunities for future generations. In the World Bank strategy:

  • Green refers to “a world in which natural resources are conserved and sustainably managed to improve livelihoods over time and in which ecosystems are healthy and increase the economic returns from the activities they support.”

  • Clean refers to “a low-pollution, low-carbon world in which cleaner air, land, water, and oceans enable people to lead healthy, productive lives. It is also a world in which cleaner production standards spur innovation, whether through reducing air pollution, addressing legacy pollution, or recycling.”

  • Resilient refers to “effective management of disaster risks, especially for the more frequent natural disasters and more volatile weather patterns. Resilience lessens exposure to natural disasters by anticipating shocks and adapting to climate change and climate variability” (World Bank, 2015, p.3).

Monitoring and evaluation of project sustainability as a system should include identifying and tracking factors that support sustainability. Lessons learned from previous projects are definitely helping in the formation of programs and plans for projects in the future. They also help to ensure that planning will be done rationally, and scarce resources will be managed effectively. To this end, performance indicators are essential for evaluating any project. Some monitoring indicators suggested by Nepal (1994) for such measurement include:

  • Generation and distribution of project sustainability benefits;

  • Ability to maintain the flow of project sustainability benefits, including competence of local or project beneficiary organizations;

  • An accountability or management relationship system to support mutually reinforcing project activities;

  • Changes in quality of life of project beneficiaries;

  • Continuity in the socioeconomic well-being of target population and ability to change;

  • Capacity to ensure enhanced productivity by adopting changes in technology and management systems; and

  • A system to ensure equitable distribution of incremental project sustainability benefits.

Although Nepal refers more to government initiatives than to commercial projects, these suggestions are worth considering. More in-depth exploration of project sustainability is required. To help project managers carry out sustainability-related activities, the following sections further illustrate the focus of sustainability, the concept of projects and operations in sustainability, its impacts, and the definitions of sustainability in project and program management. The linkage between corporate and project management in a sustainability environment, as well as the project sustainability balanced scorecard, are discussed. A demonstration section shows how the project manager can utilize a three-pillars approach in setting target achievement and measurement parameters for project sustainability success criteria.


Project Sustainability Focus

The relationships among the three dimensions of sustainability are generally assumed to be compatible and mutually supportive. The following subsections outline the focus of the respective dimensions within the scope of sustainability.

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