12 Tips To Make Your Project Environmentally Friendly

Hannds holding soil and plant
1 Apr 2016

12 Tips To Make Your Project Environmentally Friendly

Think forward and go green.

We all live in the same fast-paced capitalist consumer society and find ourselves subject to its relentless pursuit of growth. Indeed as Project Managers, we are often tasked with the delivery of new developments, change and business value and are evaluated by our ability to do so effectively and efficiently. To be fair, it’s part of the buzz and satisfaction of the job.

On the back of the Paris Climate Talks, it’s apparent that global powers, government and business alike are taking climate change seriously like never before. Even Arnie got jiggy with it. It is recognised as a society that we simply cannot continue as we are. Change is needed, and fast.

So what can we do as Project Managers to help the environment? Not all of us specialise in sustainability or renewable energy, though certainly we continue to see a rise in these types of projects, along with Disaster Prevention and Recovery projects as we encounter more climate change and its devastating effects.

It is easy to feel powerless in the corporate structure and indeed when faced with such grim environmental facts. Many Project Managers work as contractors and may feel this structure limits their ability to affect any real change to the corporate strategy, culture and market realities that drive the project. This framework is aptly illustrated by the expression, “all responsibility, but no power”.

However, as seasoned Project Managers we know that risk is a two-sided coin balancing threat with opportunity. So rather than feeling limited by a project’s objectives and framework, honour these, whilst recognising your unique position to lead and influence the business and its staff, and the possibility to identify and deliver discrete environmental benefits within the scope of your existing project.

Strive to deliver a ‘green’ value-add in a space and time where there is appetite and need. Adopting this ethos may even drive your employability in this day and age of reborn corporate social responsibility. After all, a Project Managers favourite colour is always green!

Here are 12 practical ways that Project Managers can embed green practices into their projects:

1. When creating project documentation such as Business Cases, Project Charters, Project Plans, Project Status Reports, and Post Implementation Reviews, incorporate environmental criteria within the templates to drive the analysis and documentation accordingly

2. If the Project is already underway when you commence your role, review the Project Plan and Objectives to identify any green opportunities and revise or enhance where appropriate and agreed. These can be small or large changes, as long as they are suitable given the business, company and project context. For example you may be able to incorporate environmental considerations into the Project Objectives and Success Criteria; Benefits; deliverables; quality standards; etc.

3. Add an environmental Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to your project to give it visibility on the status report and to drive environmental practices (defined in a way that aligns with the broader project goals and corporate culture)

4. Incorporate environmental factors into your procurement supplier evaluation criteria when selecting products and providers (noting this won’t necessarily lead to the greenest supplier being selected, but it will put green considerations on the table and inadvertently motivate third-parties to drive their environmental practices too, especially when the evaluation criteria is transparent in procurement tenders)

5. Consider environmental risks to your project as these may be greater than ever before. The very act of logging these means that further business risk analysis is required including the identification of potential mitigants. This could in turn present an opportunity to embed greener practices on your project. Bear in mind that, under the POEO Act, you (the Project Manager) and your employer/client are liable for any negative environmental impact resulting from your project. Documenting, analysing and treating environmental risks is all part of due diligence, which will help to protect you from fines and criminal prosecution if things go wrong.

6. Build green standards into the Project Quality Plan for relevant products and processes

7. When developing Communication Plans, map which stakeholders have or potentially have an environmental interest in the project for ongoing reference

8. Add and define environmental responsibilities for all resources as part of their project roles and reflect this in project documentation

9. Put your soft skills to good use and use your influence both up and down the corporate ladder to gain stakeholder buy-in and action for adopting environmentally aware project and business practices

10. Talk to your Sponsor, the company Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager, Human Resources and perhaps the Project Management Office (PMO) to seek their buy-in, benefit from their guidance and hopefully produce advocates that support and further the environmental cause (warning: always proceed cautiously and diplomatically when unfamiliar with individuals and the broader business)

11. Emphasise ‘green’ wins at project status and team meetings as a standard agenda item to embed these values and stimulate dialogue and provide this content to senior stakeholders and project champions so that it becomes part of their promotion rhetoric and shows senior management’s support for environmental values

12. Identify and map any environmental and social project benefits so these can be monitored and evaluated as part of the Benefits Realisation process.

Not all of the above ideas may be appropriate for your role, project or industry. These are not intended to be prescriptive or to add administrative or bureaucratic burden. I hope instead this will stimulate ideas and provide some practical examples of how minor tweaks to project management methodology and practice can make a small difference that matters a whole lot. It is imperative that we find a way to balance development with sustainability so that current practice reflects known future (and current) needs.

The global trend towards more sustainable methodologies and practices includes Green Project Management (GPM – http://www.greenprojectmanagement.org/ ), Cradle to Cradle (CTC) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Whether you use the aforementioned tips, established methodology, common sense or innovation – project, portfolio and program managers are well positioned to introduce sustainability measures and practices on projects, in companies and across industry.

Remember, a good project manager delivers on business targets, but a great project manager leads, inspires and delivers. So seize the opportunity to use your project management super-power for environmental good and enhance your job and life satisfaction at the same time.

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