Sustainability through project management and net impact


A new dream for America, perhaps for the world, and the urgency of action in order to realize that dream, must become our mandate. Project managers have unique power to accelerate sustainability worldwide—now. The key objective of this paper is to inspire and enable project managers to integrate sustainability into every project with every client, whether external or internal. An overview of the new era for the world, the age of constrained resources, and the business case for sustainability are presented, along with a discussion of the massive leverage that project managers have to accelerate our sustainability progress.

Because project managers need to have a basic sustainability framework as part of their knowledge base, a leading, intuitive, and science-based framework is outlined. Using A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fourth edition (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2008), Process Groups, key processes, and approaches are identified for integrating sustainability to give a high-level view of “Project Management Sustainability Integration” (PMSI). A strong international, national, and local resource for project managers is introduced: Net Impact. Net Impact is an organization whose professional chapters look to inspire and enable employees to take on sustainability in their jobs. The paper ends with asking you, the project manager, to commit to Project Management Sustainability Integration, applying sustainability principles through the Project Management Institute project management discipline, to all projects and with every client.


“America, do you still dream a great dream?” This Orlando Sentinel headline (Aldrin, 2009), spurred by the anniversary of the first manned moon landing, is unsettling. Our last great dreams were the aspirations for racial equality perhaps best expressed by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I Have a Dream” speech (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the dream of putting a “man on the moon in 10 years” (John F. Kennedy). Can you think of any other great dreams of the last 40 years? I can't.

I propose a new, great dream: “America will lead the world in sustainability progress, in the areas of business and living, in 10 years.” Emphasis on the word progress is important to making this goal realistic, owing to our level of consumption of resources and to the fact that many other countries are already leading in this area. Although we may not perhaps be capable of leading the world in sustainable living and business in 10 years, we can lead in dramatic, measurable progress. A recent positive indicator is that the United States just surpassed Germany in gross wind energy production, equivalent to powering 7 million homes, as reported by Ecofuss (Nick, 2009) and many sources. I cannot think of a better shared, great dream. Project managers have a major role in driving us to this dream through Project Management Sustainability Integration (PMSI).

What is Sustainability?

The most accepted definition of sustainability comes from The 1987 Brundtland Commission: “Meet[ing] present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” (UNECE, 2004, ¶2) For business, it is the integration of sustainability in their mission, long-term strategy, processes, and execution to include strong balance among social, ethical, environmental and economic ideals, goals, and results.

Sustainability related goals abound due to the learning and newness of sustainability. Culling from the large number of goals, the critical goals requiring significant, year after year, measurable progress are:

  • Zero waste
  • 100% renewable energy
  • Radical water conservation and reuse
  • Strong stewardship of all commons and ecosystem recovery, including reversing biodiversity decline
  • Broad use of renewable resources based on renewal cycles
  • Elimination and/or zero introduction of
    • Substances from the earth's crust; sequestering of existing toxins, especially emissions
    • The many man-made chemicals in our environment
  • Meeting human needs worldwide, for example:
    • Labor practices, equal opportunity, free job choice, fair working conditions, human and children's rights, etc.

It is important to take note of the requirement for significant, year-after-year measurable progress. We should cringe whenever we hear the Global 8, United Nations, and the U.S. government talk about 50-year environmental commitments, because the timeline is too long for any accountability resulting in not coming close to meeting those commitments. Not only do we need change much sooner, we need year-after-year commitments and near-term results to make adjustments and ensure near- and long-term success.

Why Must America Lead?

Beyond the most alarming issues to many of us, climate change and foreign oil dependence, we have entered a new era of resource limits colliding with ever-increasing human demand and population growth. China and India have seen 10% growth in their middle class. To put that into perspective, that is 200 million new consumers. A middle-class person anywhere in the world has a large environmental footprint, including being a major user of resources and a major generator of waste compared to the world average. As Thomas Friedman (2008) points out, the Earth can't support more “Americums” (100 million persons living an American lifestyle), the way we currently provide our quality of life or the way we operate our businesses. We have to reinvent ourselves.

Sustainability is also one key to our:

  • Economic recovery
  • Future economic success and ability to compete
  • Maintaining our future quality of life
  • Conserving our natural resources

For the world to take on dramatic change, the United States has to demonstrate radical change, real commitment, and progress to achieving sustainable living and business. There isn't much reason for the world to aggressively pursue sustainability, if the world's largest resource user is not changing its behavior, which becomes and is the systems trap called “Tragedy of the Commons,” according to Donella Meadows in Thinking in Systems: A Primer (2008).

Why is our American lifestyle and way of doing business unsustainable? America has 2% of the world's land mass, about 5% of the world's population, yet it:

  • Consumes 24% of world's energy
    • This is double the amount of energy per Japanese or European, according to (Meadows, Randers, & Meadows, n.d.)
  • Is the largest consumer of many resources (e.g., 11 of the top 20 traded commodities per American Association For The Advancement of Science (AAAS) (n.d.)
  • Consumes three times as much beef per capita as the world average, according to the AAAS (n.d.). (This practice is very water-, land-, and food stock resource–intensive.)
  • Produces 72% of the hazardous waste, according to (Nick, 2009)
  • Is ranked 14th in the world, the United States is responsible for 21% of greenhouse gas emission per captita at 24 tonnes of CO2e versus the world average of 7 tonnes, per Wikipedia, “Climate Change” Emissions Chart
  • Is the12th largest consumer of water per capita, 1,800 cubic meters per Pacific Institute

Americans have to be careful not to believe that technology is our silver bullet. It isn't. We have all the technology we need today to change. See Appendices for more on technology.

A Start of Action

Instead of getting mired in the apocalyptic, our response has to be action. Perhaps the economic collapse is the best thing that ever happened to us. Perhaps this is the wake-up call that we needed to change and to act. The economic collapse for now seems to be driving more sustainable behavior nationwide, including Americans buying and consuming less plus saving more.

Our current world reality must be updated to that of an Earth in severe environmental and social stress that continues to increase. The debate should be over for all of us based on the severe and continuing decline in our five major ecosystems and with limits of resources becoming visible, whether you agree that global warming is an issue or not.

The natural step funnel

Figure 1: The natural step funnel.

To depict this new era positively and proactively, The Natural Step (TNS), a leading sustainability framework, uses a funnel laid on its side to conceptualize the constraints we face: declining resources and ecosystem services combined with an increasing human demand for resources and ecosystem services (Figure 1). The test for any company's future is to stay off the declining resource side of the funnel. Darden Restaurants, for example, looked at their future and realized they faced a no-fish future. It is hard to conceive of most restaurants thriving with no fish. Darden geared up to provide leadership and support of sustainable fishery management to move back from the neck of the funnel. They don't buy fish from species whose populations are in decline. The simple funnel is a proactive way of looking at one of the goals for all projects—that is, how to eliminate or decrease the use of resources and ecosystem services.

The Sustainability Power of Project Managers

A hint of the power that project managers have to accelerate sustainability comes from another discipline: Designers. The most effective way to become sustainable is to design sustainability. “The Designers Accord” developed to obtain commitment from designers worldwide (product designers, architects) to five sustainability principles per their website—for example,

  • “Initiate a dialogue about environmental and social impact and sustainable alternatives with each and every client. Rework client contracts to favor environmentally and socially responsible design and work processes…”
  • “Undertake a program to educate your teams about sustainability and sustainable design.”

“The Designers Accord” is now over 100,000 commitments strong since inception in 2007. It also aims at leveling the playing field (reputable designers must commit to sustainability) and achieving widespread collaboration. Even with moderate success, their contribution to a sustainable world will be substantial.

However, project managers' leverage on accelerating sustainability is even larger:

  • The Project Management Institute alone has 500,000 members, including most top project managers in the world
  • Project managers can be found in many, many major and medium-sized businesses
  • Project managers are not only engaged in new building, process, and product developments, but also redesigns and many improvement initiatives
  • Project managers are predominantly leaders and professionals, and more readily see interrelationships and work cross-function—all key to sustainability success
  • Project managers can integrate sustainability into projects without waiting for upper management direction or initial support.
  • The project management discipline lends itself to sustainability integration

Companies change when you can reach the hearts of the value chain. Those leaders deliver lasting change, according to Peter Senge, Learning Organization expert, in a 2007 interview Webber, 2007). Project managers are among those at the heart of value creation and are capable leaders of change. A project manager can increase the sustainable results of any project by applying sustainability principles in many project management processes. Sustainability focus makes the overall project business case and/or the life cycle business case stronger, and in turn makes the project manager a role model for integrating sustainability. When a CEO or management says that more of that kind of project needs to be done, this breeds success.

Sustainability Business Case

While we are all tired of “bubbles” (, housing), it is important to note that the sustainability bubble will not burst, guaranteed. It is a macro-trend that will continue to build, rapidly fueled by:

  • Reaching more visible limits to growth seen in shortages
  • Seeing more signs of climate change and environmental damage
  • Demand and pressure supported by instant, worldwide television and the Internet:
    • – Customers
    • – Employees
    • – Governments
    • – Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
    • – Stockholders and owners

According to their websites, over 70% of Global Fortune 250 companies published CSR data, and more than 800 companies report under the Global Reporting Initiative, etc. Business results and substantiation of business success through sustainability integration can be seen in various ways—for example, top 20 companies on 2007 DJI Sustainability Index traded for 2 to 15 times their book value.

Businesses are the biggest consumers of resources and the biggest polluters. It is important to focus on business for that reason, but just as importantly, businesses and project managers demonstrate the capability to learn, innovate, and inspire its employees or teams. Unlike government, most businesses and project managers are able to change in much shorter timeframes. Businesses have the strategy development, structure, and implementation capabilities to drive us to more sustainable business operation and living.

The power of integrating sustainability is specific to every company. There are significant hard dollars gains for a company and significant “soft” benefits. Many actions are common to all businesses—for example, printing on both sides of paper, increasing recycling, installing energy-efficient bulbs, equipment, and appliances, etc. Companies need to integrate sustainability into everything they do for the business benefits they can achieve, but they must also understand their most significant social or environmental impacts to ensure addressing the priorities of their stakeholders. Based on Green to Gold (Esty & Winston, 2009), the possible generic business case benefits for business strategy and projects are:

Tangible benefits

  • Lower operational and project costs
  • Higher revenues
  • Lower lending rates, lower insurance rates
  • Lower financial and operational risk, reduced liability
  • Remain a supplier
  • Increased innovation: new products, processes, materials, etc.

“Intangible” benefits (sometimes more potent in enhancing the hard gains)

  • Higher employee productivity, dedication, trust, involvement
  • Easier to do business in communities of operation
  • Ensure sustainability of the business itself
  • Stay out of reactive mode to new laws and regulations
  • Avoid adversarial relationship with activist groups and government

Nike came under severe pressure for its support of could be argued was essentially “slave labor” (i.e., greatly underpaid and overworked factory workers) through its thousands of suppliers outside the United States. Their brand image was severely threatened. Addressing this problem is long and complex, but they are making a lot of progress, per the “Dancing with the Tiger” case study. Their genuine commitment to sustainability is now part of their corporate mission and understanding of itself. For impressive work, visit

According to “The Natural Step for Business” and many other sources, every company that has done any significant work to integrate sustainability says it is a journey—a commitment to learning at all levels of the organization—but that such efforts reap significant rewards. Many say that taking on sustainability has added no cost, but rather created savings and new revenues. Most of these leaders seem to come down to the same conclusion: that work sustainability “is the right thing to do.” However, those same leaders still require business case and return on investment (ROI)-based decision-making. Employees working for these firms are proud of their companies, and demonstrate this pride in increased loyalty and productivity.

A sustainability leader list is provided in the Appendices for project managers to use to seek out and learn from companies leading in sustainability in their business sector. Refer to the Appendices for brief summaries of sustainability action examples:

  • Neenah Paper—Large Company; Zero Waste and 100% Renewable Energy Now (History Channel, Modern Marvels Program, 2009)
  • Starbucks—Large Company; Significant Sustainability Progress; Common Action (Part of the Dancing with the Tiger case) (Nattrass & Altomare, 2002)
  • Ford—Large Company; Working Sustainability; Not Enough Focus on Stakeholder Priority
  • Xerox—Large Company Saved from Bankruptcy by Integrating Sustainability (Werbach, 2009)
  • Dell—Large Company, but One Person Impact
  • Aspen Ski Company—Medium Company, No Snow in 10 year Future Drives an Additional Focus for Company Sustainability Action (Schenbler, 2009)
  • Nike—Large Company; Severe Threat to Brand, NGO and Consumer Pressure Response (Nattrass & Altomare, 2002)

Taking the time to review case studies and the websites of leading companies in sustainability is very useful for project managers. You may refer to the Appendices, but the websites of any one the following companies are worth some of your time: Nike, Walmart, Interface, Starbucks, and Dell. No company is making fast and broad enough progress to match the scale of the social and environmental issues we face. Change is such a difficult thing to accomplish. Project managers can accelerate the changes required for sustainability with some basic sustainability tools and by applying sustainability in every project with every client.

So What is the Pay-off for Project Managers?

For project managers, the payoff of integrating sustainability into their projects is:

  • It adds value to your job and for your continued employment
  • It further develops leadership, analysis, negotiation skills
  • It increases your visibility
  • It increases ways of connecting with others
  • It helps one learn new ways of thinking (e.g., sustainability lens, systems thinking, lean practices):
    • Helps develop sustainability credentials
    • Helps add to your skills as a project manager
  • It improves your marketability
  • It helps you achieve added fulfillment from your job
  • It helps fulfill the need to contribute

Sustainability Tools

The Natural Step (

Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Swedish cancer researcher, in dreaming about a more sustainable world, created a top sustainability framework that many leading companies use, The Natural Step (TNS). We know that Earth is a closed system except for the energy that it obtains from the sun and the small amount of heat that escapes into space. The TNS Sustainability framework focuses on business and uses a systems thinking, consensus, and science-based approach. TNS defines four principles for a sustainable society and four system conditions as shown and briefly highlighted in the Appendices.

Use this shorthand for translating sustainability system conditions into actions and bases for decision making, as IKEA does (Nattrass & Altomare, 2001):

  • Eliminate use (reduce)
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Renewable
  • Degradable (many types)
  • Nontoxic (both man-made and from earth's crust)
  • Sortable
  • Nature and stewardship
  • Save
  • Quality, long-lasting
  • Resource efficiency, especially energy/water

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is still a core mantra of sustainability or “being green,” but it is applied much more broadly than was originally conceived.

Backcasting, a key TNS tool, is perfect for projects. Backcasting, unlike forecasting, requires you to define your desired future and then define the actions for getting there. TNS Backcasting: A, B, C, D Analysis is described in “The Natural Step: Seeding a Quiet Revolution” (Robèrt, 2002) and a backcasting project adaptation is also shown below:

A. Share, learn TNS Framework with the team

B. How does the project look today?

C. How does the project look in a sustainable society?

D. Solutions from the C-List are prioritized into design, project charter/scope, project planning, measurements, etc.

Although there are many good sustainability frameworks, this framework is intuitive and strongly connects with people and businesses.

Sustainability Integration with Project Management Process Groups

Focus on sustainability principles in the Initiating and Planning Process Groups results in a more sustainable end-product from your project. Designing and planning sustainability into the project from product/project description and the project charter will provide the level of PMSI required to deliver sustainability-differentiated projects and the ongoing sustainability results when projects are handed-off to operating environments. PMSI requires no changes to project management Process Groups or their individual processes. As PMSI develops additional inputs, tools and outputs are anticipated, and perhaps will even formally be incorporated in the project management discipline.


Sustainable Project Management (SPM)

Sustainable Project Management (SPM) is a core contribution for every project and underlies every process group. Even if you have difficulty getting support for integrating sustainability into a project or getting some sustainable actions implemented within your project, you control how sustainably your project is managed. What is SPM? It is minimizing the resources that you and your team use to work a project from project initiation through close. Running a project usually involves a great deal of paper, a range of travel, multiple meetings, use of test equipment or resources, and so on. You know to minimize team travel in support of your project, to provide access to tap water rather than bottled water, to send and present electronically rather than use paper, etc. Learn how to run “greener” meetings, go to and many other sites. There is much you can do and many new ideas for “greening” meetings. If working a large event or meeting, there are more and more green meeting and event planners. However, there is a good deal more that you can do to minimize the environmental impact of running your project by looking at minimizing resources for prototypes and tests, requiring prototypes and tests to save resources from mistakes on a bigger scale, applying lean practices, etc. Involve your team to make specific sustainability commitments related to how sustainably you manage and do the work of the project.

Initiating Process Group

PMSI application should be one of the underlying principles of the Develop Project Charter and Develop Preliminary Project Scope Statement:

  • Use backcasting to help define how a sustainable end to the project should look (e.g., zero waste)
  • Apply “cradle to cradle” thinking to use recycled or renewable resources to create the output of your project and at the end of life of your project's output ensure it can be recycled or biodegraded, etc. (per “Cradle to Cradle”)
  • Apply sustainability principles and conditions from TNS to the product and/or project description when reviewing and providing input on the project charter.
  • Step back to look at the whole of the project and the ongoing impacts after the project is complete as you develop the preliminary project scope.
  • Apply systems thinking to the project itself as well as the aims of the project.
  • Start upstream for the most sustainable results. Once a toxin is introduced into the product/service or the environment, it is more difficult or impossible to capture and/or remove than if it had never been used. Look for the potential in closed loop systems. Look for new ways to provide the product as a service; for example, Interface now offers carpet leasing with full recycling of the carpet it provides. Customers don't buy the carpet, but rather buy a service that provides floor covering in carpet squares with maintenance and support service and end of life carpet recycling as discussed in The Natural Step for Business (Natrass & Altomare, 2001)
  • Apply the translated system conditions for potential objectives, actions, decision-making for the overall project and individual elements:
    • Very little of the resources used to create a product or service are actually in the final product or service. How can your team eliminate or reduce some of the resources traditionally used to create the type of product or service?

Make improved sustainability a condition for the end-product of the project. Use the constraint to drive innovation and high team performance. Project managers and business people work to deliver with given constraints all the time. Take a page from the Apollo 13 book, “…this is our finest hour and failure is not an option…” (Gene Kranz, NASA). Asking the hard questions at this stage in a project is just what project managers are born to do. Is there an alternative to cadmium, couldn't we use bamboo, can we use a different chemical that is not toxic or is less toxic, does it have to have an “instant on” feature, do we need to ship by air, can we reduce the packaging, does it need an automatic shut-off when not in use, etc.? Sometimes you won't be involved in some of this design or development, but you can still ask the questions. You will also face barriers you can't overcome and will have to accept a nonsustainable aspect, but that is the exception if focused on demonstrating the tangible and intangible benefits of integrating sustainability into the business of that project.

It is important in both the Initiating and Planning Process Groups to drive for the right direction for sustainability, drive for a project foundation that supports a sustainable future (fight implementing something that doesn't enable future sustainability), and focus on low-hanging fruits per TNS. Depending on the size and complexity of the specific project, you and your team may not be able to address all of the aspects of sustainability that the project may involve. That's OK. Prioritize those things you can impact, and don't take on too much.

Integrating sustainability, PMSI, is not “gold plating.” Whether your customer asks for sustainability integration or not, we now all have the responsibility to recommend and urge sustainability action and sustainable decisions.

Planning Process Group

Sustainability integration should occur in almost every Planning Process Group process. For example, even though you might not think that sustainability considerations apply to Activity Resource Estimating, you need to account for the resource required to assess sustainable alternatives. Sustainable alternatives will impact Cost Estimating and Cost Budgeting with cost increases and savings. Sustainability issues become a very visible aspect for the Risk Processes. Sustainability baseline measurements, tracking, and reporting measures need to be integrated into the project. Developing sustainability measure baselines, tracking, and reporting are some of the most difficult and expensive aspects of sustainability. However, this difficulty is somewhat minimized if it is designed and planned into the project and your team gets creative.

In the Planning Process Group, you get more detailed in your backcasting and what is required to deliver the desired future of the project. There will be more detailed application of TNS principles and conditions. Very importantly, to integrate sustainability successfully on your project, you will need your initial project team on board, meaning you need to provide team training and learning on sustainability. This team learning is a fundamental requirement for successful integration of some level of sustainability in a project. From the many case studies available, the team leaders/project managers experience more commitment and engagement in their project and a higher performing team when sustainability is an underlying purpose for the team.

For sustainable resource alternatives, integrating sustainability into Plan Purchases and Acquisitions and Plan Contracting is essential. But it also means looking at your sellers' sustainability commitment and results for their own firms. Sustainability Committed Sellers (SCS)—or, suppliers, if you prefer—at a minimum have committed to operating their business based on a set of sustainability conditions or principles. In the Appendices are four levels to assessing a seller as an SCS that are first used in the Planning Group and then when selecting sellers in the Executing Process Group. Both Walmart and Nike are great examples of companies taking on the sustainability of their supply chains. One project may not be able to drive SCS requirements broadly for any or all suppliers, but can influence this direction.

The Planning Process Group includes sustainability-related research, analyses, assessments, and planning. Sustainability supporting baselines, measures, and support to collect those measures are all defined in the Planning Process Group processes.

Executing Process Group

Attention to sustainability is most critical in the Develop Project Team, Information Distribution and Select Sellers processes in this Process Group. As mentioned above, providing your team with basic learning in sustainability and even systems thinking must become a key element of your process to Develop the Project Team, so they can integrate sustainability into what they are doing on the project. To magnify your impact, your Information Distribution needs to include the aspects of sustainability that the project is addressing, including the excitement of a resource reduction or elimination, a resource alternative, water or energy efficiency, etc. In Selecting Sellers, SCS level will be part of the final selection of sellers. The integration of sustainability is a core underpinning for everything in Direct and Manage Project Execution.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

As with Execution, sustainability is a key underpinning of the Monitoring and Controlling processes. The team and project manager will be challenged with issues where the temptation may be to change, ignore, or “back-burner” a sustainability-related commitment, action, or choice for a variety of reasons, whether related to cost, time, or quality, and so on. As the project develops, trade-offs may have to be made, but since you have integrated sustainability into the project scope throughout project planning, your Integrated Change Control process provides the forum for you to encourage continued commitment to the sustainability-related elements of your project and to develop additional alternatives.

Closing Process Group

Both processes in the Closing Process Group are important, Close Project and Contract Closure, because this is where you make success breed more success. One of the contributions you make to organizational process assets is an assessment of the sustainable results you achieved and/or expect. It would be great if all projects could show a “before and after” of its sustainability results—for example, “we used to spend this much money and now we saved or will save this much money because we implemented a closed-loop process, built a LEED-certified building, used LED lighting, etc.” Many projects may not lend themselves to that kind of immediate reporting, but it is important to quantitatively and qualitatively communicate whatever sustainability benefit and progress resulted from the project and the learning associated with sustainability integration.

As importantly, for projects that move into normal operations, the hand-off must include the ongoing requirements to deliver the improved sustainability designed into the project by you and your team. Imagine if you built a LEED-certified building, but there was no facility or maintenance management people, plan, and/or practices. The building will not deliver the anticipated energy efficiency, water conservation, etc. expected. The hand-off to ongoing operation is critical to realizing the sustainability gains expected.

The project management discipline is a very strong tool for integrating sustainability on new or existing projects, or if you decide to initiate a “green project” in its own right.

Sustainability Resource for Project Managers

International, National, and Local

Net Impact

Net Impact, a global membership organization of students and professionals using business to improve the world, is a great resource for project managers. Some facts about Net Impact:

  • Over 200 student and professional chapters
  • Student chapters at 30 top MBA programs
  • 40+ cities with professional chapters
  • 40+ international chapters
  • Supported and engaged with major corporations, e.g., Dell, Starbucks, Aspen Institute, Dow Chemical
  • 37% of members are professional chapter members
  • Continuing rapid growth

Who are Net Impact members? You, me—business people interested in contributing to social and environmental change through business, as well as CSR leaders, systems thinking, renewable energy, environmental and sustainability experts, for-profit and nonprofit, government representatives and experts, social responsibility conscious investors, and more.

The project manager's key resources from Net Impact:

  • A project manager's local chapter, which primarily focuses on inspiring and enabling business people to integrate sustainability on their jobs, as well as on providing sustainability learning for members and the community.
  • Net Impact corporate gives a project manager access to sustainability resources, e.g., sustainability business cases, member project summaries, and regular access to world experts and fellow members who are working and learning through integrating sustainability in their jobs or in their companies.

A local professional Net Impact Chapter will help inspire and enable a project manager to integrate sustainability into their projects. This is called the “Impact at Work” program, encouraging people to see a way to magnify their impact by applying sustainability on their day jobs. These member initiatives on their jobs are supported with individual check-ins, expert counsel, potential tools, and best practices. As a professional chapter develops, it offers more and more networking with like-minded people, access to local experts, and learning opportunities and events for project managers to build their sustainability knowledge foundation and credibility. Successful “Impact at Work Program” projects have achieved the following:

  • Reduced company waste and increased recycling
  • Decreased company energy use and carbon footprint
  • Generated new products and processes that have reduced their environmental footprint
  • Driven LEED building standards for a new building
  • Engaged the company in visibly serving local communities
  • Increased environmental awareness and behavior at work
  • Resulted in companies establishing CSR or Sustainability departments and beginning the journey of integrating sustainability across the company.

The credibility, resources, and members of Net Impact will accelerate and enhance the project manager's sustainability contribution.

For project managers themselves, the benefits of engaging with Net Impact are:

  • Obtaining the support to make immediate sustainability action contributions through your company
  • Building your network of like-minded individuals
    • – Meeting and working with local professionals and experts
    • – Obtaining online connections to Net Impact's extensive member database
    • – Meeting members through an extensive global chapter network
    • – Enhancing your career prospects and development
  • Gaining leadership experience
  • Increasing your knowledge and education of topics such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental sustainability:
    • – By engaging with CSR experts through Net Impact's Issues in Depth Call Series
    • – Through research for learning workshops and events of your chapter
    • – By participating in interesting events and learning opportunities

Today, through the PMI Global Congress 2009—North America, we are launching a new Net Impact Chapter: Net Impact Orlando, a professional Net Impact Chapter for Greater Orlando ( It is also wonderful to note that the Net Impact Crummer School of Business Chapter also just launched at Rollins College in the Orlando area. It is exciting to be part of the Net Impact Orlando team. Project managers in Greater Orlando are encouraged to explore our chapter to assess its value for their own personal mission. According to Net Impact, “magnify your impact” by integrating sustainability in your job and company, your project management.


“America will lead the world in sustainable business and living progress in 10 years” must be our next, great dream, a mandate for the new of era of declining resources and ecosystem services faced with ever-increasing human population and demand. Significant measurable goals and progress year-after-year are required to move significantly toward zero waste, 100% renewable energy, and other clear sustainability goals. Project managers have unique leverage to take on Project Management Sustainability Integration (PMSI) due to their job role, their leadership and professional skills, and their involvement in so many projects worldwide starting at the concept stage through close. The project management discipline of PMI provides the flexibility for sustainability integration into project management processes.

As the biggest consumer of resources and energy and the biggest producer of waste, America must lead. With a lifestyle model that is unsustainable, but one that so many aspire to, America needs to redesign how to provide and support that lifestyle to be sustainable. Although specific to every company, the business case for sustainability is undeniable, whether at a corporate level or project level. The payoff to project managers for applying PMSI is huge in terms of continued employment, leadership and career development, improving marketability, and potentially providing the project manager with even more job fulfillment.

There are many tools readily available to assist project managers in PMSI. The first step is adopting a basic sustainability framework from which to view your projects. Include backcasting in both the Initiation and Planning Process Groups to define the future you desire. It is a key tool that needs to be added to the project management discipline. Use The Natural Step sustainability conditions and the translation provided as the basis for decision making, to ask the hard questions, to define the analysis and assessments required for your project, and to design your project for sustainability. Use the resources of Net Impact at the local, national, and international levels. Net Impact will speed up your learning curve and give you sustainability credibility within your company. Don't forget to make Sustainable Project Management (SPM) part of your project management discipline through “green meeting” best practices, etc.

Project Managers have the skills and talent to integrate sustainability into every project with every client, whether internal or external. You will be surprised at the impact you can have and what it can inspire in others. Contributing to our progress on sustainability and visible action are not only great motivators, but also provide a strong sense of fulfillment. We look forward to a launch of “The Project Managers Accord” based on a commitment to PMSI principles and are pleased with the launch of Net Impact Orlando today. Can you commit today to PMSI, integrating sustainability on every project with every client? If so, please e-mail your interest in making a commitment to PMSI and whether you want to be included in The Project Managers Accord, [email protected].


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For the Appendices referred to in this paper, please go to

©2009, Debbie Deland
Originally published as a part of 2009 PMI Global Congress Proceedings — Orlando, FL

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