Six Ways to Build Sustainability into Projects

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Addressing climate change is everyone’s responsibility, from the lunchroom to the C-suite. However, making sustainability initiatives part of “business as usual” has proven to be challenging for many companies. PMI’s Global Megatrends 2022 report offers a detailed look at how the Climate Crisis is making organizations rethink and retool their business models to adopt sustainable practices.

According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession®: Why Social Impact Matters, in order to make sustainability a strategic priority, teams need to have an action plan and measure their efforts with hard data.

Six success factors emerged from this research as critical for sustainability projects:

  1. Engage local stakeholders. This often requires a cultural shift and skill at facilitating change and creating economic incentives and value for the community or region a project will impact.
  2. Take a zero-waste approach. “If you look at natural processes, you do not have anything that goes to waste,” says Nishita Baliarsingh, co-founder and CEO of Nexus Power in India. “It comes from the soil, goes back to the soil—everything is circular. It's completely closed.”
  3. Look at every component of the value chain. Baliarsingh observes that looking at the full life cycle of a sustainable product—from sourcing to production to distribution to disposal—is likely to reveal that it isn't as sustainable as expected or creating much impact.
  4. Understand that trade-offs among people, planet and profit are not necessary. “Sustainability is typically the optimum utilization of resources, and it’s not like you do this for the planet and forget everything else,” Baliarsingh notes. “In terms of sustainable business, you go from the raw material to the consumer and even disposal. Once you’ve laid out a full channel, economics will improve.”
  5. Do a full risk assessment to ensure you achieve the desired outcomes. Even a project that might seem straightforward, such as planting trees, has many facets that should be considered, including security, government regulations, stakeholder and community management, water supplies and the impact on biodiversity.
  6. Invest in technology. This may be the only way to turn the tide on climate change. New technologies like direct air capture and carbon mineralization could one day remove carbon at the scale required.

By incorporating these practices, project professionals and teams have the ability to make a more sustainable, greener world a reality. 

Explore Climate Crisis in more detail, along with five other trends, in the Global Megatrends 2022 report.

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