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APM’s sustainability conference round up: you can make it happen!

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Think about what you love; hedgehogs, standing next to a clean stream, your family and community, the security of having a job – how much do you love it? How would you describe that love, that desire, to someone or to an alien visiting? 

Sadly, these ideas aren’t guaranteed anymore. If you could ensure their security, what are you willing to do and how much are you willing to pay to make them happen? It isn’t just about solving the current issues and leaving a better world for our children – we can see the effects of climate change already, and it’s only going to get worse in the next 3 years, 5 years; change is needed now. 

To try and come up with some solutions to this very urgent issue, APM’s Benefits & Value SIG, Governance SIG and People SIG came together to make this conference happen while working with PMI UK’s Sustainability Community of Action. Speakers at the conference highlighted that benefits management brings advantages and disadvantages (the language of desire and motivation, but also inconsistency of measurement and reporting); governance has its positives and negatives (we’d like frameworks and directions to come from the top but we can’t afford to wait for it, and we need to be careful that governance doesn’t restrict innovation from the project leadership team); and it’s all about people and getting us motivated, listening to us and understanding what’s important. 

Thorny questions: now we know how thorny 

We opened up conversations on some of the thorny questions and while we don’t have answers, between speakers and audience, we now understand a bit more about how thorny they are. We now understand how to design suitable metrics and use them to measure and report the impact that the changes are delivering, and to use this to design the right actions and also how to apply the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which are designed for global reporting. The UK sits in a narrow band on the global scale, so sometimes we need UK-specific metrics and sometimes we can use UN metrics.  

Bureaucracy and planning: are they the barriers we think they are? 

We considered the perceived challenges of the country-wide approach. Putting project planning, gateways and decisions through a whole system approach slows things down and appears to be unnecessarily bureaucratic. But what if the rail network had planned Crossrail and the road network had planned a 6 lane East-West motorway in London, serving the same business zones from the same residential zones with the same business case, unaware of the other? Would that have been sustainable? Would it make any sense? On a smaller scale, is this duplication of effort and double counting benefits happening all the time? Benefits need to be planned and considered right across the portfolio, right across the system, but at the same time we need to be flexible enough to respond to innovation that might only come to our attention through the supply chain, that could change our benefits (who gets them, how much) completely. 

Making sustainability happen through projects 

We then looked at how to make it happen. Rather than invent your own approach to sustainability, your own approach to benefits and value or governance, we might find it easier to make the case for introducing sustainability measures, and even for introducing benefits management, use standard approaches that others already use and have proven themselves. And you can make it happen — you can be the leader regardless of your official position in the team. You can help with the communication, engaging with your stakeholders, your funders, regulators, customers and others who will benefit. There’s a big return on this engagement and there’s a big return on the work that goes into sustainability, whether it’s improved recruitment and retention, or better brand awareness, or future viability of the organisation and guarantee that your own future, your children and grandchildren, might still be able to live with joy. 

Here's some resources you can use to help make this happen: 

Talk to people about sustainability: this is what will make it happen 

We’re the project teams, the people who make change, we’re the people who can ensure that projects deliver sustainability — both that projects are run in a sustainable manner, and that the outcomes leave the world a better place. But we do it better when more people are doing it together. Join in sustainability events around you and talk to co-workers to get their ideas and input and their commitment. Let’s make it happen. 


You can see the agenda and speakers in the link to the conference, and the slide decks for each speaker. We will be publishing a series of blogs on key themes leading up to the full publication of the outputs from the conference. If you would like to be involved in the conference next year, get in touch through the “contact me” link on any of the above SIGs. 


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