Often, the overriding focus of the leaders within major programmes is to ensure the objectives of the programme are achieved to time and within the available budget. To achieve this significant time and resource is devoted to tracking and reporting on performance metrics. The more mature programmes will also establish active engagement with stakeholders, effective management of risk and perhaps even some formal processes to plan and measure benefits realisation.
Sustainability is an aspect that is only occasionally given the same level of effort or attention it deserves, particularly in commercially led programmes where the focus tends to be toward achieving a fixed return on investment or a defined payback period.
The APM Body of Knowledge defines sustainability as "an environmental, social and economically integrated approach to development that meets present needs without compromising the environment for future generations". This recognises that programme strategies need to consider the triple bottom line of planet, people and profit to create improvements in the short-term without creating a negative impact in the longer-term.
It is incumbent on programme leaders to work with their sponsors to ensure that all those involved in the programme; consultants; designers; contractors; and product suppliers to name a few, place sustainability at the heart of all decisions.
It would seem that major infrastructure programmes have been leading the way on the sustainability front with some great examples created from London 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and Thames Tideway amongst others, particularly through creating social, economic and learning legacies.
These major programmes have the advantage of scale and often a requirement to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability imposed on them through the consents and approvals processes. Programmes that operate on a smaller scale lack these drivers to fully consider the sustainability of their plans, however as programme management professionals we need to create the environment and the approaches that position sustainability on an equal footing to cost and time within all the programmes we deliver.