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How green is your project? Social and environmental responsibility

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The SWWE Branch was very pleased to welcome APM President, Tom Taylor, to speak about a subject close to his heart, sustainability and environmental responsibility.  Project and Programme managers need to be aware of the increasing  media and public interest in the environmental impact of their projects and how they are being increasingly held to account.

Tom explained that his interest in sustainability and the environment started with his work on sustainable building projects.  This sparked his imagination and following much research he wrote a book called Sustainability Interventions for Managers of Projects and Programmes, which is available to down load free.

Tom took the audience on a journey, with several challenges to get them to think about issues differently.  The first of which was a picture of a banana: what is it?, where did it come from?, how was is grown?, who grew it?, how were they paid?  Tom’s message is that we all need to be more aware of the environment and to think differently about things, to have a different attitude.

The next challenge was a caption competition about a polar bear on an ice flow.  After a bit of fun, Tom’s serious point was to be aware of misinformation and to be critical and question assertions, don’t just accept things on face value.

Tom highlighted that in UK and also much of Europe we have high environmental awareness and many of us recycle at home, use low energy lights, have good insulation, buy economical cars, think about transport costs.  We have the language to be able to discuss the issues.
The next challenge is to apply that personal awareness and thinking to the work place and the projects we are professionally responsible for.  Examples could include the number of meetings;  should they be virtual, how many people need to attend, materials; sourcing, storage, waste, avoiding child labour,  transport plans; car, train or cycle, buildings: energy efficiency, use of space.   Thinking needs to be about how you manage a project as well as the project itself.

Options can include mitigation; reducing the impact of human activities, the use of renewable energy, reducing waste, all of which considers the global impact. Adaption can be used nationally when mitigation is not enough; adapt lifestyles and buildings to cope with bad weather, source alternative energy supplies. Crisis planning; dual purpose buildings, drug stocks for pandemics.

To use a clich, programme management is about doing the right projects and project management about doing the projects right.  Sustainability is about delivering the sustainability goods in a sustainable way.

So how can we start with managing a project in a more sustainable way? Think about the number of tenderers asked to bid; too many is wasteful.  Stop projects as soon as possible if they are failing. Don’t duplicate effort with man-marking, don’t disband successful teams and lose their expertise.  Use whole life costing, don’t focus on the cheapest upfront cost, think about the costs and environmental impact long term.

Environmental project steering groups can be helpful to provide the leadership and direction needed to focus on the wider environmental issues.

Tom explained how sustainability interventions need to be planned into each stage of the project life cycle.  For example decommissioning needs to be thought about early, to plan and allocate the necessary resources. Another important point is to recruit the right people for the project team; they need to right mind set.  Sustainability is not an add on, it is integral to how projects should be managed.

Tom’s conclusions were that there are many opportunities and challenges the project and programme managers need to be aware of.  Much of the ‘green’ agenda will be driven at the macro level by politicians, regulations, corporate interest and public influence. This will require project managers to interpret and pragmatically incorporate these concerns into their projects and how they manage their projects.
Tom’s final challenge was for the audience to think differently about their own projects, what can you do differently about greening the supply chain, managing decommissioning, reducing whole life costs?  Take a different view – remember the banana challenge!

Tom’s presentation and contact details can be viewed below, which includes details of how to download his book.


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