What is sustainability in project management?


Sustainability in the project profession is an approach to business that balances the environmental, social, economic aspects of project-based working to meet the current needs of stakeholders without compromising or overburdening future generations.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition  📖

In our changing world, sustainability in projects is more important than ever. Project sustainability involves both individual and organisational responsibility to ensure that outputs, outcomes and benefits are sustainable over life cycles and during their creation, disposal and decommissioning. Building sustainability into the vision at the very start of the project – if sustainability is planned in as a key requirement from the outset, it can’t be traded or forgotten.

Sustainability is relevant across all areas of project-based working. For example, the procurement team seeking opportunities to buy from sustainable sources and to make the supply chain more efficient. Project professionals have a responsibility to ensure that their work minimises, or ideally positively affects, ongoing sustainability.

[Diagram source] Body of Knowledge, 7th edition, 2019

Sustainability involves balancing different concerns: environment, such as climate change; society, such as community; economy, such as affordability; and administration, such as health and safety. When these four elements are considered, we can build sustainability into projects.

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Watch: Delivering Sustainability in projects from APM Learning

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios.

APM Body of Knowledge  Download free for members

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Watch: The future of sustainability

Watch: Responsible project management

Projecting the Future, climate change, clean growth and sustainability:

Climate change, clean growth and sustainability have been thrust into the limelight. Amid rising public concern, the government has set in law a target for the UK to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Achieving that will require big changes across the economy, in every major sector. It will be a significant factor in every project professionals’ work in the years ahead.

The effects of climate change are both global in reach, and local in impact. They could spell disaster for millions of people in the decades ahead. Building a ‘clean’ and sustainable carbon-free economy will be far from simple. 

Download the challenge paper now

Paper/Long read Climate Change and what the project profession should be doing about it: a UK perspective

You can find more information about projecting the future, climate change, clean growth and sustainability here.

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