Skip to content
Added to your CPD log

View or edit this activity in your CPD log.

Go to My CPD
Only APM members have access to CPD features Become a member Already added to CPD log

View or edit this activity in your CPD log.

Go to My CPD
Added to your Saved Content Go to my Saved Content

What is sustainability in project management?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

Project sustainability

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.

Sustainability is a challenging concept for many project based organisations but it is something project professionals are thinking about more than before. In projects, programmes and portfolios, sustainability remains significant and important; in fact it is a fundamental competence vital for improving and facilitating effective project, programme and portfolio management. As we know sustainability involves taking individual as well as organisational responsibility so it’s something all project professionals need to understand. Change initiatives must proactively alter behaviours so they can be delivered through sustainable working practices and methods. To learn about what you need to know and deliver for a project to meet sustainability standards, visit the APM Competence Framework, 3rd edition.

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.

Sustainability as balancing different concerns

Sustainability as balancing different concerns

Source: APM Body of Knowledge, 7th edition

Featured resources

Wind Farm 620 X 620[1]
Thinking beyond a project to bring sustainable value to society
When delivering large scale infrastructure projects, we need to consider how to deliver a legacy to help the government’s levelling up agenda which may not be realised until long after the project is finished.
Shutterstock 117225181
Make climate action part of your project
Look across the profession and you’ll find project managers and leaders involved in making some of the most innovative contributions to the UK’s race to net zero... read more.

Watch: Delivering sustainability in projects

This video is hosted by a third party (, you cannot view this video content unless you accept marketing cookies to be able to view this content. If the popup doesn't appear, please clear your browser cache and refresh the page.

Sustainability projects that make a difference

Sunset Digger 620 X 620
How to make reforestation projects pay
ClimateCare is focusing on reforestation projects in the UK. Here’s how such projects realise financial benefits... read more.
Shutterstock 682370575
Business as usual is not an option for a sustainable future
With rapid urbanisation, climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the world is changing rapidly... read more.
Transport 620 X 620[1]
How Network Rail used recycled plastic for railway sleepers
Every project manager will know that it doesn’t take much to potentially knock an otherwise straightforward project off the tracks... read more.

Practical advice for project managers and teams

Roads 620 X 620[1]
For the good of all mankind
The world faces unprecedented challenges – climate change, rapid urbanisation and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic – that will have long-lasting socioeconomic ramifications on society... read more.
Solar Panels 620 X 620[1]
Five strategies for projects to become more sustainable
Project managers are increasingly expected to take environmental factors into account when it comes to sustainability, but it’s easier said than done... read more.
Shutterstock 158023340
What can project managers do as the climate emergency intensifies?
The climate emergency is on everyone’s radar, with mass protests, the emergence of Extinction Rebellion, school strikes, and warnings from the Bank of England - all demanding that we ‘act now’... read more.

Recognising the importance of sustainability

Shutterstock 686546827
The Environment Takes Centre Stage
In a recent APM report, Peter Morris, emeritus professor of construction and project management at University College London, highlighted ways in which project managers are working to reduce the causes and consequences of climate change... read more.
Shutterstock 197191664
A model for applying responsible project management: the doughnut
2021 has been dubbed the ‘year of responsible project management’, but how can project management professionals actively influence project sustainability?... read more.
Shutterstock 609628034
Climate change and the project profession: can we help deliver the 2050 net zero target?
The concept of net zero has become familiar in discussions about the climate change crisis. Our total emissions of greenhouse gases must be, net, at zero... read more.

- Webinar -
The future of sustainability in project management

This video is hosted by a third party (, you cannot view this video content unless you accept marketing cookies to be able to view this content. If the popup doesn't appear, please clear your browser cache and refresh the page.

- Webinar -
Responsible project management

This video is hosted by a third party (, you cannot view this video content unless you accept marketing cookies to be able to view this content. If the popup doesn't appear, please clear your browser cache and refresh the page.

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. 

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

View research

Sources of UK carbon emissions

Sources of UK Carbon Emissions
Source: Projecting the future (challenge paper 2)

New research: Storytelling for sustainable development

The Sustainable Development Goals were established for individuals, teams, projects, organisations, and industries. There remains little empirical research exploring the ways in which sustainability is interpreted and practiced by sustainability practitioners, including those whose job title infers direct responsibility. This research explores that understanding sustainability as a form of inclusive storytelling to which individuals and firms respond through their work-related identities, practices and actions opens up an opportunity for a better understanding of the meaning of sustainability for practitioners. It also has important implications for constructing individual and collective identities.

View research

Sustainability: inclusive storytelling to aid sustainable development goals


Our statement on sustainability

We understand the importance and urgency of addressing the impacts of both the climate change and biodiversity emergencies.

In 2019, the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate change emergency. Realising that there is an urgent need for coordinated action by project professionals across all sectors, we published a statement of intent to develop an action plan to support the project profession’s efforts to reduce environmental impacts of projects.

In this statement, we pledge to lead by example as an organisation and become carbon-neutral by 2050, if not sooner. We have also made a commitment to develop an action plan to support the profession’s efforts to reduce environmental impacts of projects.

Climate change statement

Featured podcasts

From the Frontline: Fast and furious at net-zero Formula E

Meet Gemma Roura Serra, strategic planning director at ABB Formula E, the world’s first all-electric single-seater car racing series, conceived to accelerate electric vehicle adoption and demonstrate leadership in the sports world by becoming the only sport to be net-zero carbon since inception.

Why sustainability should be on every project professional's agenda

Sustainability presents an opportunity for them to demonstrate their value in aligning with corporate strategic objectives around net zero. Hear from experts in sustainability to find out more about embedding sustainability within every aspect of project and how this can make a huge difference.

Dynamic conditions for project success

Dynamic conditions for project success

Did you know that 69 per cent of project professionals consider sustainability an important factor in project success in the Dynamic Conditions for Project Success?

This research highlights opportunities for project management organisations and professionals to improve project success and project outcomes.

Learn more about the conditions that enable better project outcomes here.

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. 

Buy from the bookshop
Bok7 tableimage 1920X1080

You may also be interested in

Laptop screen showing the APM Learning dashboard
APM Learning

The APM Learning portal is an online resource which provides members with access to digital guides, modules and other digital learning resources as part of the membership benefit.

Productcardwhatis 1920X1080
What is ...?
Browse our popular project management 'What is ...?' topics for definitions, quick insights, view related case studies, research, blogs and glossary.
Productcardprojectjournal 600X400
Project Journal

Project – APM's official journal – is circulated quarterly for members only, and online for regularly updated news, blogs, opinions and insights for those in the project community.

Member Benefits APM Community 2 600X400
APM Community
The APM Community is our online community platform that connects our members faster and easier than ever before.