How You Can Go Green In Project Management
The focus of many businesses today is doing more with less. Project managers are encouraged to save time and money on projects. Business leaders are set tough targets for improvements to the bottom line. Everyone is trying to squeeze the most value out of the fewest resources.
Doesn’t that sound like a good sustainability policy? Doing the most you possibly can with the lowest impact on resources sounds exactly like what environmental experts have been encouraging us to do for years. This brings us to green Project Management.
Project managers – and operational business managers – have become ‘green’ almost by accident. The constant aim to reduce costs and reuse learning through post-implementation reviews is a very green approach. However, if ‘green’ makes business sense, shouldn’t we be doing it a bit more? While it would be great to think that companies would adopt environmentally-friendly practices because it is the right thing to do, the reality is that changing the way things work requires a strong business case. The good news is that the natural conclusion to doing more with less is saving money, and all executives can see the business case in that.
Green Project Management
“Projects are where business ideas become reality,” write Rich Maltzman and Dave Shirley in their book, Green Project Management. “Projects, by definition, use resources. Shouldn’t projects, therefore, be a key area of any focus on green business?”
Your projects don’t have to be building wells in Africa or setting up recycling facilities to warrant a focus on ‘green’. Every project has the opportunity to be green, whether or not the objectives have an overtly environmental benefit. A project team could use a shared document repository to save storing multiple copies of documents on their local servers, thus reducing the requirement for lots of server space and minimizing the carbon footprint of the enterprise. Training sessions or ‘town hall’ meetings could be carried out over web conferencing to avoid unnecessary travel. These suggestions are green and money-saving, but you do have to take a creative approach to doing things differently and you need to know where to look for sensible savings.
Knowing where your money is going is the first step to being able to stem unnecessary spend. Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tools give you the framework to be able to accurately see which projects are using the most resources. You can then decide what to do with that information: maybe pair up an experienced project manager with a track record of coming in under budget with a junior project manager who needs to learn those best practices for making the money stretch as far as possible.
Tailored Enterprise Reporting
You could also use your EPM system to rate your projects according to how green they are. Maltzman and Shirley call this ‘greenality’. “Greenality, like quality or granularity, is something that can be measured along a scale,” they write. “We’ve chosen to define greenality this way: the degree to which an organization has considered environmental factors that affect its projects during the entire project life cycle and beyond.’” Project managers, or the person in the organization responsible for sustainability, could score projects on your own company greenality scale.
Informal reporting like this is useful for shareholder reports but the next level of detail can assist with legislative and policy compliance. Portfolio management at enterprise level can help provide the kind of reporting required to meet the demands of environmental legislation. Carbon tax legislation in the UK, for example, requires companies to understand their carbon emissions. Tailored reports from an EPM system could identify the carbon burden of new projects and contribute to consolidated reporting.
Other policies and standards, like Kyoto and ISO14000, also form part of the business landscape and the constraints in which we deliver projects. EPM tools and a robust project management methodology can ensure that the right questions about these are asked at the project assessment stage.
All this contributes towards a project environment where ‘green’ is a priority, both for environmental and business reasons. Project managers should make the best possible use of the tools they have to ensure they are leading the advances in green business, for all our sakes.