How project managers can help their companies 'go green'

How project managers can help their companies 'go green'

Program and project managers can contribute to sustainability

Today’s society is prevalent with organisational and social campaigns to “go green”. This is for good reason. It is, after all, our social responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint, to reduce our dependency on non-renewable energies, and to recycle – not to mention the potential financial benefits associated with going green and green products. There are many things that Program and Project Managers of all industries can take to contribute to this worthy cause as part of following good program and project management processes and practices, but what are the “big ticket items”?

How to create a clear project plan.

#1 – Direct your outcomes towards efforts such as Energy efficiency, Emissions (Carbon) reduction, Water efficiency and Waste minimisation: There are many actions that program and project teams can take to achieve any of these four overall targets. For example, in IT the implementation of software that automatically turns off monitors when not used can lead to carbon reductions. If you work in manufacturing, construction or heavy industry the options for tackling these four factors are many and varied.

#2 – Help make a difference with design: Consideration of the environment and sustainable initiatives at the design stage of an end product or solution is crucial – since this is what will determine the end product which the program/project will deliver. As a Program or Project Manager you have an opportunity to influence those responsible for design with “green thinking” (which they will no doubt already have in mind). For example, designing a product (be it a car headlight, a new computer or a manufacturing process) for energy efficiency.

#3 – Make a difference by having a sustainable supply chain: Virtually all programs and projects (in all industries) rely on supply chain partners for delivery. The way you procure your partners can make a huge difference on the way a program or project is delivered. For example, make sure your supply chain partners are appropriately certified in sustainable practices and that they will adhere to leading practices. This principle relates to anything – from procuring sustainable timber for construction to ensuring “green thinking” is part and parcel of IT equipment procurement (for example, packaging can constitute a large volume of waste if not thought about in a sustainable way). Advice from governments and non-government organisations is plentiful in supply on actions that can be taken – look them up in the country you operate in.

In addition to these three actions, here are some other examples of smaller “green initiatives” that you may consider:

#4 – Include “Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives” in your Project Management Plan: Including such initiatives in your Project Management Plan will reinforce the project commitment to going green and outline specific tasks the project will be expected to undertake, during the duration of the project. Examples of such tasks may include:

  1. Procurement – ensure your procurement policies and selection criteria are based on Sustainability and Environmental measures.

  2. Maximising the use of virtual team meetings – for example, conducting of virtual training and traveling only when absolutely necessary, such as during a major milestone in a given project. Technologies have progressed to the point in recent years that allow for video conferences, streaming videos and other forms of communication that reduce the requirements for face to face encounters without a reduction in the quality of the meeting.

  3. Ensuring recycling logistics are in place at both virtual and face to face meetings. For virtual meetings, steps could be taken such as a requiring a recycle box for non-secure documents. The Project Manager can also coordinate the collection of the documents from all virtual locations. During face to face meetings, in addition to ensuring recycle bins are in place, the Project Manager may also require public transportation to the meeting and hire “Green Friendly” vendors.

  4. Requiring the project team to update their signature lines. A good idea is to say words to this effect: Be Green. Please don’t print this e-mail unless you absolutely have to. Use this as part of your e-mail signature.

  5. Include in your project templates, such as agendas, presentations and status reports some “Go Green” statements. Verbally remind project team members to print only what is absolutely necessary.

  6. Require electronic only copies of project training and other artifacts when possible. Certain project artifacts, training materials and many other deliverables can actually be effectively carried out without printing.

  7. Fax to PDF services: Using these services is a great idea especially when contracts are part of your project. Low cost faxes to PDF providers are readily available to send to a global audience. When a stakeholder faxes certain project documents, instead of printing them out, they can be converted to a PDF format and then automatically e-mailed to all the e-mail addresses in a given account. Most of these services deliver the PDF versions in real time, which can reduce the paper output by as much as 50% without adding in delivery delays. The PDF received can then be saved in the project repository.

#5 – Use your Project Management skills to improve your community: Try to find opportunities to put your project management skills to suitable use on various community projects, and show an interest in environmentally friendly ways of improving the community. This could be the organising of a community activity for your project team for the cleaning up of a park or waterway project. Other possibilities include the serving on planning committees for other types of green initiatives.

In conclusion, this article only touches upon the possibilities of “going green”. Our main message is that although every appropriate action adds up in terms of sustainability and environmentally friendly outcomes, getting a good understanding of what you organisation’s most significant environmental impacts are first before you agree what to focus on will set you on the most effective path forward. Regardless of the industry, the organisation, or the type of project, opportunities to go green are abundant. Program and Project Managers should take advantage of the possibilities and embrace and encourage their implementation. Lastly, “going green” is good project management. Green initiatives not only benefit the environment, they have positive affects on employee health and well being, and can help to maintain profitability of a project or organisation.

Other articles by these authors:

Read more in CIO Management.

Recommended reading:
Agile projects no gateway to business value: Jim Highsmith
Prepare for PMP exam part 1: Assess your eligibility

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