Can a PM Be an Organization's Conscience?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Don’t tell ProjectManagement.com, but part of me doesn’t like this month’s topic of sustainability. Sure, it’s a broad and diverse area, and that’s allowed me to write on a number of pretty different themes linked to sustainability, but it’s also a term that lacks a common meaning, and that’s a problem.

To the general public, “sustainability” today is about the environment, protecting our planet and its resources for future generations. You won’t hear me disagree with that. But for our employers, sustainability has more to do with economic performance. That doesn’t mean other factors aren’t important, but in the private sector at least, the money matters.

There’s no reason why the two can’t live in harmony—in fact, they have to if environmental sustainability is going to be universally accepted. But we all know that too often, decisions come down to maximizing financial returns or sacrificing some of those returns for the good of the environment (micro or macro).

As individual employees, our ability to impact those decisions is limited—we need a job and have to make compromises at times in order to keep that job. Additionally, we all make decisions in our personal lives that aren’t always in the best interest of sustainability, either through necessity or through the …

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"History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot."

- Mark Twain

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