Project Management

Project Management doesn’t have to cost the earth

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Categories: benefits, business case, green

Dave ShirleyThere’s a lot around at the moment about green project management.  It’s a good thing: we could all benefit from living and working in a more sustainable way.  However, selling that to senior management can be difficult, so is there a financial benefit to being green?  I spoke to environmental and management experts Rich Maltzman and Dave Shirley, authors of Green Project Management, which is published this month.

Rich, Dave, how do green project management practices help businesses from costing the earth?

To best answer that question, we tried to first answer the question, “what are green project management practices”?  Green project management is not a new discipline, but rather the intertwining (or intersection if you will) of green business practices with project management discipline.  By nature, project managers manage limited resources,cost and time, and it also includes the earth’s limited resources, fossil fuels, water, and other things we take from the earth.  By viewing their project through an environmental lens, making sure that resources like energy are conserved throughout a project, project managers can conserve those scarce natural resources and reduce what we take from the earth.

Right, so through taking an environmentally-aware approach to projects we can make a contribution to being green.  Convincing others that this is worthwhile goes further than just ‘doing the right thing’.  Is there a money saving benefit to being green?  How does it manifest itself?

The short answer is yes there is a benefit to being green and it manifests itself as cash!  One only has to look to Interface Global (worldwide leader in modular carpets) and Ray Anderson, its founder, who we consider one of the green business gurus.  His aim is to be sustainable in all its dimensions by 2020.  According to our research, “the company started with projects focused on waste reduction, considering the reuse of everything from carpet scraps to industrial effluent, which immediately led to savings—more than $60 million in the first three years.”  You can read more about Interface Global here.

Wow!  That’s a lot of money to be saving.  We should be including green savings in all our project business cases.  What’s your top tip for project managers who want to employ green project management practices on their next piece of work?  Where do you start?

Rich says:

Let me answer both questions at once. Start with the Environmental Management Plan and/or the environmental policy statements of the enterprise.  Like a project manager draws power from their project charter, the PM who is trying to increase greenality on their project must draw power from the company’s mission to reduce its carbon footprint, reduce waste, and whatever other aspects of corporate social responsibility fit into your piece of work.
So the tip is to connect your project’s charter and its resulting work statements to the Environmental Management Plan of the company, which should be conveying the rationale that to excel in this area is actually a benefit to the company’s bottom line.

And, if your company is lacking in that area – become its champion!  After all, projects are all about change.  Be that change.

Dave says:

Well, I’ll be a little more expedient (or should I say a lot more).   You start with our book, Green Project Management; it will give you insights into all of the things Rich has said above, as well as an understanding of your stakeholder’s green drivers, green project fundamentals, lean and green,  takes a look at the companies we believe are “At the Top of Their Game” and more.  It is a quick read, but will be the project manager’s starting point to affect the greening of their “next piece of work”.

Rich, you mentioned the word greenality.  What’s that?

Greenality is an attribute.  It’s a less clumsy way of saying that an organisation is “greening up”.  In fact, if you look around the literature, and the web, you’ll notice a lot of quotation marks around the word green or greening. To us, that says that people are not comfortable using the actual words.  That implies there is a missing word.  Otherwise, why the “quotation”  “marks”?

Good point!  So where did the word greenality come from?

We created the word by smashing two known words – which need no quotation marks – together.  Those two words are green and quality.  Quality, as we know, is built in, not bolted on, to our projects.  It’s in the fabric of what we do, always aimed at meeting or exceeding customer requirements.  The green we understand it is focused on sustainability, the environment, on reducing waste.

So by putting the words together we have a definition for Greenality which goes something like this:

Greenality (project): The degree to which an organization has considered environmental and sustainability factors that affect its projects during the entire project lifecycle and beyond. It contains two important aspects: (1) minimizing the environmental impacts of projects (this includes efforts to simply run the project more efficiently and effectively) and (2) minimizing environmental impacts of the product of the project. Like quality, greenality must be designed-in, not inspected-in.
Greenality (general): The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills environmental and sustainability requirements. Like quality, greenality must be designed-in, not inspected-in.

This definition is actually up for editing at a non-profit site called  You can join a project to help refine this definition on the site.

We do not yet have a scale for greenality. It is a word quite literally in its infancy. However we have seen efforts to do this on a broader scale for enterprises with examples such as the Pacific Sustainability Index, where measurements are made of the companies’ greenality by observation of their public presence on the web.  Another example is  We need to take this initiative which is applied to business in general, and ‘projectize’ it.  We are glad to collaborate with others to do just that.

So there is still some work to do embedding greenality as a concept and a word in our consciousness.  How sustainable is this trend?  Businesses may have high level statements on reducing their carbon footprint, but that has not filtered down to general project management practices yet.

We certainly hope that this is not a trend, but even if it is, we go back to the idea that sustainability makes good business sense even if there is not a groundswell for environmental action and responsibility.  And project managers should – by their nature (excuse the pun) – be all about reducing goldplating, reducing waste, and effective use of resources.  So we maintain that the sustainability of sustainability is sustainably sustainable

[Laughs.]  OK, thanks, guys!

More about my interviewees:

Rich Maltzman and Dave Shirley are the authors of Green Project Management and the blog Earth PM.

Posted on: September 02, 2010 04:24 PM | Permalink

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