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5 Challenges of Integrating Sustainability into Project Plans

Back in December I wrote about how to reduce your project’s carbon footprint by taking sustainability into account during the management of the work.

There were some really interesting comments on the article, and one of the questions was:

What challenges might project managers face in integrating sustainability into their project plans, and how can these be overcome?

Let me spend some time today talking about 5 of the challenges I think are top of mind when it comes to managing sustainability in a project environment.

sustainable working

Challenge #1: Stakeholder buy in

The first thing I think you need to overcome is the challenge of stakeholder buy in. Are your project stakeholders as committed as you to putting sustainable working practices at the heart of this project? And what do they mean, really?

I’d tackle this by including a sustainability management plan as part of the project artifacts, making sure that we all agreed what measures we are prepared to take.

Challenge #2: Supplier buy in

Next, suppliers. It’s fine having the support of your internal team, but if you are bound to use certain suppliers who are not aligned to your value, a big part of your sustainability effort could be undone.

It’s great to think you might have the freedom to select the partner who delivers all their supplies in electric vehicles powered by green energy, wrapped in recycled paper packaging, but honestly, not all suppliers are able to meet those, nor may it be practical or desirable for them to do so.

Yes, think about which suppliers you contract with, and talk to them about their sustainability plans and approaches, but sometimes you’ll have to accept that the preferred supplier and the best fit for your project is not the greenest option. Perhaps tackle this by looking at carbon offset schemes?

Challenge #3: Team collaboration

One of the things you can easily to do reduce the carbon footprint is to travel less and reduce the overhead related to driving or flying to work-related meetings. But what is the impact on productivity and collaboration for the team?

We all know of the advantages of collocated teams, and while many of us are reading this article while working from home or not in the same location as our colleagues, it is still lovely to meet up with the team from time to time.

Think about what travel is possible for the team to do, and how you can build informal networking and team events into your remote working schedule.

Challenge #4: Tracking

Let’s say you’ve got agreement to work in green ways or to consider sustainability seriously as part of your project management approach. How are you going to track this?

One of the challenges is identifying meaningful measures. For every car journey avoided, what does that mean? Look for your company’s standard measures for calculating carbon by weight, and think about how that translates from what you are doing.

Alternatively, you might decide that you’re going to be as green as possible without tracking (which might defeat the purpose if part of your goal is to contribute to targets like net zero) but at least that would be something. Deal with this challenge by talking to your sustainability manager or finance team, or the department responsible for looking at energy saving and carbon tracking.

Challenge #5: Consistency

It’s fine starting out thinking you are going to be all green on this project, but it’s often hard to keep the momentum, especially if there is no corporate mandate or wider sustainability plan, and you are up against stakeholders who don’t attribute the same level of importance to this as you do.

Overall, building in sustainable working practices and choosing to manage the project and the deliverables in a sustainable way shouldn’t be hard, but in practice I’m sure you’ll face these challenges.

What else did I forget? Have you tried green ways of working or deliverables and found them easy to build into the way you work? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted on: February 13, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

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