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Richard Maltzman
Dave Shirley

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No, not that kind of engagement!  I’ve been doing a lot of research for our next book.  I came across several fascinating surveys from the National Environmental Education Foundation(NEEF).  The organization itself is a great resource for environmental (extrapolate to sustainability) information.  According to their website, “NEEF is the nation’s leading organization in lifelong environmental learning, connecting people to knowledge they use to improve the quality of their lives and the health of the planet.  We achieve this by providing knowledge to trusted professionals and other leaders who, with their credibility, amplify messages to national audiences to solve everyday environmental problems.”

The surveys I am referring to are all about employee engagement starting with their study “Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education” from 2009 continuing through the  study “Toward Engagement 2.0: Creating a More Sustainable Company Through Employee Engagement.”  I point out these studies because they may not appear to relevant to the project manager, but they are in fact relevant because they point out that engaging everyone in the organization helps that organization to “appreciate” the sustainable efforts.  In that environment (excuse the pun), sustainability efforts by the project manager are not only recognized, but encouraged. 

In our new book, one of the sections is about how the internal organization views sustainability efforts.  We explore environmental management plans and ISO 14001 as examples.  While those initiatives must be applauded, the surveys noted above emphasize the importance of employee engagement in the sustainability process by highlighting several major companies’ education implementation.

Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson and Johnson, as well as companies that we considered “top of their game” in sustainability form our previous book, Green Project Management, Stonyfield and Interface Global.  All these companies approach sustainability education by providing “mixed-media” presentation and “multi-departmental leadership.”  The commitment goes across departments and throughout the companies.  From the “toward Engagement 2.0…” survey, NEEF found some “new and interesting results:

  • “Sustainability” remains the established phrase to describe a company’s environmental sustainability initiatives. “Greening” for many years was the second-most-used term but is now almost the least used to describe these initiatives.
  • Social and environmental activities converge. As companies begin to address more complex supply-chain issues, those surveyed see environmental and social issues becoming more connected.
  • Has sustainability knowledge become less important or have we “arrived”? In large companies, those surveyed see less of an increase in the value placed on a job candidate’s sustainability knowledge than in years past, while mid-sized and small companies still see this as increasing.”

And from one of the business case studies (Interface Global) there are some key lessons learned is to:”

·         Make E&S part of a shared vision and the company culture, not a “flavor of the month”

·         Measures are critical, and the best teacher

·         Storytelling is a powerful tool

·         Include all employees

·         Consider E&S motivation and knowledge in the hiring process”

Employee engagement in sustainability is critical to an organization.  It leads to innovation resulting in creative ways for an organization to become more sustainable.  That leads to bottom-line savings and more importantly a stronger connection to social responsibility.  As change agents, project managers can assure that there is an effective method to engage all employees in the sustainability effort.  If there isn’t an ongoing effort, perhaps that will make a good project!

This will be my last post for Projects-at-Work.  I have enjoyed talking with you over the past couple of years, but it is time for me to move on.  I am leaving you in the capable fingers of Rich Maltzman who will continue to provide posts for the 3P’s.

Posted by Dave Shirley on: December 23, 2014 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Project Sustainability - Academia

The following is what I consider a model, or best practice, for those of us in academia project management.  Not only do we teach project management and sustainability, in some cases, we are also participants in the university structure.  In other words we are part of the (sustainability) solution. And, because we have 401Ks and other investments, it is also good to know.

We’ve talked before about some of the drivers for wanting to be more sustainable.  One of the biggest drivers and most understood by upper management, is the bottom line, the (p)rofit part of the triple bottom line.  That part of the triple bottom line includes investments, particularly in public traded companies.  If people are more willing to invest in companies that are socially responsible than are in companies than companies that are not, where to do think the money will go?  What companies will have the most longevity?

Academia has a lot of money, at least some colleges and universities do.  Looking at some of the endowments it is clear that they have opportunities (and need) to invest to grow their money, just like you and I.  Boston University, the school I teach for, took their investment strategy one step further.  They set up an Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI).  According to their website, their mission is: “to (a) represent a wide spectrum of the community (trustees, faculty, and students); (b) be knowledgeable about relevant, socially responsible investing issues in order to be able to engage in informed, thoughtful, and collegial consideration and discussion; (c) provide continuity and institutional memory on relevant policy issues; (d) advise the Board of Trustees on socially responsible investment policy issues by proposing written policies for the Board’s consideration; and (e) coordinate and facilitate communication on relevant policy issues.”

The committee was formed from a more or less “grassroots” movement of faculty and students who asked that the administration look at their investment strategies and perhaps alter it based on socially responsible practices of the companies getting their investment dollars.  From time to time, the administration and Trustees of Boston University are urged by members of the faculty and student communities to alter investment holdings based on the company’s sustainability or socially responsible practices.  That is why the ACSRI was formed.  It is made up of trustees, faculty members and students “who are familiar with the University’s investment responsibilities.” 

Their responsibility is to look at a variety of information about issues that are brought before them to determine the best investment strategies.  The recommendations are then sent to the Board of Trustees for consideration.  The first investigation centered on the issue of companies that manufacture firearms for the civilian retail market. A lengthy study was undertaken reviewing existing laws, the Second Amendment and various high court rulings as well as the BU policy.  The results of any investigation by the ACSRI lead to direct recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

The second issue to be investigatedwill be whether or not to divest from fossil fuel interests.  This project is a great example of the voice of the customer, students and faculty, getting together with the administration to drive investment in socially responsible companies.  It is something that we, as project managers, either in academia or any other industry need to consider as it can affect our “bottom line.”

Posted by Dave Shirley on: December 11, 2014 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Strange Green Bedfellows



The Green Spectrum

In our last book, Rich and I talked about the spectrum of green projects, from green by definition, a wind farm project to green in general, like the compact disk from Big Kenney where the holder was made of compostable material and impregnated with wildflower seeds.  All projects have some aspect of sustainability.  Well, the same holds true for companies.  Companies that you would never expect to have a strong interest in sustainability do have that interest, serious interest!  It is not just interest in “greening up”, it is undertaking huge sustainability projects, and this company has the deep pockets to do it in a big way.

When one thinks of Lockheed Martin there is a tendency to think military applications only because they are the world’s largest defense contractor to a tune of $45+ billion in revenue.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Lockheed Tests the Water, Doug Cameron, November 14, 2014, Lockheed is looking to expand into other markets, due to cutbacks in US military spending.  Lockheed Martin’s sustainability mission is documented on their website “Lockheed Martin has long been driven by the concept of sustainability, a paradigm of corporate social responsibility. Our high standards for ethics, corporate governance and performance excellence distinguish our contributions to global security when it matters most. We define sustainability as fostering innovation, integrity and security to protect the environment, strengthen communities and propel responsible growth.”  So Lockheed’s sustainability mission certainly encompasses 2 of the 3 P’s, people and planet.  There’s no question that they are actively pursuing sustainability within their company.

I am talking about something different; undertaking actual “green by definition” projects.  Lockheed has a project in the works using ultrathin membranes used for desalinating water.  These membranes are measured in nanometer thickness.  Not only can it be used for desalination, but also for water purification.  Both applications have enormous potential to make lives better by provided ample and pure water, as well as water recycling.  

Also from the WSJ article, Lockheed is also working with Kampachi Farms and the Illinois Soybean Association to develop open-ocean fish pens, “intended to enable fish farming without the environmental and other drawbacks of inland or coastal farms.”  Lockheed’s contribution was in developing communications and control systems that allow land based operators to feed the fish and clean the pens floating on ocean currents.” 

The energy sector is particularly interesting to Lockheed.  There is a deal between Lockheed and a Chinese company, Reignwood Group, to develop a 10 Megawatt power plant in the Pacific Ocean “to generate electricity from the temperature difference between deep and shallow water.”  They are alos investigating nuclear-fusion and tidal power plants.  Fascinating stuff!

To gain the advantage going forward, project managers should understand both the “green spectrum” of projects as well as the green spectrum of companies.  

Posted by Dave Shirley on: November 25, 2014 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Foreign LEEDS

I’ve talked about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects before, but only in the context of what is going in the United States.  However, some developing nations are also undertaking LEED projects.  Specifically, India has 1675 registered and certified LEED projects according to a recent article on the United States Green Building Council (USBGC) website.  The Suzlon One Earth project is billed as “setting precedents in terms of energy efficiency, water recycling and harvesting, and waste management systems for developing countries.”

Suzlon Energy Limited pledged to create the greenest office in India. The building is three levels high and is sited on 10.5 acres. It achieved LEED for New Construction Platinum certification[1] from the India Green Building Council, as well as Five-Star GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) certification. 5% (154 kilowatts) of its annual energy is generated on-site through conventional and building-integrated photovoltaic panels (20%) and wind turbines (80%). All balanced energy required for the campus is generated through Suzlon’s off-site wind turbines, making One Earth technically a zero energy project.

This is a great example of the 3 Ps in practice.  For the people piece, the design provides 90% of the work stations with daylight and external views, allowing inhabitants to enjoy seasons and weather conditions, and to connect with the time of the day.  Aluminum louvers act as a protective skin, allowing daylight and cross-ventilation.  A central plaza is one of the design elements that encourages communication, informal interaction and team gathering amongst Suzlon’s more than 1,500 colleagues and provides a visual presentation for occupants and visitors. According to the website, “This corporate campus is a counterblast to prevailing glass-box architecture occurring across India and is a game changer in terms of how corporate campuses have been designed to-date in India.”  The building is also accessible to urban infrastructure and facilities as well as providing employees with public transportation options.

Combining the profit piece with the planet piece, energy is saved (thus bottom-line savings) by employing LED lighting systems and solar water heating. 100% of sewage grey water is recycled into flushing, landscaping and air cooling systems, while 100% of rainwater is harvested. Glass exhaust chimneys with tropical plants act as visual connectors between all floors and allow aeration of the basement parking area.

Suzlon is a great example of how the 3 Ps can interact to provide a balance project that not only meets the financial needs of an organization, but also provides environmental and social advantages as well.  Keeping aware of changes to sustainability technology by reviewing such projects as this, will help a project manager with an eye to the future.


[1] A LEED Platinum® Certification is the highest certification given by a Green Business Council.  It requires more than 80 points achieved through a very rigorous process.  For more information on the certification process, please the certification guide.

Posted by Dave Shirley on: November 08, 2014 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cape Cod - No Cod?

A recent article from Doug Fraser, capecodonlinepoints out the environmental concerns that are affecting the cod fishing industry on Cape Cod.  As he puts it, can you imaging “Cape Cod without cod?” 

Here is a little history of the industry:  “Codfish once supported fleets of 400 schooners each in Gloucester and New Bedford, and as many as 100 schooners crowded into Provincetown Harbor in the 1800s, many headed to rich Canadian fishing grounds and Georges Bank. Cod are wrapped up in the history of the state and the growth of our nation, and symbolic cod hang in both the main courtroom of the Barnstable Superior Court and in the state House of Representatives.  But now, it's largely Iceland, Canada and the Pacific that put cod on restaurant menus and our tables at home. And many experts now worry that a fish, whose fortunes are so closely aligned with our own growth as a country, could now be going extinct. There's an emotional connection, and contemplating the last cod, is like letting the last bald eagle die.”

In spite the sentiments that reflect that we’ve already reached the tipping point of no return, there is a major project to rebuild the supplies of cod, and it looks like a long, hard road ahead.  That project includes a “de facto fishing moratorium.”  Even though there is a proposed catch limit between 214 and 500 metric tons of cod, in the past decade, the take has been in the neighborhood of 6000 metric tons, thus the de facto moratorium. 

So what, pray tell, do the “experts” think the issues are surrounding the dramatic decline in the availability of the species. According to Jake Kritzer, on the staff of the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental policy group, "Too many dogfish, too many seals, the water is too warm. It's not a good world out there for cod."  The dog fish and the seals have a tendency to increase their population as the water warms.  The environmental factor of climate change (warming waters) has an interesting complexity.  While healthy populations may be able to sustain during adverse conditions, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute argue that the environmental effects are even greater on a smaller population than one that is robust and has enough spawners to overcome adverse conditions. Also, studies also project that a warming ocean might produce less plankton, the base of the food chain critical to both cod larvae and species like herring, which are the favored prey of adult cod.

Additional projects spawned (excuse the pun) by the decline of the cod include electronic monitoring, using video cameras to record the catch and discards, but has not been approved by NMFS for widespread use despite over a decade of testing.  [Editorial – getting the government to make a decision is like pulling teeth!] 

Some of these projects may take as long as 15 years to see results.  While the definition of a project says it is “temporary” the life cycle of these projects will certainly be prolonged.  These projects are also good examples of one of the tips we’ve learned over the years.  While there is a tendency to focus on the near term, try thinking of planning your projects with the end (or long term effects) in mind.

Posted by Dave Shirley on: October 26, 2014 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Golf is a good walk spoiled."

- Mark Twain