Sustainability: The Power of Four-P

People, Planet, Profit and Project-management: that is Four-P. You might think of the word Sustainability here, and it will be used, but since the S-word is used in wildly different ways, it's more useful to be precise. 4P is the Triple Bottom Line + PM. What does project management have to do with 4P? Plenty. I'll be targeting topics such as Risk Management, Innovation, Design, Project Internals, PM Direct and Indirect Influence, Reporting and Economics. I want to hear from you about your own 4P-related work and ideas and questions!

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Recent Posts

Raising the Bar - Again! Interface moves from Mission Zero to Climate Take Back

The Voice of Sustainability Project Managers

Risk Assessment: Coal Mining vs. The Great Barrier Reef

Lend a Hand with the Sustainability Survey!

Gartner Webinar on Sustainability

Raising the Bar - Again! Interface moves from Mission Zero to Climate Take Back

Interface's "old" sustainability/business mission was already more profound than most other corporations have today. (If your corporation, or one you know of, has something better, I want to hear about it!). Interface ( makes modular (tiled) carpets. The idea was imported by late founder Ray Anderson from Europe. In an industry that took oil, added energy and chemicals, and produced rolls of carpet (which, when worn, were thrown out into the landfill), modular carpet was already a good move forward toward a more sustainable product. Ray Anderson was not an environmentalist. He was a entrepreneur and businessman, and when a customer asked what Interface was doing for the environment, he didn’t have an answer. He initiated a task force, and so began Interface’s “Journey to Sustainability”. You can read more about the history in Ray Anderson’s books.

Mission Zero, created back in 1997 said: 

“To be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: People, process, product, place and profits — by 2020 — and in doing so we will become restorative through the power of influence.” 

And, from the Interface website: What drives us? A positive vision of the future and the determination to make it come true. The moral courage to do what is right, despite all obstacles. An abiding commitment to show that sustainability is better for business. We believe that change starts with us and is transforming Interface from a plunderer of the earth to an agent of its restoration. Through this process of redesigning ourselves, we hope to be a catalyst for the redesign of global industry.


 To eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020, Interface created goals such as zero waste, zero GHGs, zero net water use, 100% renewable energy use, product takeback, migration from oil to plant materials. Interface also wanted to move beyond a vision of “no harm” to one of restoration, a net positive impact. 

Interface publishes progress toward its goals on its website. For example, in May of this year, Interface announced that its “Americas” manufacturing sites now operate using 96% renewable energy, upping the company’s global renewable energy usage to 84%. It hasn’t been a straight line journey, as the Waste to Landfills graph shows, but Interface’s  abiding transparency is evident.

On June 7, Interface tweeted its big news: “For 20 years, we've committed to doing no harm. Today, we go further. Our new mission - #ClimateTakeBack”.  Last year, Interface convened a Dream Team, to reinvigorate its mission and and its methods. At the 2016 National Exposition of Contract Furnishings (NeoCon), Interface is announcing its new strategy, Climate Take Back. says Climate Take Back includes four key commitments:

  1. We will bring carbon home and reverse climate change.
  2. We will create supply chains that benefit all life.
  3. We will make factories that are like forests.
  4. We will transform dispersed materials into products and goodness

You may have just said, WOW! 

The vital purpose of a vision is to take the organization into a “promised land”, a new world that cannot yet be tasted, touched or seen, but that can be imagined, can be sought, can be found. With Climate Takeback, Interface has resumed its place as a global flag bearer for sustainability and ethical business. And the impact is going to reverberate throughout and beyond Interface.  “If you talk to the 25-year-olds now in the job marketplace and ask, ‘Would you like to come work for a carpet-tile company?’ I don't imagine many would say yes,” says Nigel Stansfield, Interface’s Vice President and Chief Supply-Chain Officer. “But, ‘Do you want to come work for one of the world's most sustainable manufacturing businesses?’ It's a very different conversation to have.” (

Nigel Stansfield, said, “When Ray stood up in '94 and said, ‘We're going to be a sustainable company,’ sustainability wasn't fashionable; we had no roadmap. It was outrageous to think that an organization could get to a zero footprint, and we were ridiculed for it. People stood on the sideline and watched us, waiting for us to fail.”

Interface’s Climate Takeback is definitely outrageous, as well as bold and beautiful.










Posted on: June 08, 2016 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Voice of Sustainability Project Managers

By Kris Kohl Pedro Echeverria and myself (an international team representing the U.S., Brazil and Canada).

This report provides the findings from a survey of members conducted earlier this year. The survey asked project managers about their experience, challenges and needs with respect to project management.

 Respondents came from all over the world, with a strong showing from North America. To all of you who participated in the survey: thank you for taking the time to complete the survey. I hope you will now benefit from seeing your own experience from the perspective of the greater group of project managers.

The findings are striking. For example, 69% of respondents indicated that their role is related either directly or indirectly to Sustainability. This was much higher than I expected.

However, despite the large majority working in this field, Sustainability project managers face numerous challenges, such as lack of relevant training, lack of desired credentials, lack of networking opportunities and so on. In particular, they want to gain a better understanding of how to integrate Sustainability methods into project management! This is a fundamental need!

I would love to hear your feedback and questions.

To all readers: please download the report here:


Posted on: September 14, 2015 08:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Risk Assessment: Coal Mining vs. The Great Barrier Reef

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the natural world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is known to visitors around the world, as well as to people who have only seen images of it. The Australian government has plans to spend AU$2 billion protecting this valuable "asset" over the next decade. The Reef provides AU$6,000,000,000 annual benefit to the Australian economy.

Australia also has a very large coal industry, and has plans for a port expansion at Abbot Point, next to the reef. This project will open up coal fields in the Galilee Basin to the world market, and is promised to add 9,000 jobs in Australia.

A traditional risk assessment for the coal expansion project would include cost overruns, regulatory issues, community concerns, and so on. But traditional risk assessments are themselves at risk of being blindsided due to their limited and archaic perspective.

Here, with the Great Barrier Reef, the community is not just people living near that part of Australia. There is a world community involved due to the incredible beauty and diversity of life there. The Word Heritage Site Designation is itself in jeapardy, since coral reefs are threatened by global warming, and UNESCO has said it is under review.

The coal project has the potential to damage the reef directly (through activities such as dredging and dumping of dredged material on the reef) and even more seriously, through increased global warming via burning the extra coal from this project: an estimated additional 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, nearly double Australia’s emissions. Add to this the risk to damage to Australia's tourism industry. Nobody flies down under to see a dead reef.

According to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, marine scientist and director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the Reef has lost half its corals in the past three decades. If things continue on the same trajectory, he says they could disappear altogether within decades.

Australia's coal port faces legal challenges from environmental and aboriginal groups, and faces challenges over finance, e.g. a number of major major banks including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have said they will not finance the project.

The word "sustainable" has been used to describe the expansion of Australia's coal industry via this project, clearly showing the doublespeak around the topic of sustainability. But simply saying a project is sustainable does not make it so, and does not make the risks go away.

At the outset of my career, I was given this short course in ethics and risk avoidance: "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to see written about in the newspaper." At the heart of this maxim was really the counsel not to do anything immoral, anything that would cause harm and therefore bring a negative reputation not just to oneself, but to one's company (or country).

Clearly, projects need to take a comprehensive approach to risk management. And governments and companies need to go beyond the dubious ethics and practises which may be legal for now, but are leaving the world environment in a degraded condition.

We can see the writing on the wall, with respect to climate change. What is less obvious is the change in global practises and regulations that are coming. But they are coming. And smart companies will use the lever of Sustainable Risk Management to avoid catastrophe. 




Posted on: August 12, 2015 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Lend a Hand with the Sustainability Survey! has launched a survey for project managers asking about their work with Sustainability. This survey - which will take less than 5 minutes for you to complete - will provide valuable information about project managers' skills, experience and needs around Sustainability. 

The results of the survey will be published, and may be used to develop new offerings for project managers. Please complete the survey here:

Survey developed by Kris Kohl, Principal at HRComputes, and Pedro Echeverria, Senior Project Manager at IBM, and Tom Baker, Director at Resilient Systems Ltd.

Posted on: April 01, 2015 03:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Gartner Webinar on Sustainability

Categories: innovation, sustainability

For those of you familiar with Gartner, the fancy title of this presentation won't surprise you: Sustainability: The Key to Strategic Differentiation. It's a 2012 presentation, but still worth taking a look at. The speaker,  Bettina Tratz-Ryan, focussed on Information Technology, but also covered wider areas such as Smart Cities and Smart Grid.

There were a couple of interesting points in the webinar:

1) The reason for having a Sustainability strategy are changing. For example, motivators were about reputation, efficiency, compliance and so on. But Gartner saw the motivators shifting to innovation, economic growth and employee engagement. I would summarize as saying the business case has for sustainability has been moving from reactive and tactical to strategic and proactive (that is, for smart organizations).

2) Pay attention to carbon management. This is an important message for North American organizations, but old news to Europe, Australia and even Asia. The message from Gartner is, carbon's going to be important, so don't get caught with your pants down (ie without a strategy for carbon tracking and management).

Posted on: January 13, 2015 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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