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Can project management (help) save the world?

Green superhero with the recycle sign on his chest

A clickbaitesque title I know, but it’s something that I have been thinking a lot about recently.  As resources become scarcer around the world, the need to save even small amounts on what would normally be thought of as “non-environmental” projects, will become more and more critical.

Severe weather events are also already having an impact economically. For example, here in New Zealand recent horrible weather has resulted in slips and land damage across the country.

Meanwhile, the GEO-5 for Business stated the severe floods in Australia in 2010/11 resulted in more than $350m in claims to re-insurer Munich Re. The same period of extreme weather also contributed to a loss of $245m by mining group Rio Tinto due to reduced shipments.

These events are only going to get worse and that’s where I think project management can step up and help save the world. As project managers we can make sure our projects are run as greenly as possible. We can also ensure we incorporate environmentally sustainable principles into the outcomes of the project and put environmental impacts front and centre at all stages of the project.

Here are just a few things you can do to run more environmentally-friendly projects:

Working on the project

  • Aim to reduce paper consumption by 10%.Each piece of A4 paper takes 10 litres of water to make.  So, using less paper  can add up to significant savings over the lifetime of a project
  • Ask the project team to use recyclable or reusable cups for their morning coffees.
  • If you need to have meetings with people in different locations, consider using video conferencing or another online meeting solution
  • Ask the team not to use single use bottled water – bring in a reusable drinks bottle and refill when necessary
  • Make sure everyone turns off their computers, and if possible, the office lights when they leave for the day
  • Off-set your carbon footprint either by planting trees or using an accredited carbon broker
  • Capture the project’s green initiatives as benefits so that they can be tracked and shouted about as the project progresses.

Developing the actual project

  • When formulating the project’s requirements, make sure that they consider environmental needs. For example if the project is to implement new servers, add a requirement state for the servers to be the most energy efficient possible
  • If the project is manufacturing something, look to source components from environmentally responsible suppliers
  • Work with suppliers to make sure their supply chain to the project is as waste free as possible
  • Re-engineer processes to be as environmentally friendly as possible
  • If disposing of electronic equipment, make sure the disposal agent complies with the local electronic waste disposal regulations

Post project implementation

  • Continue to monitor the green initiatives alongside the project’s benefits.

It’s no longer prudent to stand back and say environmental impacts of our work is not our problem. Even the smallest change can have long term benefits to the environment and the future of our planet.

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