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Sustainability and Project Management – Perspectives, Challenges and Threats (Part 7)

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Project managers typically use standards and tailor them to the needs of their projects. Are there standards available for managing sustainability in projects? Most standards are addressing this aspect. For example, the ISO-series for governing and managing projects, programmes and portfolios (ISO 21500, ISO 21503, ISO 21504 and ISO 21505) address the aspect of sustainability in one or the other way. Also the new IPMA Standards (IPMA ICB®, IPMA OCB® and IPMA PEB®) cover sustainability. However, mentioning sustainability might not be enough for practitioners…


The GPM P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management of an organisation called Green Project Management is available free of charge in several languages. P5 stands for “People, Planet, Prosperity, Processes and Products” and is a standard or tool that supports alignment of projects, programmes and portfolios with the organisational strategy for sustainability. It describes the impacts of project processes and deliverables on environment, society, the corporate bottom line as well as the local economy. P5 expands on the triple bottom line theory, is an adaptation of a sustainability checklist that was in 2010 developed during an IPMA Expert Seminar and provides guidance on what to measure and how to integrate the findings into project activities.

One, if not the most important aspect for business organisations is the impact of sustainability on the financial bottom line. The standard highlights the flow from project outputs to capabilities, to outcome and benefits for one or several stakeholders. During the launch phase of a project the standard recommends to perform the “P5 Impact Analysis”. During project execution a “Sustainability Management Plan” will help to transform the sustainability objectives into project objectives and sustainable benefits. The sustainability report is a platform for communicating the achieved performance (negative or positive impact) to various target audiences, highlighting the economic, environmental, social and other performance aspects.

This blogpost is the last one of a series about sustainability, however the journey continues and there is a lot more to do, in regards to standards, know-how, application and results. Sustainability will have a significant impact on the way we manage projects. What is most important … it helps to demonstrate that we do good for our society through managing projects…

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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