Sustainability: The value proposition


for project managers



By Raju Rao, PMP, SCPM

Chennai, India


The subject of sustainability has received a lot of attention in recent times. It is slowly moving from understanding it as a global phenomenon to deliberate action. What can we, as professionals in business and industry, do in the larger interest of preparing for the future? For Project Managers, this is a unique opportunity to contribute beyond the immediate objectives outlined for their projects. This paper will discuss and deliberate on two broad questions:

  • WHY?
    • Why do projects need to be sustainable? What is it in for project professionals?
    • How does it tie in with the global scenario and trends?
  • HOW?
    • What can project professionals do in their projects to contribute towards sustainability goals?
    • What needs to be added as knowledge and practice to existing standards and practice to make this happen?

What is Sustainability? Definitions

One of the earliest definitions of sustainability is by the UN Brundtland Commission states it as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This broad-based definition is simple and covers the major issues and challenges faced today i.e., related to climate change, energy, environment and resources.

US EPA states “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment”.

A more specific definition related to projects is available from APM Body of Knowledge 7th Edition.

“Sustainability in the project profession is an approach to business that balances the environmental, social, economic aspects of project-based working to meet the current needs of stakeholders without compromising or overburdening future generations.”

Dimensions of Sustainability

Sustainability can be better understood through its principles which are in turn elaborated in terms of its dimensions. Green construction projects or project management largely tend to view the economic and environmental dimensions whereas sustainable development projects consider it from a social perspective. However, we can identify the following dimensions for our understanding.


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How to cite this paper: Rao, R. (2023). Sustainability: The value proposition for project managers; PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj132-Aug2023-Rao-Sustainability-The-value-proposition-for-project-managers.pdf

About the Author

Raju N Rao

Chennai, India


Raju Rao is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur. He is the Founder Xtraplus Learning & Consulting and has been a trainer, consultant and coach for nearly two decades. He often writes for professional journals and is the co-author of two books on project management. He has been a speaker in many global conferences and seminars.

Raju has been involved in the development of many standards in project management. He has worked as a volunteer with PMI and similar organizations for many of their initiatives and projects. He is the Founder of the not-for-profit Forum for Food Recovery, an organization involved in advocacy and education in food waste and recovery management. He is an Ambassador for GPM Global which is dedicated to advancing regenerative solutions and practices for sustainable project management.

Raju is a Distinguished Toastmaster and has been an active member of Toastmasters International. He also dabbles in writing fiction and is interested in cooking, running and listening to music. Raju can be contacted at pmorg.xtraplus@gmail.com.