Aljuhany ... sustainability focus

Implementing best practices for driving sustainability can greatly impact the project environment and positively contribute to social, environmental, and economic sustainability, Khaled Aljuhany, Project Engineer at Saudi Aramco, tells OGN

Project management is no stranger to the concept of sustainability. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that sustainability is at the front of our minds and the centre of our project management strategies.

As the world transitions to a more sustainable future, it is important to ensure that project management also participates in this transition.

To succeed, project management must consider the project's sustainability. This means looking beyond the immediate results and considering the project's environmental, economic, and social implications.

Moreover, project managers should embrace sustainability in their business for various reasons, as it's an investment in the long-term health of the business's environment and a great opportunity to reduce costs, minimise risks and increase efficiency.

Therefore, by championing sustainable practices, project managers can demonstrate their social and environmental credentials to customers and business partners.



"According to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The main pillars of sustainability are environmental, social, and economic.

Organisations must set clear strategies, goals, and governance to support these pillars to achieve their ambitions. Understanding the definition of each pillar is the first step toward incorporating sustainability in project management.



Project management plays a major role in an organisation's growth and expansion strategy. That is the key to why project management must include sustainability in organisations.

Environmental sustainability: This is defined as the practice of incorporating environmental consciousness into project planning, execution, and reporting phases aimed at reducing the environmental impact of a given project.

This includes ensuring that the project is conducted in a manner that is mindful of the inability practices energy use.

According to the University of Cambridge, some examples of environmental best practices include:

• Setting up an Environmental Management System (EMS) to ensure that standards are met.

• Setting up environmental impact assessment requirements and incorporate ways to reduce these impacts.

• Establishing protocols for recycling, disposal, or reuse of materials.

• Maximising the circular economy utilisation.

• Establishing waste management plans for the projects. This should include targets set for each type of waste.

• Prioritising the use of cleaner and renewable energy sources.

• Auditing energy efficiency, waste, and water consumption regularly.

• Environmental initiatives such as plantations and deploying environment-friendly technology.

 Social sustainability in project management is the process of creating social value, defined as improving individuals' well-being through the project.

This process involves considering various stakeholders, from those in the local community to global citizens, who are impacted by the project and developing strategies to protect their interests. Hence improving governance and stakeholder’s relations.

Social sustainability in project management is a holistic approach that considers the impacts of a project on the community.

It is focused on the lifecycle assessment of the entire project and monitoring, evaluating, and updating social indicators that affect the local, regional, or global community within the project's scope.

Examples of best practices for social sustainability in project management include:

• Ensuring that project operations do not negatively affect a community's natural resources, such as air and water quality.

• Focusing on ethical business practices and labor standards.

• Promoting non-discrimination in decision-making and employment practices.

• Ensuring safe and healthy working conditions are in place.

• Increasing access to education and training opportunities for the workforce.

• Investing in local community development programs.

• Conducting a well-being assessment of construction worker's facilities.

 Economic sustainability in project management is defined as "the ability to sustain the desired level of economic performance without sacrificing the quality of project outcome over time".

This includes the effective management of resources, the use of appropriate practices and processes, and an understanding of the economic impact of policy decisions.

According to Armenia et al, this type of sustainability seeks to ensure that a project will be cost-effective and have a lasting impact that benefits stakeholders and the environment.

Examples of best practices for economic sustainability in project management include:

• Developing a realistic budget and choose the appropriate model for the project.

• Establishing a financial control to enable the project team to track, monitor and adjust project spending and performance.

• Regularly reviewing economic performance and reevaluate objectives.

• Preparing for potential risks and be fixable to adjust and accommodate cost-related changes.

• Utilising feedback from stakeholders and SMEs to identify cost optimisation opportunities.

• Investing in innovation technologies and implement practices to optimise efficiency.

Like the beginning of any new journey, there are always challenges associated with adopting a sustainability strategy in project management.

However, by properly detecting potential challenges, an effective strategy can be developed to move forward confidently.

A key change starts at the organisation level as it requires a shift in how projects are managed to focus on creating long-term value rather than delivering short-term results.

Also, limited resources may be available to support the project, limiting the project manager's ability to incorporate sustainability into the management process. However, the availability of resources only is not enough.

Qualified resources equipped with the proper knowledge is a greater challenge. Many project managers may not fully understand the concepts of sustainability, making it difficult to understand how to incorporate it into the management of their projects.

In addition, sustainability initiatives often require additional funding, which may not be available due to tight budgets creating another obstacle to project management efforts toward sustainability.

Comprehending the challenges is the foundation to pave the path forward; the next step is how to tackle them.

Project managers who seek to promote sustainability need to start with a roadmap that outlines the goals, project, and timeline to achieve sustainability targets.

Identifying the resources necessary to implement the sustainability strategy is essential.

Once resources are selected, proper awareness, training, and education should be provided, including workshops on other organisations' sustainability best practices within the same field.

It is worth noting that a top management and stakeholders buy-in must be obtained before proceeding with the sustainability strategy to mitigate the additional cost associated with the project sustainability aspiration.

Implementing the aforementioned key best practices for driving sustainability in a project can greatly impact the project environment and positively contribute to social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

By proactively embedding these best practices into their project planning, organisations can pave the road for longer-term rewards and enhanced corporate sustainability.

As Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England, stated: "Sustainability is an investment in the future, not a cost to the present."

Adopting a proactive approach to fostering sustainability in projects can lead to bigger and better projects while helping put our planet on the path to sustainability.


Armenia, Stefano, et al. "Sustainable Project Management: A Conceptualisation-Oriented Review and a Framework Proposal for Future Studies." Sustainability, vol 11, no 9, 9 May 2019, p 10.

Krotova, A "Global Reporting Initiative." Language Selection | European Commission, Mar. 2019, Accessed 24 March 2023.

Purvis, Ben, et al. "Three pillars of sustainability: in search of conceptual origins." Sustainability Science, vol 14, no 3, 2019, pp 685-686.

Sakalasooriya, Nishan. "Conceptual Analysis of Sustainability and Sustainable Development." Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol 09, no 03, 2021, pp 397-398.

United Nations. "Sustainable Development Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Review of Progress and Prospects." Home: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 5 April 2019, Accessed 24 March 2023.