Project Management Against the Challenges of Sustainable Development

Project management can make a significant contribution to sustainable development provided that sustainability is present both in projects and in activities of project teams. Execution of sustainable projects, although essential for creating sustainable societies, encounters many barriers. However, there are far fewer factors that are conducive to execution of such projects. This predominance of barriers over stimulators has a negative impact on the pace of sustainable development, which does not keep pace with the increase in environmental and social risks. In this chapter.

we discuss the key benefits of execution of sustainable projects, as well as the factors that facilitate or hinder this process. We consider the problem of the presence of sustainability in projects and project organizations and present solution in this area that make the greatest contributions to sustainable development.

Project Management in the Process of Creating Sustainable Societies

Projects contribute to accelerated civilizational development. As a result of their execution, new solutions in various areas of human activity are created, also ones of a breakthrough nature. 3D printers, 3D TVs, e-book readers, i-Pods, tablets, smartphones, and hybrid cars are only examples of solutions affecting our lives in the 21st century. However, the civilizational development so desired by man has a serious flaw: it is a source of environmental and social risks. Thus, if projects contribute to accelerated civilizational development and such development creates risks, then project activities must significantly contribute to making those risks worse. The more unsustainable the projects, the more this negative phenomenon is grownng. However, environmental and social risks can be reduced or even eliminated by increasing the share of sustainable projects in the total number of such undertakings. The most beneficial from the perspective of sustainable development is to allow' only those projects that are beneficial to the environment and the society.

Sustainable projects contribute to the development of civilization without harming people and the environment.

Source: Owm work.

The growing environmental and social risks are forcing us to change the direction of our development. The development to date has led to the emergence of consumer societies. Consumerism has taken hold of man and is constantly growing. Today, producers and consumers behave as if they lived in a world without limits. The limits of nature’s tolerance, as results from our deliberations, do exist: the Earth is an insulated system wdth no external resources, except for solar energy. In order to protect it, action must be taken to transform modern consumer societies into sustainable ones. A sustainable society is to a large extent the opposite of a consumer society that consists mainly of antisocial consumers and producers who satisfy exclusively their owm needs. A sustainable society, as showm in Figure 1.3, is based on sustainable consumption and sustainable production. Sustainable consumption is created by sustainable consumers. Sustainable production is the work of sustainable producers.

Moturu Venkata Rajasekhar, Krishnaveer Abhishek Khalla, Dharmavaram Vijaylakshmi, and Nittala Rajyalakshmi call the transition from unsustainable to a sustainable society sustainable development (Figure 1.4) (Rajasekhar, Challa, Vijaylakshmi and Rajyalakshmi 2019: 237).

Sustainable society of the future. (Own w'ork based on Pabian 2015a

FIGURE 1.3 Sustainable society of the future. (Own w'ork based on Pabian 2015a: 185: Pabian 2013a: 199.)

Sustainable development. (Own work based on Rajasekhar. Challa, Vijaylakshmi and Rajyalakshmi 2019

FIGURE 1.4 Sustainable development. (Own work based on Rajasekhar. Challa, Vijaylakshmi and Rajyalakshmi 2019: 237.)

Moturu Venkata Rajasekhar, Krishnaveer Abhishek Khalla, Dharmavaram Vijaylakshmi, and Nittala Rajyalakshmi, citing K. Robert, claim that to create a sustainable society, we must (Rajasekhar, Challa, Vijaylakshmi and Rajyalakshmi 2019: 239):

  • 1. Eliminate our contribution to the systematic increase of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust to the biosphere.
  • 2. Eliminate our contribution to the systematic increase of chemicals and compounds produced by society within the biosphere.
  • 3. Eliminate our contribution to the systematic physical degradation as well as the destruction of nature and the biosphere’s natural processes.
  • 4. Eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their own basic needs.

Projects should contribute to creation and development of a sustainable society. Every manifestation of environmentally friendly and pro-social project activity is a manifestation of care for the natural environment and for human rights and dignity.

Sustainable projects contribute to creation and development of a sustainable society.

Source: Own work.

As we mentioned, the accelerated development of civilization is accompanied by excessive consumption and its constant stimulation. According to Husniy Mohammed A1 Ali, Mian M. Ajmal. Angappa Gunasekaran, and Petri T. Helo, this is a barrier to achieving environmental objectives. Consumerism is a consequence of the commercial operation of the free market and mercantile thinking. Through marketing activities, supported by the reality created by media and by advertising, one can now promote almost anything that will bring profit. Moreover, as research shows, in a world dominated by media and advertising, people have low awareness of environmental advertising compared to other types of advertising. Although social advertisements appear in the media, e.g. calling for reduced consumption of energy, they are relatively few compared to advertisements whose aim is to increase sales of traditional goods (Al Ali, Ajmal, Gunasekaran and Helo 2019: 84-97).

Consumption, not production, is the main source of problems, because only demand gives sense to manufacturing of products and provision of services. If people did not buy material goods, producers would stop making them, because with zero revenue they would only have to pay costs. L. Sklair considers the ideology of mass consumption to be the central problem of our civilization. He sees the cause of excessive consumption as the transition from utilitarianism to hedonism and from satisfaction to insatiable pleasure. C. Campbell tries to figure out how people manage to develop a regular and endless program of desire for new goods and services. According to K. Rassula and S. Hollander, it is external and internal factors that create the conditions for a consumer society, triggering the desire to own more and more goods and services (Dam and Apeldoorn 2008: 262). Mass consumption is a consequence of the behavior of millions of individuals - customers who no longer associate going to a store with just shopping. M. Solomon emphasizes: people around the world are beginning to get used to the materialistic lifestyle and the values of well- known brands that constitute a symbol of prosperity. Shopping is no longer a tedious task that consists in finding the necessary products, but becomes a form of leisure activity. Possession of commonly desired products is becoming a way of expressing one’s status, although it often requires many sacrifices (Solomon 2006: 605). New consumer styles are characterized by the following features (Rogall 2010: 71):

  • 1. striving to stand out from others through status symbols;
  • 2. interest of most people in consumer goods owned by neighbors and friends (a phenomenon known as keeping up with the Jones);
  • 3. desire to have the latest in technology;
  • 4. progressive individualization; and
  • 5. laziness.

In practice, it is often the case that alien styles of consumption are taken over and creolized, i.e. combined with local values.

Most projects contribute to an increase in consumption. The resulting new products, services, and technologies attract the attention of individual and institutional buyers. This leads to purchases, the number of which increases as the attractiveness of the new goods increases. Marketing, in particular the so-called promotional mix, has a very significant impact on the growth of consumption. It is a combination of specific instruments of impact on the environment through communication, which allows organizations to achieve their marketing goals (Pabian 2008: 29). The basic components of promotional mix are: advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion, public relations, personal selling, and digital marketing/social media (Andrews and Shimp 2018: 10). A lot of books have been published worldwide that instruct producers and sellers how to use promotional mix instruments to increase sales and thus consumption of manufactured goods. Their authors include George E. Belch and Michael A. Belch (Belch and Belch 2018); Robyn Blakeman (Blakeman 2018); Jerome M. Juska (Juska 2018); Micael Dahlen, Fredrik Lange, and Terry Smith (Dahlen, Lange and Smith 2010); William F. Arens, Michael F. Weigold, and Christian Arens (Arens, Weigold and Arens 2009).

Growing consumption is not conducive to sustainable development. Production of new goods and services requires consumption of huge amounts of raw materials, energy, water, and other goods, which are beginning to be scarce on Earth. Consequently, one of the important objectives of project activity should be to stabilize and even reduce consumption. The goal is to create goods that are genuinely needed by people and limiting promotional activities that are not always fair. An example is greenwashing and astroturfing. Greenwashing is an unethical behavior that consists in a mix of false or confusing information in promotional messages about the environmental performance of offered products or services and activities of companies, which are aimed at increasing sales and improving the image. D. Martin and J. Schouten quote the following seven sins of green- washing: the sin of hidden trade-off. the sin of no proof, the sin of vagueness, the sin of worshiping false labels, the sin of irrelevance, the sin of lesser of two evils, and the sin of fibbing (Martin and Schouten 2012: 195). Astroturfing, on the other hand, is manifested in organization of seemingly spontaneous campaigns and spreading positive opinions about pseudo-environmentally friendly and pseudo- pro-social products or services. Thanks to the Internet, their range can be practically unlimited.

Sustainable projects have a positive impact on the structure of consumption. They result in sustainable products and services that are offered for sale. In this way, their share in the structure of goods purchased in the market and consumed is increased.

Source: Own work.

The greatest barrier to sustainable development is humans themselves. Many people do nothing to protect the environment and are not socially active because they hope that this will not be noticed and punished (free-rider problem), they care less about the common good than about private property (tragedy of the commons), and it is difficult for them to do anything for the community if it leads to their loss (prisoner’s dilemma) (Pabian 2012a: 127). Most people do not see the environmental and social risks because the perception system with which nature has equipped them has a number of limitations resulting from the construction of the human body. They cannot control these risks either. Egocentrism, conservatism. technocentrism, anthropocentrism, and materialism are widespread value systems that do not promote sustainability. According to F. Belz and K. Peattie, promoting sustainable development requires profound changes in people’s behavior and ways of thinking. They should take the following directions (Belz and Peattie 2010: 84):

a. from egocentric (me first) to altruistic (others first);

b. from conservative to open to change;

c. from indulgent to frugal;

d. from materialist to post-materialist;

e. from technocentric (technology rules) to ecocentric (nature knows best); and

f. from anthropocentric (human centered) to biocentric (all species matter).

The prerequisite for engaging in sustainable development is that human beings should give up their selfishness in exchange for actions that benefit others, acknowledge the superiority of nature over technological achievements, attribute a similar value, and thus also rights, not only to humans but also to the other species living on Earth, give up the pursuit of material goods, understand the changes taking place, and accept progressive solutions.

Sustainable projects require a change of attitude: getting rid of selfishness by stakeholders in favor of actions that benefit people and the environment.

Source: Own work.

Of course, not all people in the world are selfish and distance themselves from sustainable development. It is comforting that for many of them sustainability is a priority, which is reflected not only in their views but also in their actions. An evidence of people’s growing involvement in environmental protection and social issues is organizations operating worldwide with hundreds of thousands of activists. Examples of this type of organization are given in Table 1.2.


Examples of International Environmental Organizations and Agencies Working in the Area of Environmental Education, Sustainable Development, Biodiversity, and Environmental Protection

Organization Name


Greenpeace International

An international non-governmental organization founded in 1971 which works to protect the environment. The organization has branches in 55 countries around the world and is financed entirely by individual donors. It does not accept money from companies or governments to guarantee its independence.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

An international non-governmental environmental organization established in 1961. The WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s environment and create a future in which people will live in harmony with nature. During more than 50 years of its existence, the WW'F has initiated, conducted, and helped implement several thousand nature-conservation projects around the world.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL)

An international non-governmental organization established in 2007. The main objectives of the organization are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the transition to an economy based on renewable energy sources through a free-market approach: a financially neutral fee and a carbon dividend, and to stop subsidizing fossil fuel extraction companies.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

The UN Agenda established by the UN General Assembly Resolution 2997 of 16 December 1972 to conduct UN environmental protection activities and to continuously monitor the state of environment worldwide.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

The world’s largest animal-rights organization. By exposing animal abuse cases, educating the public, and encouraging lifestyle changes, the organization seeks to improve the lives of animals. It is supported by over 5 million people. The organization is known for publishing shocking footage of abuse of animals.


TABLE 1.2 (Continued)

Examples of International Environmental Organizations and Agencies Working in the Area of Environmental Education, Sustainable Development, Biodiversity, and Environmental Protection

Organization Name


International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

An organization active in the field of nature conservation founded in 1948. Its mission is to help societies around the world to protect the integrity and diversity of nature and to achieve environmentally sustainable use of natural resources. The organization brings together 83 countries, over 1.000 governmental and non-governmental agencies, and 11.000 experts and scientists.

Friends of the Earth International

A federation of independent environmental organizations operating around the world. It has about 1.5 million members in 70 countries who campaign on contemporary environmental and social issues while working towards local and global sustainable development.


A non-governmental organization operating in the field of environmental law. It has offices in London. Brussels, and Warsaw. ClientEarth operates in the field of law, science, and public policy and works out legal solutions to key environmental problems. The organization operates in the area of legislation and proper implementation of international and national laws, and monitors compliance with laws. ClientEarth publishes opinions, analyses, and reports, and runs and supports social campaigns.

The Ocean Cleanup

The main goals of The Ocean Cleanup are to draw attention to the pollution

of oceans with trash and to create facilities to help clean the oceans.

Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)

An association of people and communities (eco-villages) that promotes “sustainable plus” life by restoring the condition of the soil and giving more to the natural environment than is taken from it. Members of the network share ideas, information, and technology, thus forming cultural and educational exchange.

Consumers International

An independent international organization dedicated to the protection of consumer rights. Its members are more than 200 consumer organizations from more than 100 countries around the world. The organization works with its partners on issues that have an impact on protection of consumer rights not only at the national level but also, above all, internationally.

International Cooperation and Enforcement Network (ICPEN)

An organization consisting of consumer-protection authorities from 36 countries worldwide. Its objectives are to exchange information on market practices with a cross-border dimension that may have a negative impact on consumers’ interests and to promote cooperation between the authorities responsible for implementing consumer legislation.

Source: Own work based on ekologiczne/

Another positive initiative of people and organizations involved in sustainable development is to establish various types of days and holidays to draw the public’s attention to environmental and social problems and to stimulate them to work towards sustainability. These include global and local initiatives established w'ithin individual countries. The follow ing box show's the key types of days and holidays that promote sustainable development worldwide.


World Wetland Day (2 February)

World Wildlife Day (3 March)

International Anti-Dam Day (14 March)

World Oceans Day (17 March)

International Forest Day (21 March)

World Water Day (22 March)

International Bird Day (1 April)

World Health Day (7 April)

Earth Day (22 April)

International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May)

World No Tobacco Day (31 May)

World Environment Day (5 June)

World Oceans Day (8 June)

World Day to Combat Desertification (17 June)

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (16 September) European Mobility Week (16-22 September)

Day of Wild Fauna. Flora and Natural Habitats (19 September)

World Cleanup Day (21-23 September)

Car-Free Day (22 September)

World Habitat Day (3 October)

World Animal Day (4-11 October)

Source: Own work based on https://w'ww.wfosgw.poznan.


The strong involvement of societies in sustainable development is also evidenced by the various protests organized to defend nature and human rights and dignity. The participants of the protests demand that the climate disaster be averted and social problems be solved. An example of such an international protest was the Youth Climate Strike on 15 March 2019. More than 120 towms and cities protested against global warming and the damage caused by human activities. Meegan Jones points out an important aspect of organization of various types of sustainable events: "Those who stage these events have a social and environmental responsibility to reduce their impact. If all event organizers, from the largest commercial shows to small community fairs, kept sustainability at the core of their planning, the cumulative outcome would be impressive” (Jones 2010: V).

A factor that has been conducive to the implementation of sustainability principles is the IT revolution. Jerry A. Carbo, Viet T. Dao, Steven J. Haase, M. Blake Hargrove, and Ian M. Langella show the usefulness of information technology (IT) in activities that contribute to sustainability. Information systems (IT) are made up of the following components: people (users and specialists), software (programs), hardware (machines and computers), networks (communication networks), data (data and knowledge base), and procedures (IT-driven business processes) (Carbo, Dao, Haase, Hargrove and Langella 2018: 138). An important role in this system is played by the Internet. The Internet has created possibilities to exchange information and maintain contacts in cyberspace that were unknowm in the past. Visualization of the content transmitted over the Internet enables virtual learning of a diverse w'orld and mutual exchange of ideas to a huge number of people. According to Kirsten Kinzer, public participation is particularly important in implementing sustainable development plans. What matters is cooperation and collaboration, which are facilitated by the Internet (Kinzer 2018: 719-728). The Internet improves cooperation during execution of projects. This is particularly important when stakeholders, including project team members, are separated by large distances. The Internet offers unlimited possibilities in sharing information during the project preparation and execution phases. It is also a source of knowledge and exchange of experience concerning projects that have already been completed. The Internet plays another important role. It enables the use the potential of the crow'd to create ideas for new projects, as well as to evaluate and verify existing ideas.

Sustainable projects are easier to prepare, execute, and implement using the Internet.

Source: Own work.

The number of factors that hinder sustainable development, and thus sustainable projects, is far greater than that of stimulators. In this area, of great importance are the national culture, the structure of production in individual countries, the economic situation of countries, the pro-environmental and pro-social law and its restrictiveness, and education in the field of sustainable development. We wfill briefly discuss these factors.

Culture is a collection of values, beliefs, behaviors, customs, and attitudes that distinguish one society from another (Griffin and Pustay 2010: 108). Culture has the following characteristics: it is learned, shared, transgenerational, symbolic, patterned, and adoptive (Doh and Luthans 2018: 124). Because each country has its own culture, societies in different countries respond differently to sustainability ideas and solutions. In various countries, sustainable development encounters more or few'er cultural barriers. Certain cultural characteristics favor the implementation of its principles, while other characteristics inhibit this process. Here are some examples. Research by B. Husted has shown that rich countries with a low degree of distance to power, a low level of preference for male characteristics, and a high preference for individualism are more likely to support environmental sustainability. Egalitarianism, feminism, and individualism facilitate the implementation of the values of sustainability in nations with such characteristics (Husted 2005: 349-371). Also, such aspects of cultures as being future-oriented, innovation-orientated, and human-orientated are allies of sustainability. People’s belief in the possibility to shape the future becomes an important stimulus to take action aimed to eliminate environmental and social risks. Innovation is a source of progress in the area of sustainability. It leads to creation of modern environmentally friendly and pro-social products, services, and technologies. Sustainability is also facilitated by people-oriented cultures. This is because being people-oriented is based on the belief that humans are the greatest value that should be protected now and in the future by eliminating all kinds of threats, including those of an environmental and social nature (Pabian and Pabian 2012: 7).

The culture of the country of origin of project stakeholders has an impact on the sustainability of projects.

Source: Own work.

Involvement of governments and societies in sustainable development depends to a large extent on the structure of the country’s industry, in particular on the share of non-sustainable production sectors in the overall economy. We will explain this using the example of hard coal mining in Poland, which is one of such sectors. In 2018, Polish mines extracted 63.4 million tons of hard coal. They employ about 83,000 workers ( choc-wydobycie-spada.html). Both hard coal mining and employment in the Polish mining industry have been declining for many years, which is a positive trend in terms of sustainability. However, a rapid and complete dismantling of this sector is practically impossible. This is because this would involve closing down the mines, which involves mass layoffs of employees and sale of assets. Environmental goals cannot be achieved by exacerbating social problems. The process of closing down coal mining must therefore be extended over a period of time in which miners will be provided with jobs in other sectors of the economy and in which it can be ensured that energy is obtained from sources alternative to coal. In unsustainable sectors of the economy, such as hard coal mining, an unwillingness to take pro- environmental actions is observed. Workers fear that such actions will negatively affect the development of their sectors, resulting in job losses. Therefore, they may be opposed to the idea of sustainable development. Consequently, the more unsustainable sectors in the structure of a country’s economy, the less interest in sustainable development among decision-makers and thus the less interest in executing sustainable projects.

Non-sustainable sectors of the economy, although they are in great need of sustainable projects, can hinder their development.

Source: Own work.

Another factor influencing sustainable development is the economic situation of business entities and citizens in individual countries. In countries with a high per capita GDP (over USD 40,000-50,000), people enjoy high incomes and can afford to buy environmentally friendly products and services, even though their prices are higher than those of standard goods. Residents of third world countries, where the GDP per capita is on the level of several hundred dollars, cannot afford this kind of expenditure. The same is true for companies. Companies with small revenues and financial problems will not invest in environmentally friendly and pro-social projects unless they are forced to do so by the applicable legislation.

In wealthy societies, it is easier to initiate and finance sustainable projects.

Source: Own work.

The law in force in individual countries has a significant impact on the type and scope of pro-environmental and pro-social projects that are executed. The law on sustainable development can be very liberal or very strict. Its prohibitions and prescriptions can be enforced in a strict or lenient way. All this influences the activity of people and companies in the area of sustainable development. The more sustainability regulations there are and the more stringent and rigorously enforced they are, the more sustainable projects are initiated. People and companies engage in pro-environmental and pro-social activities for fear of legal sanctions.

Strict enforcement of legislation on sustainability encourages initiation and

execution of sustainable projects

Source: Own work.

Education in the field of sustainable development is one of the most important factors that influence achievement of pro-environmental and pro-social goals. Such education should not only be present in curricula at every level of education (kindergarten, primary, secondary, and higher education, or post-graduate education and doctoral studies), but should also continue for the rest of people’s life in accordance with the principles of Lifelong Learning. A properly educated society will be more willing to engage in sustainable development and thus to initiate and execute sustainable projects. As shown by studies concerning students and teachers.

a positive attitude towards sustainable development is particularly demonstrated by those who have been trained in this field (Ayesha, Yousuf, Muhammad and Ali 2020: 250).

Education in the field of sustainable development enriches the knowledge about the environmental and social risks, and the ways to prevent them, and shapes pro-environmental and pro-social attitudes, which encourage initiation and execution of sustainable projects.

Source: Own work.

Research carried out worldwide in various sectors of the economy has revealed many factors that negatively or positively affect sustainable development, and thus the initiation and execution of projects in this area. We will review them briefly later in this chapter.

Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg discovered that companies announce programs aimed to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and, as time goes by, they return to the "business as usual” approach. In their opinion, climate change initiatives go through the following three phases (Wright and Nyberg 2019: 20):

  • 1. Phase I - Management presents the problem of climate change in internal and external forums as an urgent social and business issue and indicates how their company can contribute to solving it.
  • 2. Phase II - Managers try to translate their declarations into practical actions.
  • 3. Phase III - The company slows down the initiative and prioritizes financial considerations instead, thus reaching the “business as usual” state (such situations may coincide with a period of weaker corporate performance or changes in top positions).

Research carried out by Robert G. Eccles and Svetlana Klimenko has shown that business leaders face a serious barrier to sustainable development activities, which is shareholder resistance. Business leaders believe that efforts to promote sustainable development are contrary to the expectations of shareholders, which does not encourage managers’ activity in this area. However, the situation is improving over time. Interviews with 70 senior managers from 43 global investment firms show that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues are currently their key concern. Moreover, corporations will soon start to be accounted for by their shareholders for their activities in the ESG area. In 2006, when the UN "Principles of Responsible Investing” were announced, 63 investment firms (asset owners, asset portfolio managers, and service providers) managing $6.5 trillion of assets signed a commitment to include ESG in their investment decisions. By April 2018, the number of signatories of this commitment increased to 1,715 and the value of the assets they manage - to 81.7 trillion dollars (Eccles and Klimenko 2020: 128).

Research conducted in Poland in the brewing industry has shown that internal rather than external barriers are a greater obstacle to implementation of sustainable development/social responsibility strategies. The most important internal barriers are: the human factor, namely employees’ mentality (73.8% of the respondents), the costs of implementation of investment projects (60.5%), lack of employees’ commitment (52.7%), reluctance and resistance to new solutions (45.7%), technical and technological deficiencies (inadequate equipment and technologies) (44.9%), inappropriate system of communication between departments and employees (39.5%), lack of ideas for development (29.3%), reporting costs (20.3%), and no obstacles (1.6%). The following factors were indicated as the most important external barriers: lack of interest (cooperation) on the part of stakeholders (47.70% of respondents), laws (45.30%), competitive pressure in the sector (43.80%), lack of demand for products (drop in profits, 43.00%), taxes, customs (36.7%), political conditions (27.7%), lack of access to new technologies (25.4%), climate conditions, weather changes (15.6%), takeovers of e.g. of suppliers (12.9%), and lack of obstacles (5.1%) (Jazwinska 2016: 159-161).

Dimple Bhandari. Rajesh Kr Singh, and Suresh K. Garg emphasize that organizations face a number of barriers while implementing cleaner technologies. On the basis of literature reviews and experts' opinions, four categories of barriers, namely technical information barriers, operational and strategic barriers, financial and economic barriers, and human barriers are identified. As it turned out, financial and economic barriers have become the biggest obstacle to the implementation of cleaner technologies (Bhandari, Kr Singh and Garg 2019: 156-167).

Research in the energy sector has shown that most organizations have difficulties in implementing sustainable changes. The main factor facilitating such changes is effective and transparent communication. The main barriers to sustainable energy are fear and flexibility (A1 Ali, Ajmal, Gunasekaran and Helo 2019: 84-97).

On the basis of their research. Walter Leal Filho, Antonis Skouloudis. Luciana Londero Brandli, Amanda Lange, Salvia Lucas Veiga, and Avila Lez Rayman- Bacchus have identified barriers to sustainable procurement practices in higher education. They specified the following types of barriers: tending toward a narrow operational more than a strategic focus, organizational inertia, resource constraints, and lack of implementation guidelines. The authors emphasize that developing and implementing sustainable procurement policies and practices require a reflexive approach (Filho, Skouloudis, Brandli, Lange, Veiga and Rayman-Bacchus 2019: 1267-1280).

Sustainability in Projects and Activities of Project Teams

Sustainability can be present in project activities in two main areas. The first is the object of the project, i.e., products, services, and campaigns created as a result of project activities. For example, the aim of the project is to develop the concept of concept and design a new product. This product can be designed as sustainable, partially sustainable, or unsustainable. Sustainable products created as a result of project activities are described in Chapter 4.


Presence of Sustainability in Project Activities

Project Organization

Object of the Project


Partly Sustainable


Sustainable organization




Partly sustainable organization




Unsustainable organization




Source: Own work.

The second area that can be covered by sustainability is project organization. A project organization is a project team consisting of a manager and his or her subordinates, whose task is to execute the project. For such a project to be created, members of the project team need physical resources in the form of materials, equipment, and means of transport. In addition, the project team must have access to some premises. These may be the offices where it will conduct its business. All these resources, both human and physical, can be unsustainable, partially sustainable, or sustainable. The profiles of a sustainable project manager and members of his or her team are presented in Chapter 2. Sustainable physical resources are discussed in Chapter 4. Having people and physical resources is not enough to complete a project. The project team must start operating, i.e., working on the project. This work can be done in a sustainable, partially sustainable, or unsustainable way. Chapter 3 explains what sustainable project activities are.

As follows from the above statements, sustainability can be present in different areas of project activity. Table 1.3 shows nine possible cases.

From the point of view of sustainability, the least favorable option is represented by field 9. In this case, sustainability is not present in any project activity. Both the object of the project and the project organization are not sustainable and do not contribute in any way to sustainable development. The most desirable, model solution to be pursued by project initiators and executors is shown in field 1. A sustainable project organization carries out a project that results in products, services, and campaigns that are also sustainable. This concept is presented in more detail in Table 1.4.

As Table 1.4 shows, a sustainable project organization is made up of sustainable human and physical resources. Work on a project is also carried out in a sustainable manner. Between the least and the most advantageous solution, from the standpoint of sustainability, there are intermediate options (fields 2-8). They reflect situations where sustainability is present in at least one of the areas under consideration, which are the project organization and the object of the project.

As one can easily guess, field 1 in Table 1.3 corresponds to our 4 x SUSTAINABILITY IN PROJECT ACTIVITIES concept. This is, as we have already mentioned, a standard that is hard to achieve but that should be pursued. Project teams, however, do not face the “all or nothing” dilemma, which in our case means “to completely conform to this standard or to completely ignore sustainability


Concept of Sustainable Project Organization


Sustainable Project Organization


Sustainable goods needed to execute the project

Sustainable project team members

Sustainable construction infrastructure used by the project team

Sustainable furnishing of the premises where the project activity is carried out

Sustainable equipment used in project activities

Sustainable products and services as a result of project activities

Sustainable Project Activity (Work on the Project)

Source: Own work based on Pabian 2017b: 12.

in projects.” As shown in Table 1.3, they have various other possibilities of introducing sustainability into projects and their execution (fields 2-8). The options, symbolized by fields 2-8, contain more or less sustainability, which means that any project can make even a small contribution to sustainable development.

Management plays a priority role in projects and project activities that take sustainability into account. Whether and to what extent sustainability is present in a project and in a project organization depends on the decisions made in the management process. The issue of sustainable project management is discussed in detail in Chapter 3 of this book.

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