Pro-Environmental and Pro-Social Organization of Project Activities

Organization of project activities is the responsibility of the project team leader. Each member of the team also organizes various activities as a part of the tasks assigned to him or her. In order for this organizational activity to be pro-environmental and prosocial, both the manager and the team members should be sustainable in the aspects we described in Chapter 2. The project team is an organization. Organizations have always played an important role in economies and contributing to the development of civilization. According to Morgen Witzel, organization - that is, a group of people brought together for a common purpose - is an essential feature of human civilization (Witzel 2017: 205). Companies should integrate social, environmental and economic concerns into all areas of the organizations (Epstein and Buhovac 2014: 95).

Areas of Sustainable Organization of Project Activities

Sustainable organization of project activities is divided into the three basic areas of activity shown in Figure 3.7.

As can be seen from Figure 3.7, organization in the sustainability concept is a structured sequence of events. First, the organizational structure of the project

Areas of sustainable organization of project activities

FIGURE 3.7 Areas of sustainable organization of project activities. (Own u'ork.) team is created. Then human and physical resources are assigned to this structure. The next step is to set this system in motion thanks to the work aimed to execute the project.

Sustainability in Organizational Structures of Proiect Teams

The composition of a project team and its structure must be determined in the initial phase of the project work, preferably during preparation of the project charter. The structure of the project team can be simple or complex. This depends on the type of the project and the scope and complexity of the activities it is composed of. If a project involves organization of a banquet for 100 people, the project manager either organizes it himself or herself or involves at most one or two people in the project. The organizational structure of such a project team takes the simple form of a linear structure consisting of three jobs: a manager and two employees directly reporting to him or her. The situation changes dramatically if the aim of the project is to build a solar power plant. In such a case, the organizational structure of the project team is much larger and more complex. A project of this type requires cooperation with many specialists, institutions, and companies.

The following are some of the types of organizational structures that can be useful in project execution.

Isomorphic Organizational Structure (According to the Object)

A project is divided into tasks. They are assigned to members of the project team for execution. The project manager coordinates the entirety of the project.

Expert Organizational Structure (According to the Type)

It is a variation of a matrix structure. There is a double subordination of the project team members: to the operations manager and the specialist-consultant.

Collective Organizational Structure

In this structure, there is no single leader and no clear division of tasks. Decisions are made in groups (collectively).

Surgical Organizational Structure

The team leader acts in a way that resembles a surgeon performing a surgery. He or she makes decisions and gives orders. The remaining members of the project team assist the manager by performing various types of auxiliary work.

Territorial Organizational Structure

This structure applies where different parts of a project need to be carried out in different locations away from each other.

Mixed (Hybrid) Organizational Structure

This can be a combination of an isomorphic and territorial structure: the managers responsible for executing parts of the project in a given area divide them into tasks and assign them to their subordinate team members for execution.

The organizational structure reflects the division of labor within the project team. The division of labor is based on specialization. It consists in assigning a narrow scope of tasks to an employee or a group of employees, which makes it possible to achieve greater efficiency. This is how Richard L. Daft and Dorothy Marcic see this problem: organizations perform a wide variety of tasks. A fundamental principle is that work can be performer more efficiently if employees are allowed to specialize. Work specialization is the degree to which organizational tasks are subdivided into separate jobs (Daft and Marcic 2013: 235). The tasks assigned to an employee must of course be consistent with his or her qualifications and professional experience.

Sustainability can be incorporated into the organizational structures of project teams in two ways. First, sustainable employees can be assigned to all the posts identified in these structures. In such a case, the pro-environmental and pro-social members of the team execute the project in accordance with the principles of sustainability. Consequently, there is no need to modify the structures in which they work. If, on the other hand, the members of the project team are not sustainable, then certain modifications must be made to the adopted structures. In the case of small projects and small project teams, one of the members should be formally charged with the task of taking care of the sustainability of the entire project. In the case of large projects, a sustainability specialist post or department can be created within the organizational structure. They should report directly to the project manager. Their task is not only to monitor and evaluate the sustainability of the project work being performed, but also to provide advice in this area of activity.

The members of the project team, located within its organizational structure, are assigned specific tasks to be performed. Written lists of these tasks, their descriptions, and instructions must include guidelines for their execution in accordance with the principles of sustainable development. In many cases, this is not necessary, because pro-environmental and pro-social solutions have been adopted as early as at the planning and design stage, e.g. purchase of environmentally friendly machines or organic food, replacement of light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, or installation of industrial filters on stacks.

Functioning of the organizational structure of a project team involves drawing up and circulating documents. The documents produced when applying for project funding and during project execution is often so extensive that it contradicts all the principles of sustainable development. Project documents often comprise hundreds or even thousands of printed pages. Their production consumes huge amounts of paper and energy required for their printing and the operation of office equipment. Also, a storage area is needed for the documents, which needs to be illuminated and heated during the winter months. Producing such a large number of documents requires a huge amount of work, which could be used in a more productive way. The following box presents ways to reduce paper waste during drawing up and circulation of documents in the organizational structures of project teams.


Replacing paper-based document circulation by electronic circulation

Archiving documents in electronic form

Not printing e-mails and archiving them electronically

Reducing printing of documents on paper to a minimum

Proofreading documents in the computer, rather than printed documents

Using environmentally friendly paper

Using paper of lower weight (g/m2)

Reducing the number of document copies

Reducing the format of the paper on which documents are printed

Printing two or more pages of a document on a single sheet of paper

Making double-sided prints

Using smaller font and smaller line spacing

Using smaller page margins

Minimizing paper waste

Source: Own work.

Organization Aimed to Acquire and Allocate Sustainable Resources to Proiect Teams

The organizational structure of a project team needs to be filled with people and resources to function properly. The most important resource of every project team is people. Sustainable team members are found in a recruitment process. An offer to work on a project team is addressed to specific individuals - specialists in a given field or it is made public and the best applicants are selected. As mentioned earlier, it is important that the people employed on a project team are environmentally and socially sensitive and ready to act for sustainable development. The work allocated to team members should be in line with their qualifications and professional experience and should be suitable for their physical and mental abilities. The issues related to appointing a manager and recruiting project team members are discussed in Chapter 2.

One should keep in mind that productivity of project team is the greater, the better their work is adapted to their innate talents and skills. Moreover, the smaller the differences in the suitability of the members of such a group for specific tasks, the better the effects of teamwork. Attention must also be paid to proper use of the skills and experience of each team member.

Collaboration between members of a project team is very important. This is how Ward Crawford sees its essence: collaboration is not an activity performed on its own, for its own sake: rather, it is undertaken to facilitate something else of describable purpose and desired outcome. That may be the implementation of a project or change program, the development of policies or standards, the creation of an environment suitable for the accumulation of knowledge, or the support of innovation (Crawford 2017: 150).

Every project team needs specific resources to carry out its activities. These resources should not be identified only with office equipment (e.g. office furniture, computer equipment, photocopiers, and telephones) and office supplies (e.g. paper, pens, clips, envelopes, etc.). Projects are often carried out that require specialized equipment and even machines and production equipment. An example is a project aimed to make a Martian rover, which will be submitted for the international University Rover Challenge competition. To build this complex and technically advanced piece of equipment, the design team must have different materials, components, and machines at its disposal. Their more important types are shown in Table 3.19.

These resources should not be in excess, i.e., in quantities exceeding the actual needs of the project team. Also, their technical and operational parameters must be properly considered. For example, it makes no sense to purchase a large energy- intensive photocopier to make color copies if there is no need for them during project execution.

The acquisition of resources and their distribution among the members of the team is a structured activity. First, it is necessary to determine the need for specific articles, then to draw up an order, send it to the vendor, receive the delivery, pay the amount due, and distribute the delivered products among the team members. The products ordered should be sustainable, i.e., they must not harm the environment or people. The following factors may prevent the purchase of sustainable products:

  • • lack of sustainable equivalents for certain equipment and products in the market;
  • • very high prices for goods of this kind; and
  • • lack of sustainable products in the local or national market and the need to import them.

TABLE 3.19

Materials, Components, and Machines Needed to Make a Martian Rover



Machinery and Equipment

ProfilesSheet metal Pipes

Metal plates Composites

Bolts, nuts, washers, and pins


Ball joints

Drive motors Electric actuators for the manipulator Servomechanisms Power supply system Directional antennas Cameras

Electronic circuits Microcontrollers Sensors Computers

3D printers Milling machines Turning lathes Welders Benders Rollers

Precision water/laser cutting machines

In many cases, team members use the resources of the organization where they are employed to carry out a project. As a result, there is no need to make numerous purchases. Whether they are conventional or sustainable resources, depends on the level of sustainability of their organization. If it is an unsustainable organization, they have unsustainable resources at its disposal. If the organization has achieved a high degree of sustainability, they will use pro-environmental and pro-social goods.

Organization of Sustainable Project Activities

The organizational activities that took place in the two previous phases have led to a situation where the members of the project team have the necessary resources and are ready to carry out the work according to the schedule. Sustainable performance of work on the project team is aimed at eliminating activities that threaten human life and health, saving materials, and ensuring ecological operation of machinery and equipment. The box below shows different possibilities to contribute to sustainable development when performing work.


Using environmentally friendly materials

Reduced consumption of materials

Using materials according to their intended use

Following the instructions for use of materials

Using durable, economical, and safe equipment

Shutting down or hibernating equipment if not used for a long time

Activating auto-shutdown modes

Using environmentally friendly programs

Following equipment operating instructions

Periodic inspections of equipment

Periodic maintenance of equipment based on environmentally friendly materials Repairing equipment using environmentally friendly materials Disconnecting chargers from the mains when devices have been charged Work in daylight (saving electricity)

Sorting trash and waste

Source: Own work.

Work carried out on the project team should be even and rhythmic. This involves an even distribution of effort during the work, as well as adjusting its rhythm to the rhythm of the body. Wherever possible, human effort must be replaced by machinery and equipment. It is also important to eliminate unnecessary movements. Each member of the project team is bound by the principle of physical order, which is to keep the workplace tidy.

Every country has some labor regulations. For example, in Poland their collection is called the Labor Code. This Code is adapted to comply with the European Union directives and amended by the Ministry of Family, Labor, and Social Policy. It contains provisions on the following issues:

  • 1. general provisions;
  • 2. employment relationship;
  • 3. remuneration for work and other benefits;
  • 4. employer’s and employee’s obligations
  • 5. material responsibility of employees;
  • 6. work time;
  • 7. employee leave;
  • 8. workers’ rights related to parenthood;
  • 9. employing underage persons;
  • 10. health and safety at work;
  • 11. collective bargaining agreements;
  • 12. handling disputes concerning claims pertaining to the employment relationship;
  • 13. responsibility for violations of employees’ rights;
  • 14. statute of limitations on claims; and
  • 15. final provisions.

Compliance with labor laws is the responsibility of every project manager. The members of a project team either are full-time employees of the companies where the projects are being carried out or perform work on the basis of contract of mandate or contract of specific work. Regardless of the form of employment, it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure compliance with labor laws. Child labor, forced labor (e.g. use of mental and physical coercion), use of corporal punishment, verbal abuse of people, overloading with work, and many other principles contained in the legislation are unacceptable. When organizing work in a project team, there must be no discrimination against its members on the basis of nationality, age, gender, or religion. If there are people with disabilities on the team, they must be provided with appropriate working conditions. Equal opportunities for all, respect for diversity, and cooperation based on trust are important demands that should be respected when managing a project team.

In a sustainable project organization, it is not enough to comply with labor law. Pro-social programs should be implemented that go beyond the scope of existing legislation.

Source: Own work.

In the following section, we recommend pro-social solutions that go beyond standard labor legislation and should be implemented in sustainable project organizations.


Complying with labor law Implementing “zero-accident” systems Creating a friendly “green” working environment

Age management (making proper use of the potential of different age groups)

Implementing “work-life balance” programs

Introducing flexible working hours

Using remote working

Implementing health promotion programs

Complying with work ethics principles

Environmental and social education

Source: Own work.

“Zero accidents” is not only a theoretical concept, but also a state that a project manager can achieve by properly organizing work on his or her team. It goes beyond the standard set of occupational health and safety regulations. Prevention, accident-free work instructions, information campaigns, and training are just some elements of a system intended to prevent accidents during execution of projects. One must keep in mind that project team members work not only at desks. They are also in places that pose a threat to human life and health (e.g. laboratories, production buildings, construction sites, and warehouses) and use various types of materials, machines, and equipment.

When organizing the work of a project team, the manager should take care of the environment in which it takes place. CBRE experts have examined the factors that are most important for employees to feel healthy and happy at work. According to the CBRE report titled "How We Want to Work,” a well-arranged space that filled with plants and properly lit is the most important: three out of four people admitted that these factors make them feel more comfortable. A friendly “green” workplace makes as many as two out of three respondents feel healthier (Koprowska 2019: 136).

When defining tasks and assigning work to team members, the project manager should aim to properly use the potential of different age groups. This is called “age management.” For example, older employees may have more knowledge of and experience in sustainability, which they will share during their work and training.

Work on a project team should be organized so as to ensure that its members maintain a work-life balance. Therefore, it is worthwhile to implement work- life balance programs. They involve introduction of flexible working hours and remote working. Team members with flexible working hours do not start or stop working at fixed hours, but work in intervals set by the team leader. In the case of remote working, employees work in their place of residence and contact their manager via the Internet. These systems are particularly beneficial to parents of small children.

Health-promotion programs for employees play an important role, especially in the case of large, long-term projects. Project team members should be fit, full of energy, and happy. This makes it possible to eliminate or significantly reduce inefficient presence at work. There are many reasons for inefficiency: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, excessive emotional and mental strain, smoking. drinking alcohol, drug consumption, stress, overwork, sedentary lifestyle, and adverse climatic conditions. Taking care of the health of member of a project team can significantly contribute to its success. The manifestation of such care is providing team members with medical and psychological care, access to recreational and sports facilities, offering weight loss programs, healthy food, and relaxing massages, and organizing sports events. Physical activity is very important. Sport ensures a healthy lifestyle, strengthens, and promotes tolerance and mutual understanding. Encouraging project team members to ride bicycles rather than drive cars to commute is a good example of mobilizing them for more physical activity. Sports events can also be the subject of separate pro-social projects, such as organization of sports competitions for people with disabilities and sports activities for seniors.

Health-promotion campaigns should not be a cluster of random actions. To avoid this, “health audits” should be carried out. They help team leaders can assess whether the project activities are not in danger of a breakdown due to team members taking sick leave. Health audits provide full knowledge about the health needs of team members. Only on their basis can the right decisions be made about shaping pro-health programs.

A very important problem that has to be taken into account when organizing project activities is work ethics. Research shows that people are willing to act unethically if it benefits them. In such situations, the human mind can skillfully justify morally questionable behavior. We often look for such excuses as: everyone does it, I only follow my superior’s orders, we do it for the greater good, this is not stealing, or they deserved it. The increase in unethical behavior is accompanied by high uncertainty, working late, and excessive intellectual burden. It is also facilitated by long days and series of difficult goals. Research shows that people are more likely to act unethically when they are in a hurry. In an experiment, students stopped much less often to help a stranger lying on the ground when they were in a hurry to give a lecture in class about, ironically, the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan (Kouchaki and Smith 2020: 141-142). A manager will have fewer ethical problems during a project if he or she selects his or her team members properly. The profile of a sustainable project team member is described in Chapter 2. In that chapter, we also explain how to recruit him or her. Codes of ethics are helpful in shaping ethical attitudes. Drawing up comprehensive codes of ethics is justified in the case of large, long-term projects that involve a significant number of executors. They promote establishing relationships based on honesty, trust, respect for employees’ rights, and compliance with law. In the case of a smaller project, the manager may prepare only a concise list of ethical conduct rules and make them known to the team members. It is better to have one sheet of paper with such rules written on it than to ignore this problem. This is a signal that the manager attaches great importance to ethical conduct and will enforce it during the project.

It is important to continuously shape the environmental and social awareness of the project team members. This takes place not only during training sessions and workshops, but also through participation in and initiation of various types of campaigns, including charity ones. Their purpose may be to clean forests, to collect waste, to plant trees, to collect food, or to take care of animals. Volunteers, who may also be members of the project team, play a special role in conducting charity campaigns.

Educational trips, conferences, as well as exhibitions in the form of showcases or stands, located in the work places of project teams, help shape environmental and social awareness. Every team member has the right to post some interesting information on them about sustainable development (e.g. messages, press clippings, and announcements about planned charity activities). An environmental and social guide encouraging commitment to sustainable development can also be prepared and provided to project stakeholders.

Caring for project team members and providing them with pro-social working conditions can be expressed in many other undertakings. Examples of these are creation of social funds or ensuring participation in cultural and entertainment events.

Pro-social initiatives can involve project team members in two ways. They may be initiated by the project manager and concern only members of his or her team or can be implemented at the level of the organization of which the team is a part.

Organization of Meetings during Project Execution

An important aspect of the functioning of project teams is organization of meetings. They can cover a wide range of issues: reporting on progress of work, problems disrupting the execution of projects, crisis situations, personnel issues, schedules, and other topics related to the current activities of the project team. Proper organization of meetings strengthens the position and authority of the team leader and brings many tangible benefits.

Here are a few comments on organization of meetings during project execution.

Meetings should be organized only when a significant need arises. Such need may result from a problem that has to be resolved or important information that has to be shared. Meetings organized without a good reason are considered by project team members to be unnecessary and a waste of time.

Before a meeting is organized, its purpose must be identified. Only with a clearly and precisely defined goal can competent participants be selected. These should be the persons who are concerned, have the authority to decide on the matter in question, and will be responsible for implementation of the decisions reached.

Meetings should preferably be organized between 10 AM and 1 PM. In this period of time, most people demonstrate the so-called efficiency peak. It is also useful to specify the time of the end of the meeting or its duration. This allows the participants to properly organize their activities to be conducted later.

The room in which the meeting is to be held should be suitable for the number of participants and the equipment provided there (e.g. microphone, projector, and air- conditioning) should be checked before the meeting.

The best way to conduct meetings is to have a round table without a dominant position. Locating participants one next to another also contributes to reducing the tense atmosphere. We do not recommend placing participants face to face, e.g. at a long rectangular table, which may adversely affect the atmosphere of the meeting.

The following rules should apply during the meeting/conference:

  • • participants are required to respect the established agenda;
  • • participants’ presentations and statements should be short, factual, and reliable;
  • • participants have to prepare for their presentations and discussions;
  • • participants should not deviate from the subject of the meeting;
  • • only one person should speak at any time;
  • • only the moderator may interrupt presentations or statements;
  • • personal attacks are unacceptable; and
  • • the atmosphere of the meeting should be free and trusting.

Meeting participants often demonstrate different behavior. It is advisable for the project manager to be able to recognize different types of behavior and react appropriately to them. A blabber should be reminded of time constraints and his or her continuing speech should be interrupted with questions to which only unambiguous answers are possible. A shy person may have good ideas, but will not reveal them without the help of the moderator. He or she needs to be helped to overcome his or her shyness. A stubborn team member criticizes the decisions and statements of the moderator. Such a person should be asked to give a concrete answer to the question, "What would you do in that case?”

Another important issue is to attract the attention of the meeting participants. Here are some useful techniques:

  • • using audiovisual aids (slides, films, and charts);
  • • changing the speaking technique (by alternating the use of loud and quiet voice, and changing the pace of speech);
  • • asking questions during the speech (listeners’ attention increases because anyone can be required to give an answer);
  • • making provocative statements (they may cause aggression among the listeners, which must be neutralized later on); and
  • • maintaining eye contact with the participants.

Meetings should result in constructive conclusions. These can be summarized in a short report. This is not a matter of taking long and laborious minutes of the meeting that reflects its course and the subsequent statements of the participants, but about writing a conclusion implementation sheet. It should contain the most important conclusions reached at the meeting and the actions to be taken.

Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville encourage project managers to have frank discussions with their subordinates during meetings. It is not enough to draw up a schedule of meetings during which team members will report on the measures and effects. What is needed is to use such meetings for a frank discussion about their activities. This will allow the manager to react quickly to underperformance and decide what to do in such situations (Ashkenas and Manville 2019: 183).

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