Episode 185 – Redefining Project Success through Sustainable Project Management

Original Air Date

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33 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 185 – Redefining Project Success through Sustainable Project Management

About This Episode

Dr. Joel Carboni

Projects are instrumental in defining an organization’s vision for a more sustainable future. We are talking with Dr. Joel Carboni about Green Project Management and aligning project management practices with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Green Project Management® (GPM) or Sustainable Project Management is the application of methods, tools, and techniques to achieve a stated objective while considering the project outcome’s entire lifecycle to ensure a net positive environmental, social, and economic impact. While acknowledging the value of SDGs in highlighting global problems, Dr. Carboni underscores the need to also address root causes. He offers insight into how project managers can consider the impact of their work beyond project completion and how to adopt a total asset lifecycle project perspective.

Join us as we explore the barriers hindering the adoption of increased sustainability objectives, (including stakeholder opposition) and we ask Joel what questions a project manager should ask before initiating a project to ensure alignment with sustainability goals. Joel highlights the evolving role of project managers in addressing sustainability challenges and the call for a fundamental shift in how project success is defined and achieved, with an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility alongside economic considerations.

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment, and he has over 25 years of experience in various areas of project management. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the US and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action, and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni created the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management.


Favorite Quotes from Episode

"We’re not being taught to think outside the box of initiate to close. It’s what is the impact of our work, and what happens beyond handover? What happens at the end of the asset’s lifecycle? So when we look at green projects, it’s are you taking a total asset lifecycle focus? And that’s what we have to do."

Joel Carboni

"But you’re not thinking about the impact analysis, the risk to the project, but the impact of the project to the greater community. We’re not taught to do that. We’re taught just to think about risks to the project. What about other types of risks, other types of impact? And if we have that different kind of mindset, we can actually affect a much broader change."

Joel Carboni

The podcast by project managers for project managers. Projects are instrumental in defining an organization’s vision for a more sustainable future. Dr. Joel Carboni talks about Sustainable Project Management, and the goal to achieve a stated objective while considering the project outcome’s entire lifecycle to ensure a net positive environmental, social, and economic impact. 

Table of Contents

02:23 … Green Project Management
03:41 … Multifaceted Sustainability
04:42 … The UN Sustainable Development Goals
08:35 … Green vs. Sustainable Projects
09:51 … The Lifecycle Impact of Projects
12:09 … Barriers to Sustainability Adoption
13:25 … Questions to Ask on a Project Kickoff
15:40 … Ren Love: Projects of the Past
17:49 … Changing Role of the Project Manager
18:54 … Raising Awareness
20:54 … How to Influence Stakeholders
22:47 … How to Evaluate Impact
24:30 … PRiSM Project Delivery Methodology
26:02 … The P5
27:42 … P5 in Action
30:24 … Project Managers can Affect Change
31:37 … Contact Joel
32:18 … Closing

JOEL CARBONI: We’re not being taught to think outside the box of initiate to close.  It’s what is the impact of our work, and what happens beyond handover?  What happens at the end of the asset’s lifecycle?  So when we look at green projects, it’s are you taking a total asset lifecycle focus?  And that’s what we have to do.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m Wendy Grounds.  With me in the studio are Bill Yates and our sound guy, Danny Brewer.  We’re so excited that you’re joining us, and we have a really interesting conversation today.  We’re talking about Green Project Management.

Our guest is Dr. Joel Carboni.  He holds a Ph.D. in sustainable development and environment, and he has over 25 years of experience in various areas of project management including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education.  In addition to serving as president emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM, Green Project Management.  And he’s the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace initiative and the Anti-Corruption Call to Action.  And he’s a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

BILL YATES:  SDG is a Sustainable Development Goal.  We’ll hear from Dr. Carboni that he actually worked with the United Nations to define those 17.  Just some quick examples of some of those.  One of those is climate action; another is clean water; another is no poverty.  A final example, quality education.  So those are some of the sustainable development goals that we’ll refer to.

Also Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM project delivery methodology.  We’ll make reference to that and the P5 standard for sustainability in project management.  He’s written training programs on green and sustainable project management that are offered to more than 145 countries.  He’s the lead author of the book Sustainable Project Management, and he is a well-traveled man.  We are fortunate to catch up with him and get to talk to him today.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Joel.  Welcome to Manage This.

JOEL CARBONI:  Thank you.  It’s good to be here.

Green Project Management

WENDY GROUNDS:  We are looking forward to getting into this topic.  I’ve been watching your website and been looking at Green Project Management for a while.  And I’ve always said, “Hey, I want to have Joel on the podcast.”  So I appreciate you being here.  Now, you’ve done a lot of work in sustainability.  You established Green Project Management.  Can you tell us a little bit more about your organization?

JOEL CARBONI:  Yeah, sure.  So GPM, Green Project Management, we’re a social enterprise.  And that sits in between a nonprofit and a for-profit company.  So what makes us unique is that a large portion of our income or revenue is redirected into social and environmental good.  So we don’t just make a profit, we try to funnel that back into the projects and for social good.  I started GPM as an idea back in 2009 and did so on a small side table in my bedroom, the idea that projects could be the delivery mechanism for sustainable development.  And since that time, we’ve grown year by year.  And we offer tools and methods, certification for people, our most popular being the GPM-b™, and also our organizational sustainability assessment model and other tools.  So we’re quite happy with the growth we’ve seen and what we’ve become.

Multifaceted Sustainability

WENDY GROUNDS:  Many people when they hear about sustainability, they just think about environmental issues.  Tell us a little bit more about what are all the issues of sustainability and how you teach that.

JOEL CARBONI:  That’s a good question.  So sustainability is multifaceted.  We work with a lot of organizations, and I think it’s a little bit irresponsible for organizations who just focus on net zero.  We hear that a lot.  Net zero by 2050 or, you know, that aspect of sustainability is really all they focus on.  We can’t ignore human rights, which is a core concept of sustainability, as well as a fair and just economy.  We have to focus on all these at once.  So keeping all these balls up in the air, it’s a wide spectrum. 

And so we have to figure out how do we actually address this.  That’s why we go always back to projects because projects address the economy.  They address change, and they employ a wide range of people and have an effect on the environment.  So we have the ability to address all these different factors by still doing good with our projects.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

BILL YATES:  We are going to reference an episode that we had in the past.  It was Episode 120.  That was the first time that I got exposed to this idea of the 17 United Nations SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals.  We had Karen Thompson and Nigel Williams as our guests, discussing responsible project management.  Let’s bring these back up for those who are not as familiar with those 17 SDGs.  Remind us what they are and why they’re important to a project manager when it comes to creating value.

JOEL CARBONI:  Sure.  That’s a good topic.  You know, the SDGs, I can say that I love them, and also I hate them.  And fun fact, I actually helped write them.  So, you know, I do have extensive experience, and my Ph.D. thesis was actually on the MDGs, which preceded them before that.  So I’ve been working with SDGs now for a long, long time.

The problem with SDGs, if I could start there, is that they’re not written for us to take action as people.  They’re written for governments and for nations to say, hey, how do you fit into this puzzle, and how can you set targets and goals to address this in your context; right?  For example, the first one is end poverty in all forms.  Great.  You know, but poverty is really an economic decision.  We could do this if we wanted to, but they don’t address the root cause about why poverty exists in the first place. 

Why does poverty exist?  So in the targets and goals, they say we have several targets to meet in terms of ending poverty.  It should just be, let’s just end poverty.  Can we all agree and just work towards that?  It doesn’t tell you why it exists or what social constructs are put in place to maintain poverty and to keep the different cast where they are.  It’s kind of a mess.

So the SDGs are good in a sense that they bring and they highlight problems that we have to be addressing as a whole planet.  But it doesn’t address root cause.  And that’s really what we have to figure out as project managers.  What can we impact with our work?  Right?  If you break it down into small chunks, okay, we employ people.  Are we ensuring that they’re paid a livable wage?  These types of things are really important.

I’ll give you an example.  I was giving a lecture several years ago in the south of France.  So the SDGs first came out.  So this is back in like 2016 or so.  And I was giving a talk to probably about 300 students.  I thought they were students in the room.  This was a university.  I had this big football, or soccer ball we call it in the U.S., in my hand, and it had the SDGs on it.  So I tossed it up at the crowd, said hey, the first one that comes to you, tell me, what does that mean to you and your work?

And this guy caught it.  He looked at it, and he was trying to make sense of it.  He goes, “It just doesn’t relate to me.”  And it was about inequality.  And I said, “Okay, tell me, what exactly do you do?”  He goes, “Well, I’m a project manager, but I work in agile. We develop software for the airline industry.”  “Okay. Well, tell me, do you build it all here in France?”  And he goes, “Well, most of it.”  I said, “Okay, what do you not build here?”  “Well, some of it we outsource to different places.”  And I said, “Okay, where?”  He said, “Some goes to Pakistan.” 

I said, “Okay, pause right there.  Tell me, do you select the vendors yourself?  Are you in that selection committee?  Are you part of that?”  “Well, yeah.”  “Okay, is any of your criteria ensuring that the people on the other end, your vendors, are paid a livable wage or work in healthy environments?”  “No.”  “Okay, what are your criteria for selecting a vendor?”  “Cheapest price.”

And there you go; right?  We’re part of the problem, but we could be part of the solution if we put KPIs and measures into our selection criteria for vendors that actually address that issue.  So once I made that connection, he went, “Oh, now I see.”  And he started looking at all of them going, there’s inroads to all these through our work.  I’m like, there is.  But you have to take the time to actually break it down and go, what does this really mean to me?  At face value, it’s really hard to break that down and understand.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  And it’s such a challenge for a project manager to step back and look at it and think about this from a standpoint of how can I influence this from the beginning?

JOEL CARBONI:  Right, right.

Green vs. Sustainable Projects

WENDY GROUNDS:  Moving on to green projects, what types of projects are green projects?

JOEL CARBONI:  You know, it’s interesting.  I was just in Malaysia last week, and we were working with organizations that said, “What’s green, and what’s sustainable?”  I said, “Well, green focuses on environment; and sustainable is, you know, the whole spectrum.  So we try to focus on sustainable.  If I could go back and change your name to sustainable project management, I’d go back in time, but I don’t have time.”  The real key to focus on is a total asset lifecycle; right?  You want to understand from the time the business case is developed until the end of useful life to what you’re developing is taken into consideration; right?  What is the impact?

We were just assessing a project, and it was only given a seven-year lifespan.  And so we said, “Well, what’s going to happen to the asset after seven years?”  “Oh, we don’t really plan for that.”  Well, that’s not okay.  You know, are you going to recycle the materials?  Because this was a big construction project.  It was sort of a mechanical thing.  “What about what’s going to happen to it?  You just going to bury it in the ground?”  “Oh, we haven’t really thought about that.  That wasn’t part of our scope.”

Wrong answer.  Right?  And there’s the issue.  We’re not being taught to think outside the box of initiate to close.  It’s what is the impact of our work, and what happens beyond handover?  What happens at the end of the asset’s lifecycle?  So when we look at green projects, it’s are you taking a total asset lifecycle focus?  And that’s what we have to do.

The Lifecycle Impact of Projects

BILL YATES:  It’s so interesting you mention this, Joel.  I have two objects sitting right here that I brought, I’ve got a water bottle, and I have a cell phone.  You know, you think of water bottles.  This is a great cheap way to make portable water available to me wherever I go.  But then what happens to this plastic, you know, once I’m done with it?

Same thing with a cell phone.  I want this to work everywhere I am, anywhere on the Earth.  That means we need to have satellites, a series and network of satellites that are working.  But what if at the end of their life, you know, what happens to them?  Are they just going to keep orbiting us?  Or are they going to be designed such that they’ll start to re-enter space and burn up and go to dust?  So there are decisions to make there.  I’m the project manager.  I just need to get portable water, or I just need to make a phone that works so these customers will buy it.  There’re bigger questions here.

JOEL CARBONI:  There are.  And you know, with bottled water, I’ve got sort of history.  I can tie it back to the SDGs, actually.  When I was first on the team to build the SDGs, I was working on climate action.  And, I mean, I was excited.  This is back in 2013.  You know, I was a younger guy, had more hair.  And, you know, I went and sat down, and there was this amazing team of people.  The person at the UN said, “I would like to thank our corporate sponsor Nestle for sponsoring the working group.”  And I went, “Ooh.”  Because I’m from Michigan.  Right, so I live in Michigan here in the U.S.  And Nestle used to spend 200 USD a year to siphon millions of gallons of water out of our aquifers, to bottle it and sell it back to us at two bucks a bottle.

And I’m like, “Okay, they’re the sponsor of the working group?”  I just couldn’t do it.  So I get up, and I walked out.  I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do it.”  Now, my legs felt like stone, like, “Don’t do this.  This is stupid.  Don’t walk out of here.  Like you’re missing a big opportunity.”  I’m like, “Ethically, I just can’t be part of this.”  Because I had been fighting with them about this issue.  So fortunately, someone grabbed me and said, “Hey, work on this other one instead.”  I worked on the number 12 instead, which is great.

But we have to think about, you know, what are the impacts of our work, and are we living this, as well?  You know, do we walk through our day thinking, am I contributing to sustainability, or am I actually a detractor?  And that’s part of our problem.  But they make it so easy for us.  I mean, healthy food is expensive.  Bad food is cheap.  Bottled water is right there.  And you need it; right?  We need access to water.  So it’s a problem.

Barriers to Sustainability Adoption

BILL YATES:  Joel, I think we’re touching on this, but let’s focus for a minute on these barriers.  What are barriers to adopting increased sustainability objectives in our projects?

JOEL CARBONI:  That’s a good question.  So I think there’s a couple; right?  One of the big barriers is the misconception that project managers don’t have a voice.  You know, it’s a whole command-and-conquer, do what you’re told mentality.  And I work with organizations all over the world.  I’m always told, we give them a job, they go do it.  And a lot of our assets are built by contractors, and they’re paid to adhere to the scope and no further.  And unfortunately, executives are now asking the question, what do we do about sustainability, and who can help us, and who’s got the voice, and who has the know-how?

Well, the boots on the ground that have the ability to drive change aren’t being given the tools to give the executives enough information to make the right decisions.  So if you flip the script and put the project managers at the forefront and give them the tools they need, that can then give you the data to make better decisions, we can actually create massive change quickly.  So one of the barriers is actually changing how we look at project management from just do what you’re told, to deliver the best possible outcome, but do it in a way that is also regenerative or sustainable in nature.  And that’s really what we have to do.

Questions to Ask on a Project Kickoff

WENDY GROUNDS:  When a project manager is starting their project, what are some good questions that they should be asking, that they should address before they even begin the project?

JOEL CARBONI:  Well, and this is just a best practice; right?  Like what is the outcome supposed to be?  What am I supposed to be delivering?  What are the impacts of this product?  Do I really want to work on this?  Sometimes, you know, you take a project, and you go, I just don’t feel right about this.  Then you’ve got to push back.  I’ve walked away from projects before.

But what we have to do is understand, okay, what is it we’re building, and what are the impacts of our work?  What is the impact on the community?  What is the impact on the environment? And what is the impact on local and macro economies?  And try to figure out, if there are some problems, do I have the authority and even the ability to change that?  Can I push back and say, hey, if we make a couple of changes here and there, we can actually improve things?  So we’ve actually built tools that help project managers address this, and they’re free.  They’re on our website.  But we think that if you arm project managers with the ability to give executives the right information, you’ll have better projects.

BILL YATES:  I like that you said from the start, Wendy, you know, that’s such an important thing to me is this distinction of project managers need to use their voice, find their voice, find the courage at the beginning before you get into the day-to-day grind and the expectations and the agreed-to schedules and budgets.  At the front, that’s where you really want to bring it up.  And then you can ask these questions and look for alternatives while you have time, before you nail down the scope or have made agreements that you can’t go back on.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, then it’s too late.

BILL YATES:  Easily later, yeah.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And then it’s like, I wish I’d said that.

JOEL CARBONI:  Absolutely.  I remember that in another life, 10 years ago or so, 15 years ago actually, I used to learn about projects I was responsible for on the radio or wherever they came from.  Like, hey, new bridge coming in town.  I’m like, who’s building that?  Oh, I guess I am.  So you’d hear about these things from wherever they came from.  And by the time they got to your desk, they’ve already been fleshed out.  You know, the work’s been done for you, it’s been handed to you.  Deliver this.

And so our ability to take a step back and go, okay, well. now I’ve got to do a risk analysis.  But you’re not thinking about the impact analysis, the risk to the project, but the impact of the project to the greater community.  We’re not taught to do that.  We’re taught just to think about risks to the project.  What about other types of risks, other types of impact?  And if we have that different kind of mindset, we can actually affect a much broader change.

Ren Love: Projects of the Past

WENDY GROUNS: Time for us to have a little break.

REN LOVE:  Ren Love here with a glimpse into Projects of the Past; where we take a look at historical projects through the modern lens.

If you’re going to mention historical projects, you’ve really got to mention: The Pyramid at Giza. It wasn’t the first pyramid ever built, but it is one of the most impressive, even more so given that it is the only one of the original seven wonders of the world still standing.

The Scope of this project was massive. Each side of the pyramid is 767 ft long, it’s as tall as a 40 story building, and it has an estimated 2.5 million blocks of limestone & granite. Now the workforce was also impressive – but they weren’t slaves. A lot of the workforce was made up of skilled laborers who lived in neighborhoods just like mine –with houses, and bakeries, and definitely more than a few breweries. There were some conscripted unskilled laborers – who were mostly farmers there working in the off season.  Estimates put the workforce at up to 40,000 people at the height of construction.

Now while the Scope was huge, the Schedule was really impressive. It only took 20 years to build this. They did site prep, mining and delivering the blocks, constructing the pyramid, then cleaning up the site. And if you do the math on that 2.5 million blocks placed in 20 years – that’s placing 81 two-ton blocks per day.

And as for cost! We have no idea how much this project cost – mostly because what Pharoah wants, Pharoah gets & money wasn’t really a limiting factor.

So was this project a success? Yes – by almost any standard. This project started in 2500 BCE –around the same time of the invention of the written language, and the discovery of geometry – so Egyptians were some of the first to test the theories of geometry with real life applications. Super cool!

Anyway, thanks for joining me for a look into Projects of the Past – I’m Ren Love. See ya next time.

BILL YATES: Thanks Ren, now let’s go back to our podcast.

Changing Role of the Project Manager

WENDY GROUNDS:  So how do you see the role of the project manager changing in an organization?

JOEL CARBONI:  The role of the project manager is becoming more strategic.  And I think that’s just part of our natural evolution.  You know, more is being asked of us as organizations have to grapple with things like ESG disclosures and sustainability reporting and coinciding with the growth of projects as the main drivers of organizations.  I think now it’s 37% global GDP’s project work, and that keeps growing every year.  It’s estimated by 2050 it’ll be over 50%.

So now when organizations have to do reporting, whether it’s to the UN or to the GRI or whoever else, they have to start looking at what’s material to our organization.  It’s projects.  And what do we do?  We deliver goods and services.  Where do those come from?  Projects.  So project managers have to know how to take that demand for goods and services, what it is we’re actually doing on the ground, and be reporting on that work that the organizations can be reporting on it.  And that’s really going to take a different kind of mindset, from just “do the job” to “think strategically.”  And that’s really where we’re starting to get to now.

Raising Awareness

BILL YATES:  I see that.  And I think it’s a great opportunity for project managers to up their leadership game and their value to an organization.  It’s like, okay, I need to pay attention to the C-Suite.  I need to pay attention to what our website says about us, how we’re positioning ourselves as an organization, as a company.  What are the goals that are important?  How can I raise my awareness so that I’m sure that I’m doing all that I can do in my position to make our company move forward with that value statement?

JOEL CARBONI:  Exactly.  There’s actually a fun story about this.  MillerCoors, one of the largest beer manufacturers/ brewers in the world, Walmart went to them several years ago and said, “Hey, if you want to keep your beer on our shelves, you’ve got to tell us how much water it takes to brew your beer.”  And they went, “Oh, okay.”  Well, they held up a bottle and went, “About that much.”  And they go, “No, no, no, no.  How much water does it take to brew the beer?”  They go, “Oh, well, come out, you know, to a facility, and we’ll show you how it’s made.  So they go out, and the big vats of beer, like about that much.”

And they went, “No, no, no.  What goes in the beer?”  “You know, hops and barley and all sorts of things.”  And they go, “How much water does it take to grow those crops?”  And they went, “Oh, let’s go talk to the farmers.”  So they go out, they go out in the field, and the farmers go, “Well, turn on the water in the morning, turn it off late morning, turn it back on in the evening, and that’s about that.”  And they go, “Is that what the crops need, though?”  “Oh, well, we don’t know.  That’s how we’ve always done it.”

And so they figured out that they could actually save millions of dollars a year in water if they find out exactly what those crops need and just put digital distributors on those water lines.  And in doing so, they were able to report back to Walmart, “Here’s what we actually consume.  We’ve reduced our water consumption.  It saves us money.  So everything’s great.”

Those are projects.  They had to deploy this as part of a portfolio.  And that’s really a different kind of mindset we had to take if we’re going to be addressing these bigger global issues. How do we build projects around these types of changes?  And that’s really a unique thing.  And MillerCoors, they celebrate this all the time; you know?  “Oh, hey, we save so much money.  It’s great.  Using less water, better beer, more sales.”

BILL YATES:  Win-win-win.


How to Influence Stakeholders

WENDY GROUNDS:  It’s a good story.  How can a project manager have some influence if they say, “Oh, my stakeholders or the sponsors, they’re not buying into this.  They just want this project delivered this way.”  So what can the project manager say to that?

JOEL CARBONI:  You know, that was the biggest pushback that we would hear, I’d say 10 years ago.  We’ve been training project managers all over the world for years and years, and the biggest problem that we had faced was project managers being told no, this is a bad idea, or it costs too much money, or this is a premium.  We can’t afford it.  Now that’s changing.  But in the case that a project manager does get pushback, the best thing to do is provide them data.  Say, well, we’ve done the analysis. 

And actually, if we implement this change, we’re going to reduce the risk to your brand.  We’re going to reduce the risk to the product and the environment and society.  If you don’t want to do that, please sign here and provide them with a report because, again, we can do our job, but they also have to come through with theirs, as well.

And the sponsor is ultimately responsible for reporting up the chain.  As long as the project manager does their part, our conscience is clear.  We actually train sponsors, and last week we met with a group of thirty sponsors.  They were shocked at, one, what their role is, because often the sponsors are just told, “You’re the sponsor.  Go get them.”  And they go, “What does that mean?”  The project managers are stuck; right?

So one of the things we also have to do is to help the sponsors understand what it is we’re trying to achieve, and how this aligns the organizational strategy, because sometimes you’ve got the C-Suite up here saying, “Oh, well, we want to do sustainability”; but the project sponsor says, “Well, I’m told to deliver X, Y, and Z.”  They don’t align the two.  And so if you’re able to connect those dots and show them, hey, here’s how we’re going to be able to deliver the project and contribute to the organizational strategy for sustainability, all in one shot, they’ll go, “Oh, makes sense.”  We have to become more strategic in nature because we’re just not taught that way.

How to Evaluate Impact

BILL YATES:  How can a project manager evaluate environmental, social, and financial impacts in their projects?  What are some practical steps they can take?

JOEL CARBONI:  So we recommend doing an impact analysis.  And then we actually have some free tools on our website.  If you go to GreenProjectManagement.org/p5, you can download our standard, which prescribes lots of practices, but also comes with an impact analysis tool.  And that covers 49 different elements across five lenses.  So really you’ve got 240-some-odd aspects of sustainability looking at the asset and the project practices together. 

And when you do that, you’re able to understand what the impacts are, how severe they are, and what the causes and effects will be.  If you take all that, and you translate that into a project management document, like a sustainability management plan, then you have work to do.  And you can assign work owners and say, “Hey, we found 17 items that may be able to be addressed quickly.  Can we get approval on this and make it part of the scope?”  And boom, you’ve solved the issue.

But unless we know what to look for, it’s such a wide-ranging topic.  You’re like, “Well, do I look at the environmental stuff, or social?”  What does that mean, right?  We have to know exactly what to look for.  So we look for things such as, on the social side, project health and safety, all the way to indigenous rights.  It’s wide-ranging.  On the environmental side, everything from climate action to GHG emissions to local procurement, it’s all tied in there, and practices to use in that, as well.  And on the profit side, we really look at the business case focus, that is, the impact of the business case on the greater good.  So that’s how those all tie together.  And the tool’s available for free, and we also teach it in our class, as well.

PRiSM Project Delivery Methodology

WENDY GROUNDS:  Something that we saw on your website, an application of the PRiSM project delivery methodology and the P5 standard for sustainability in project management.  Can you tell us a little bit more about exactly what that is and how it can be applied?

JOEL CARBONI:  Sure.  Project managers love a good workflow, or we hate them, you know, depending on how verbose they are.  But the way that we address projects, we started off early on as an organization.  We were asked, “Okay, you’re launching a certification program.  Can you give us tools that we can use to earn the certification?”  “Sure.”  So we developed a methodology.  “Okay, teach it to us.”  “Okay, well, here’s training courses.”  “Well, it needs sort of an engine.”  “Okay, here’s the P5.” 

So the way it works is PRiSM is a full-fledged methodology.  You know, you can use it just like you use PRINCE2 or any other methodology.  So it’s off the shelf.  It can be tailored.  It can fit into any agile method.  It’s a hybrid, so it works pretty well.  It’s all there on our website.  P5 is the engine for sustainability, and that’s really our bread and butter.  So it’s a tool.  It’s a standard, so we provide prescribed practices and guidance.

So, for example, if you’re working on a project, and you want to understand how best to address indigenous rights, there’s a whole section on that.  You see, “Okay, here’s five practices to employ.  And if you do that, here are the benefits you can expect to see.”  But we’ve also tied it back to SDGs.  So say, “If I do this, here are the direct SDGs I’m actually impacting.”  So it also enables you to build reports back for the organization, too, which is great.  And so using the P5, using PRiSM, you’re able to then create a repeatable process by which you can then build maturity in your organization.

The P5

BILL YATES:  The P5, those stand for the five Ps, the people, planet, prosperity, projects, and process.  That’s how you describe the different lens.  It’s like I’m looking at this from one lens or the other.

JOEL CARBONI:  Right, yeah.  We look at the product lens, so we’re looking at lifespan and servicing.  So when you’re looking at putting on the hat of an asset manager, when I look at the product I’m being asked to build, what is the lifespan of that, and what will it take to service it?  What are the impacts of all that?  And then from a project process perspective, we’re looking at efficiency of process, effectiveness, and fairness.  So all three of those are uniquely identified so we can look at each element.  So if you say, hey, project manager, talk to me about labor management relations.  How does that work in your project?  And you think about it from an asset perspective, you’re going, um, well, we hand that over, so really labor management relations isn’t really an issue.

Okay, let’s change hats and talk about project fairness, fairness of process.  Oh, hiring and staffing inside my project.  Oh, that involves HR, and we have this practice, this policy over here.  Okay, tell me, in your policy do you have anything in there about children’s rights?  Well, yeah, we can’t hire kids.  Have you ever audited a vendor for it?  No.  How do you know it’s not happening?  So these types of issues won’t crop up unless you know exactly where to go look for them; right?  So we’ve developed this approach so you could look at everything five different ways.  This really helps to protect the organization.

BILL YATES:  I feel like it’s a doctor asking very specific questions about, okay, how does this feel?  Oh, that feels okay.  What about this?

JOEL CARBONI:  Yeah, exactly.

BILL YATES:  And is that only after you go for a long walk, or is that when you wake up in the morning?  It’s like you’re asking these types of questions about your project, and then you start to uncover opportunities and get to better practices.

P5 in Action

WENDY GROUNDS:  Have you examples of projects that have put this P5 into action?  Do you have any project stories you could share with us?

JOEL CARBONI:  I have lots of them.  Unfortunately, a lot of them are also under NDA, so I can’t talk about them.  But I’ll say one really neat one; right?  So there’s a major pet food supplier.  And I’ll just say they’re in Asia; okay?  They used the P5 to redevelop packaging for the pet food.  And they found that if they use more sustainable materials, if they source locally, they’re able to be more sustainable. 

But then when they took a bigger step, I go, wait a minute, what about the food?  And they realized that there is impurities in the food, they were sourcing from some not-so-good places, and they redesigned the product, as well.  And so once they start going down that hill, they realize that, “Oh, we can use this for all sorts of things.”  So they completely revitalized the whole organization using the method, which is really neat.

We also had a development project in Vietnam.  The Kim Nguu River and the Set River, they are major pollutants, and a lot of it flows out into the ocean.  And so we had a developer building high-rises.  And they found that if they source river water to do the coolant system for the building, it’s more cost-effective, but it was too filthy.  So they created a project to clean up the rivers while building the structure.  And by doing so, they created a whole economic zone.  And the city revitalized right around those.  So it was amazing to see the impact.  They’re creating value with the asset, but also creating good, too.  So now I think that accounts for like maybe 40% of pollution in those rivers just by using a simple tool.

BILL YATES:  You know, I remember, Wendy, we had a conversation with the guys at the Kendeda Building on Georgia Tech’s campus and all the acclaim they’ve received for this amazing living building.  It’s contagious, you know, to see that with project teams.  And it was so fun talking to them because as they would pursue LEED certification or a particular way to capture water or use different materials, it’s like, oh, this gives us an idea for this area.  We do this on the roof.  Let’s do this in the basement.  Let’s do this with the water flow.  You see teams sort of pick up on the opportunities, and they start to feed off of each other.  I think that would be an exciting thing as people get into P5.

JOEL CARBONI:  Absolutely.  And we love hearing stories about how people have used it.  I mentioned we were in Malaysia last weekend.  We found out that Perodua, which is one of the national car manufacturers, they’re using it for all the dealerships to figure out which ones are the most efficient and effective.  We were finding out that a lot of organizations use the P5 for different ways.  And we keep hearing about this where, like, well, this is amazing.  You know, it’s free.  It’s been downloaded almost a million times. 

We don’t know who all uses it, but we hear these stories coming out.  We’re like, I wish we had a case study on that.  That’s so cool.  And so we love to hear these types of things going on.  And if anyone’s out there listening, if you use it, let us know because we’d like to share stories and know how it’s being used.

Project Managers can Affect Change

WENDY GROUNDS:  It’s always good when you’re making an impact.  Do you have some final words of advice that you would like to leave with our project managers?

JOEL CARBONI:  I always say that, as a profession that delivers change, we have to actually adopt it ourselves.  You know, it’s funny, the only people who like change is a baby with a wet diaper.  But as the one profession that has our finger on the pulse of all change, whether it’s new construction projects or new products and services, we have the ability to transform our world almost overnight.  If all of us take one step forward together, and we adopt a small bit of change, we can affect everything from climate change to biodiversity loss to social impacts and human rights.  We control it all.

And once we realize how much power we really have, we can actually make those changes.  And I would encourage everyone just to take a step back and go, what is the impact of my work, and how can I make a small difference?  Because there’s millions of project managers all over the world.  And if we give everyone just a little bit of a push, we can see major change.

BILL YATES:  Joel, this is inspiring.  And I think we should be playing some background music, maybe some “Rocky” music or something.  But it’s like, we can do this, project managers.  We can make it a better environment, better place to work, better products, a greener, more sustainable Earth.

Contact Joel

WENDY GROUNDS:  I know that our audience is going to be interested, and we’re going to have people that will want to reach out to you.  So where’s the best place for them to go?

JOEL CARBONI:  So I live in Michigan.  Come out and see me.  No, I’m kidding.  So you can find me on LinkedIn.  I’m the only Joel Carboni on there, which is amazing.  You can also go to our website, GreenProjectManagement.org, and connect to us on there.  Probably the easiest way to find me.

BILL YATES:  Joel, thank you so much for your time.  Thank you for what you’ve done.  It’s amazing to see the path of this, too, the journey of this effort, and see where we are today.  Well done.  It’s so inspiring to hear how people are using this method, taking your advice, using these tools, this analysis, and applying it to projects all across industry to make a difference.

JOEL CARBONI:  Thank you guys.  Appreciate it.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us today.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  To earn your free PDUs you can claim them by going to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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