In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

Joel B. Carboni: Green Project Management Is the Call of Times


Journalist: Yu Yanjuan  |  Source: PMR  |  Updated:2018.08.06

Introduction to the Interviewee:


Q1:As founder of GPM (Green Project Management) Global, you are at the forefront of sustainability management. As an organization, what is GPM Global’s focus? What is “Green Project Management” by definition? 

Joel Carboni: The global focus on sustainable development, climate change, ethical behavior, social responsibility, and transparent supply chains has increased in recent years. So have the demands for sustainable business practices. As a supporter of the United Nations Global Compact, GPM views our role in fostering global citizenship, through advocacy for sustainable projects as our primary remit. 

We are a global organization that advocates sustainability in the project profession. We help companies become more resilient, governments more efficient, and societies more robust, all while safeguarding our natural resources. 

As a social enterprise, we focus on evolving the project profession through principled and value-based methods. From our multiple award-winning standards to our training, assessments, and certifications, our goal is to drive sustainable business and realize the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The difference between green/sustainable project management and traditional project management is simply the adherence to a set of principles and looking at project and project management success as more than inputs, outputs, and processes but rather the impacts of what we are doing on society, the environment, and the economy both micro and macro. Globally, humanity is at a crossroads. Problems stemming from humans induced climate change, population increases, lack of potable water, and income & gender inequalities. It is imperative for all professions to self assess what impacts they are making to improve our plant and society for future generations. According to research by Accenture and the UN Global Compact, out of 1,000 global CEOs, from 27 industries across 103 countries, 93% regard sustainability as key to success.

Q2: Give us some details on Sustainability Assessment Model and GPM certification, please.

Joel Carboni: From a modeling perspective, our methodology PRiSM which is an acronym for PRojects integrating Sustainable Methods, uses an asset lifecycle approach with a focus on impacts, risks, value and benefits. 

PRiSM is a principles-based, sustainable project management methodology. Its key difference from traditional approaches is that it incorporates a value-maximization model that focuses on the total asset lifecycle. PRiSM puts projects into a more strategic focus by leveraging existing organizational systems to ensure that benefits are realized horizontally and vertically, with the utmost attention focused on process and product sustainability. 

PRiSM is based on our award winning P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management, and is effective in reducing project level risk, from an environmental, social and economic perspective while expanding the range of benefits to be gained. PRiSM extends beyond the typical project lifecyle with a five phased approach that incporporates pre-project planning, product/service adoption and integration as well as benefits realization.  

We offer certification globally. Our program is three tiered and begins with the GPM-b (or basic) where a knowledge assessment on sustainability is conducted via exam. This is our most popular certification. From there, we focus on ability in our GPM-s (Specialist) and GPM-m (Master). The Specialist, which is a revamp of what we used to simply call the GPM requires evidence of the integration of sustainable methods with project delivery. This is conducted via case study submittal and in person interview. Our Master-level certification requires advanced experience, and the GPM’s case study submittals as well as an academic paper.

We are often asked if our certifications should be sought out instead of a PMI or IPMA certification and while we do assess competence in project management, our certifications are specializations.

Q3: About P5 Standard for sustainability in project management, would you please offer us a brief introduction? What does P5 represent?

Joel Carboni: P5 stands for People, Planet, Prosperity, Process and Products. The P5 Standard is a tool that supports the alignment of portfolios, programs, and projects with organizational strategy for sustainability and focuses on the impacts of project processes and deliverables on the environment, society, the corporate bottom line, and the local economy.

Our P5 Standard for sustainability in project management, a free resource, provides guidance on sustainability to ensure benefits maximization and risk mitigation and ties in to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thus creating a bridge between all projects to a larger cause.

P5 is not a methodology for how to create the environment, however, it provides the principles or foundation for a methodology such GPM’s PRiSM. The P5 Standard represents a structure, as it defines something. The simplest way to explain P5 is that it is made of bonds between the triple bottom line approach, project processes and the resulting products or services.

Q4: What kinds of portfolios, programs and projects can be defined as sustainable? Are there any principles to follow?
Joel Carboni: In order to be sustainable, portfolios, programs, and projects should adhere to the following six principles:

1) Commitment & Accountability: Recognize the essential rights of all to healthy, clean and safe environments, equal opportunity, fair remuneration, ethical procurement, and adherence to rule of law.

2) Ethics & Decision Making: Support organizational ethics, decision making with respect for universal principles through identification, mitigation, and the prevention of adverse short and long-term impacts on society and the environment.

3) Integrated & Transparent: Foster the interdependence of economic development, social integrity, and environmental protection in all aspects of governance, practice and reporting.

4) Principles & Values Based: Conserve and enhance our natural resource base by improving the ways in which we develop and use technologies and resources.

5) Social & Ecological Equity: Assess human vulnerability in ecologically sensitive areas and centres of population through demographic dynamics.

6) Economic Prosperity: Adhere to fiscal strategies, objectives, and targets that balance the needs of stakeholders, including immediate needs and those of future generations.

Q5: How can we incorporate sustainability into projects? If an enterprise is eager to start sustainable project management, what’s your advice for them? 

Joel Carboni: The key is to shift to a benefits-focused mindset and to do sustainability management planning. We were very prescriptive of how to do this in our new book Sustainable Project Management: The GPM Reference Guide, but the short of it is to look at risks and opportunities through a sustainable lens. For example, if the project calls for the development of a manufacturing facility, ensure that it makes use of renewable energy as part of the plan and also accounts for any contamination to air, soil, and water. Our P5 standard, which is free from our website, explains this in detail.

For an enterprise interested in initiating green project management, the first step is to determine what the sustainability goals are for the organization. Once they are in place, integrating management practices that contribute to the goals into project governance. As over 30% of the world’s GDP is directly related to project work, there are tremendous opportunities for organizations to benefit from doing so.

Q6: Would you please suggest a way to integrate more sustainable methods into our existing project management approaches?

Joel Carboni: Whether it is an Agile approach, Waterfall method or something else, all of them, in order to be effective, must be tailored to the organization. All projects have a business case and the objectives for sustainability for the project’s product should be included. We advocate the use of a sustainability management plan or SMP which ties organizational and project objectives for sustainability together and focuses on risk and opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Q7: How can we sell a sustainable project management approach to our customers? 

Joel Carboni: Every Executive has sustainability on their radar. They know it is important and that the global market has shifted to see sustainability as a necessity. Their challenge is how to implement it. I wouldn’t so much as “sell” it to customers but rather make them aware that there are sustainable project practices available that can increase benefits, reduce risks and ensure as sustainable production as possible. It essentially sells itself.

Q8: What are the challenges or barriers in promoting PM sustainability? 

Joel Carboni: The barriers are predominantly two-fold. The first is that organizations do not place a high enough value on sustainability from a business process perspective. Due to this, management practices often lack sustainable methods. For example, in a project business case, KPIs for sustainability are rarely included.

The second is that project management has been fixated on time, cost, and scope as the foundational constraints and needs to expand to include risk, value, and benefits that are directly tied to social, environmental, and economic impacts. 

Q9: What’s your observation about green project management in China? 

Joel Carboni: We have had success in China and over the past year, over 40 trainers were certified in Beijing. It is well known that Chinese culture lends to thoughtful and long-term planning, often decades into the future. With China taking the global lead in renewable energy among other sustainability areas, there will be increased demands for project managers who understand how to incorporate sustainability into projects in order to meet some of the goals the country has set. We are ready and eager to support.  

Q10: As a leading expert on this topic, what do you think of the future of sustainable project management?

Joel Carboni: As the global leader in this topic, we have seen rapid growth in the adoption of our P5 standard for sustainability in project management, which is a good indicator. In 2016, we surveyed over 50,000 individuals from over 100 countries who have downloaded the P5 and 93% of the respondents stated that it helped improve project success. This is a clear marker that sustainable project management is increasing in value and we believe that in the future, “mainstream” project management and sustainable project management will become one and the same.

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