Sustainability in Project Management
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
This review discusses the journal Sustainable Project Life Cycle Management: the need to integrate life cycles in the manufacturing sector (2005) authored by Labuschagne and Brent. The theme of this paper is that incorporating the current project management methodologies with the principles of sustainable development requires comprehensive understanding and integration of different life cycles. This journal provides a good introduction of life cycle management; however, the authors do not make holistic perspective on the aspects of sustainability in project management.
At the outset of the paper, the authors note that the social, economic, and environmental impacts of a project long after its completion have required increasing attention; the project life cycle management principles thus require revision. However, reasons for the consideration to life cycles when aligning sustainability with project management has not been specified. According to Azapagic (2004), people may unintentionally aggravate the impacts when trying to alleviate them. Therefore, protecting the environment without increasing burdens can only be assured by adopting a systems approach based on life cycle thinking which takes the whole life cycle of an activity into account.
Labuschagne and Brent (2005) have focused on defining various life cycles, yet the descriptions of the proposed impact assessment indicators on the three main sustainability dimensions are only briefly stated which causes the concept rather vague. In 2005, Brent and Visser demonstrated an environmental performance resource impact indicator (EPRII) calculation procedure by introducing the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) framework for comparing burdens at operational level. The approach evaluated impacts in four different resource groups including water, air, land, and mined abiotic resources based on three process parameters comprising water and energy usage, and waste produced. Research regarding the social sustainability dimension has also been executed subsequently. All the social criteria and its sub-criteria were verified with respect to project management and business, but particular impacts were found to be more significant in certain appraised asset or technology life cycle phases. The EPRII approach was used as a basis to calculate the social impact indicators; however, results appeared to be unreliable and the method was hence concluded to be not applicable for decision-making purposes at the moment due to the lack of social project and footprint information (Labuschagne and Brent, 2008; Labuschagne and Brent, 2006).
Despite its defect, this paper is a well structured piece of work which utilizes a large number of diagrams and tables. Koedinger (1992) explained that diagrammatic representation outperforms sentential expression due to its use of location to group information which facilitates search and avoids the need of symbolic labels and also encourages perceptual inferences. This consequently enables readers to have a better understanding of the concept.
In conclusion, although this journal does not provide a holistic overview of sustainability in project management, its detailed descriptions of various life cycles and their interactions in projects have provided an explicit concept of project life cycle management. Moreover, a considerable amount of literature review has been carried out in this article; it therefore deserves to be widely read.
- Labuschagne, C. and Brent, A.C. (2005), ‘Sustainable Project Life Cycle Management: the need to integrate life cycles in the manufacturing sector’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 159-168,
- Azapagic, A. (2004), ‘Appendix: Life Cycle Thinking and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)’, in Azapagic, A., Perdan, S., and Clift, R. (ed.), Sustainable development in practice: case studies for engineers and scientists, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 426-437.
- Azapagic, A., Millington, A., and Collett, A. (2006), ‘A Methodology for Integrating Sustainability Considerations into Process Design’, Chemical Engineering Research and Design,vol. 84, no. 6,pp. 439-452.
- Brent, A.C. and Visser, J.K. (2005), ‘An environmental performance resource impact indicator for life cycle management in the manufacturing industry’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 557-565.
- Brent, A.C. (2004), ‘A life cycle impact assessment procedure with resource groups as areas of protection’, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 9, no. 3,pp. 172-179.
- Labuschagne, C., Brent, A.C., and van Erck, R.P.G. (2005), ‘Assessing the sustainability performances of industries’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 373-385.
- Labuschagne, C. and Brent, A.C. (2008), ‘An industry perspective of the completeness and relevance of a social assessment framework for project and technology management in the manufacturing sector’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 253-262.
- Labuschagne, C. and Brent, A.C. (2006), ‘Social Indicators for Sustainable Project and Technology Life Cycle Management in the Process Industry’, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 3-15.
- Koedinger, K.R. (1992), Emergent Properties and Structural Constraints: Advantages Diagrammatic Representations for Reasoning and Learning, SS-92-02, AAAI Technical Report, viewed 21 March 2010,
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