Align green project management with ISO 14000

ISO 14000 are voluntary, international standards that focus on environmental management. Learn more about ISO 14000, and discover why you should incorporate green project management into your processes.

Tom Mochal, PMP, winner of the 2005 PMI Distinguished Contribution Award, has been TechRepublic's resident project management mentor for the past five years. He is President of TenStep, Inc., a methodology development, training and consulting company. This column was co-authored with Andrea Krasnoff, PMP, Director of Consulting Services at TenStep, Inc.

ISO 14000 are voluntary, international standards that focus on environmental management. This set of standards was created in 1996 and revised in 2004. A number of companies, such as IBM and Ford, are compliant in one or more of the standards and have required or requested the same from their suppliers.

ISO 14000 looks at continuous process improvement similar to the more mature continuous improvement processes within quality management. Both follow Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model; both establish requirements and set targets; and both provide for processes to meet these targets, measure progress, and take action.

Environmental management system

The ISO 14000 standard requires organizations to take a hard look at all areas where its activities have an environmental impact. It specifies requirements for an environmental management system (EMS), which results in a holistic approach to develop, implement, and maintain an overall environmental policy.

Project management processes can provide a component in support of implementing an EMS. For example, every IT project manager receives scope change requests. You document the request, investigate alternatives, analyze impacts, and take the information to the sponsor to determine if the scope change should be approved.

Imagine if the scope change process included a component that asked about the environmental impact of the request. You could analyze whether the change positively or negatively affects the organization's environment; you could also evaluate the associated costs, time, and other resources needed for this change. I am sure you would find that some scope changes have business value yet negatively affect the environment. This additional information might alter the sponsor's decision.

Communication management

In the area of communication management, IT project managers identify the stakeholder groups and determine the type and frequency of information they require. How many projects currently have Communication Plans with environmental-related stakeholder groups (internal and/or external)? If an organization is ISO compliant, it should have an established policy statement regarding its environmental commitment. The project team should communicate how they are in alignment with this policy.

Green project management

The challenge is to get project managers, team members, and other stakeholders involved in "greenthink"; that is, applying environmentally friendly and sustainable thinking to all aspects to the project management process. This concept is called green project management (GreenPM).

I am not advocating that you take extraordinary measures to be environmentally friendly or recommending that you add unnecessary costs and time to a project. (In other words, you do not need to invent 100 new project management processes.) I am suggesting that you consider incorporating aspects of GreenPM into your project management and decision making processes.

It is ultimately up to the sponsor and client organization to make the final decisions. I just wonder how many decisions might be made differently if the environmental impact (if any) is taken into account.

If you want to consider GreenPM for your project, you don't need to feel like you're radical -- green thinking is part of the ISO 14000 standard. Also, when you assess the environmental component of every project, be realistic -- not all projects will achieve the same level of environmental gain. It's up to you to determine the best way to apply GreenPM in your projects.