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Green project management: redefining ethics and operations

Sustainable project management is a key focus of any business looking to expand into the future. Whereas businesses of the past have focused either solely or mostly on profitability, we are realizing the error of our ways. There has been so much waste, especially over the last 200 years, that our prior practices now risk the destruction of the planet we live on.

But there’s a better way to turn a profit, by incorporating technology, reduction of waste, and reuse of scrap materials. As world governments crack down on pollution, you can lead the way to a path that will ultimately result in higher returns than doing things the old way. This is Green Project Management, and it may be the only way for your business to survive in the future.

What is green project management

Put shortly, green project management involves what is known as the triple bottom line, which itself is the interface of three core values: people, planet, and profit.

Such a synthesis is not only a new code of ethics for businesses to adhere to, but a redefinition of the way business is run. Higher morale, cleaner operation, and in most cases higher profit margins are the rewards to be reaped.

In turn, practicing this new management strategy reduces some of the biggest wasters for business, namely employee turnover, lower margins on sales, and environmental fees, taxes, and fines.

GPM is also known as Corporate Social Responsibility, and as it continues to grow, it will likely take on a host of new names.

Sustainable project management

So how do you start down the path to higher profits, economic stability, and better and greener business practices?

It’s a three step process, which we will outline below.


Probably the most important part of an effective management strategy is the manager or team in charge of the project or business. If the person or people in charge don’t believe in sustainability, then neither will the workers. If the workers don’t believe, then corners get cut, focus gets lost, and everything falls apart, or worse, it goes back to “business as usual” without any added benefits.


Establishing a culture of sustainability is paramount, and affects every aspect of business from the person taking out the trash to the one drafting up the next project.

This isn’t a series of PowerPoint slides and a half-enthusiastic speech. It needs to be backed with initiatives and directives that drive every decision made.

A good starting point is to have a mission statement and a road map. Layout the basic skeleton for changes that need to be made to reduce waste and improve efficiency. Use this framework to lead by example.

Open the floor up to anyone in the company that has an idea. This could be a plastic bottle recycling effort, ideas for more responsible materials that can be used, etc. To establish a true culture, every participant needs to have a say, and good ideas should be rewarded.

One method is to establish a point system for great ideas, and at the same time make it a requirement that everyone submits one idea per month on how to make things better. Take all of these suggestions seriously, act on the helpful ideas, and enforce the policies that result.

Pretty soon, even a dirty factory can come out looking pretty green. And in the end, employees assume the role of ensuring that the company stays compliant. They’ll take it as their responsibility.


Come up with goals for supplementing sustainable energy to offset electric costs from dirty power. Maintain a garden out front by planting some trees or carbon sequestering plants. Grow a company garden. Set up recycling bins and stick to them.

Try alternative methods of pest control, weed control, or any action that involves a potentially toxic material.

If you have the ground space, try to use it to reduce your environmental footprint. Put up a windmill or solar panels. Set up a methane digester. Start cranking out biodiesel. Use what you already have on hand and turn anything wasteful into useful and green side products.

Utilize paper shredders and worm composting to get rid of memos and other paper waste. Perhaps you could even start accepting paper waste from businesses nearby to help them as well.

Set up recycling bins for the products that are used most. If everyone is drinking bottled water, set up a bin and ask that they smash the bottles before tossing them in to save space.

Set aside an hour at the end of each day for employees to clean up their workstations and tidy up around the office. Put people in charge of various tasks, like setting the air conditioner before they leave the office to save energy. Perhaps someone else to ensure that lights and computers are turned off.

There are 1000 ideas out there, ranging for simple little things like picking up scraps of paper to big things like building your own foundry to melt aluminum cans into ingots. Get creative, and get proactive.

Types of green projects

what is the green project? Green project categories vary by type. They run the gambit from inherently green to projects that may not even look green at first glance, but are built on green ideas.

If that sounds confusing, let’s walk through a few different types. These are based on the increasingly popular “rainbow of green” idea.

Green by definition means a project that has some part that is strongly associated with reducing environmental impact. They are agreed upon by most, and easy to recognize. Building a wind or solar farm, for example would be the pinnacle of this definition. Also on this list would be initiatives to save endangered species, or preserving a wooded area for carbon offsets.

Green by project impact is the second major type of green project. These mainly circle around construction projects and their impact during building or after they are complete. A high-speed electric railway is one example. A super-insulated business building with geothermal temperature regulation is another.

Green by product impact focuses directly on a product or service that nets a positive impact on the environment, or as a minimum it lessens the impact created by its competitors. Single serve coffee makers are more efficient than brewing whole pots, and use less energy overall. Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets that automatically shut off your house lights or regulate climate control when you aren’t home also fall into this category.

Green in general is a misunderstood category, as the innovations are barely perceptible as being green, but they are geared in that direction. An example might be that a software company does away with packaging and hosts a downloadable product with all of the documentation on a website. The paper waste and plastic of the traditional software model have vanished, but few people notice. A more popular example is online bill pay.


You don’t need to register with any government office or become an official Benefit Corporation to start making a difference today. The decisions made now by practicing green management and cleaning up your operation start with you.

As policies about energy reduction and recycling or reuse initiatives roll out, or standard raw materials get harder to come by, you will already be positioned and compliance may already be guaranteed.

When your story hits home in the community, you will find that your customers, both local and worldwide, are willing to pay more as an investment in the ideals of your company, and that means more profit.

So get out there, make a difference, and let the world know your story.

Looking for more great resources to guide your green career search? Check out our Free list of 100 sustainability and green career ideas

Further reading:

Latest tips and advice for green businesses

Our fresh list of 100+ green business ideas

Interviews with green business owners.

Check out our resources library.

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