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Sustainable Development Goal #12 of 17 and Project Management, Responsible Consumption and Production.

In this installment of our series on the SDGs, we look at #12 of 17, Ensure Responsible Consumption and Production Patterns.

This goal encompasses eight targets for sustainable development. For this post, we are going to focus on numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Sustainable consumption and production in this context, means to do more and better with less. If you had to select one SDG that project management could make the most impact on, this would be it.

For the past nine years, we at GPM have made it our mission to spur practices that produce more with less. By enabling responsible consumption in project practices that naturally increase the number of benefits that can be realized, we have pushed the definition of quality beyond adherence to time/cost/scope to include Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG).

In 2016 at his final UN Global Compact Leader’s summit as Executive Director, Georg Kell stated: “I guarantee that within four years, the marketplace will have changed from within because sustainability and its reality is becoming a transformative force. …finally, asset managers are waking up to the basic reality that sustainability pays off.  Long-term financial success can only be assured if companies also good on governance, on social behavior, and environmental stewardship. Failure on any of these three pillars will make it impossible for businesses to sustain success over time or to become successful.”

To be honest, I about fell out of my chair.  This statement was a testament that projects, the precursor to assets, are critical to achieving this goal. In our P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management, we have outlined practices that project management can adopt to contribute to this goal. They include:

Local Procurement

The policies and procedures to procure resources, goods, and services putting a stronger emphasis on sourcing from local suppliers. It is recommended that project managers give preference to local suppliers if allowed.

Local procurement adherence achieves a number of sustainable project outcomes including:

  • Supporting the growth of the local economy
  • Reducing CO2 from transportation
  • Supporting local businesses and suppliers including improving supplier capacity and experience

This supports Supports SDG 12, Target 7 “Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities.”


Policies and practices regarding the sourcing and use of recycled products and materials and the project’s adherence to recycling practices. It is recommended that project managers make use of recycled and or responsibly sourced materials whenever possible.

Responsible recycling achieves a number of sustainable project outcomes including:

  • Protects natural resources by reducing the need to source raw materials
  • Provides marketing opportunities where the project or organization can demonstrate their use of responsibly sourced materials
  • Reduces costs of disposal by avoiding waste and through reuse or recycling

This supports Supports SDG 12, Target 5 “By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.”  It also supports target 6 “Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”

Contamination and Pollution

Contamination or pollution of the air, water, or soil through the introduction of foreign or unwanted materials, chemicals, or fumes that results in the temporary or permanent degradation of an environment or ecosystem.

It is recommended that project managers:

  • Identify specific legislative and regulatory requirements and standards and put in place measures to ensure the project complies and does not contaminate or pollute
  • Give consideration of material and products that do not create by-products or waste that has the potential to contaminate or pollute.

Reduction of contamination and pollution achieves a number of sustainable project outcomes including:

  • Protects ecosystems from contamination
  • Safeguards against the spread of disease and sickness

This Supports SDG 12, Target 4 “By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their lifecycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”

Going back to the graphic that headlines this post, each year humans consume 1.6 planet’s worth of resources and each year, (We Americans consume a lot more…) Globally, the time to reach this milestone grow shorter and shorter.

For example: In 1987, Earth Overshoot day was December 19th.  In 2016 it was August 8th. We are losing daylight… Organizations must place greater emphasis on reducing the environmental impact of projects and rethink the approach to manage to protect our natural environment. After all, there is no plan-et B.

Here is a short video on Earth Overshoot day.


Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni has over 24 years of experience in project, program, and portfolio management, having led Aerospace, Finance, Government, and Technology initiatives. He has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment, is a Certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA Level B®), and Certified Green Project Manager (GPM®). He is the founder and president of GPM Global and the President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association USA (IPMA-USA) He is a medal of honor recipient from Universidad Autonoma Lisboa, AI Media's Leading Advisor Award 2017, the 2015 World CSR Congress Leadership Award, 2014 HRD Leadership & Training Award, and 2013 IPMA Achievement Award. He has lectured on or taught sustainable project management in 50 countries worldwide.

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