Helping Embed Sustainability by Design into your Change Portfolio

Sustainability is increasingly a top focus for companies across the globe as they strive towards responsible and sustainable practices. Sustainability should be an integral part of your organisations Change Portfolio – and your PMO is at the heart of this Change agenda.


Today you will probably already be juggling many conflicting priorities; the need to reduce costs, grow volumes, increase margins, handle new regulation, reduce operational risk, improve security etc.  So, is now the time to add more criteria for sustainability with all the other activities going on?  In this blog, we argue that now is the right time and that if you do it smartly, using the power of your PMO, you can improve efficiency/costs and advance your sustainability goals.


Today when you are considering replacement of a number of legacy systems with a new solution or looking to change a key supplier is sustainability one of your key criteria?  Is it even considered?  In many cases the drivers will be improved efficiency, simplification, better digital services, lower operating costs, increased pace of change etc. The great news is that these objectives align well with sustainability goals. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to articulate the positive impact your project or programme is having on your Corporate Objective of achieving Net-Zero?  To do this you should make sustainability a foundational element in you Change Portfolio and your PMO has a key role to play in this.


A recent global customer we worked with called this Sustainability by Design – ensuring that sustainability is considered throughout the whole change lifecycle. The label doesn’t matter – but the intent is crucial.



What is sustainability by Design?


Your organisation is likely to already have set sustainability targets possibly leveraging SBTi or another external body. But how is an individual change initiative going to impact of these objectives?  The place to start is to have a good current baseline – if you don’t have a baseline and are unsure how to start then see our separate blogs on this subject.


Assuming you have at least a rough baseline of your current state for sustainability, what are some of the key sustainability considerations? How can PMO drive these into your overall change approach and plan?



Change Initiation


  • Sustainability isn’t a separate thing when deciding the initiation of change, it’s an extra dimension which needs to be considered? Getting that assessment right helps you both meet the traditional metrics/measures and deliver the biggest sustainability impact – PMO is already balancing multiple factors to help you make the right calls – they can underpin the sustainability measures too. Include sustainability considerations up front, don’t try to bolt on later in the project cycle.
  • However you curate your Change Portfolio, with an annual cycle or more frequently, you should consider the sustainability impacts of new initiatives. This does not need to be onerous and initially it is likely to be qualitative. Over time this assessment can become more quantitative and accurate. Let your PMO ensure that the additional sustainability consideration is part of your existing decision-making processes and not just a new ‘add-on’.
  • The priority you set on sustainability (and its various elements, Greenhouse Emissions, eWaste, Water Management and People) within your portfolio will depend on your organisation’s circumstances and goals. The key is to start considering this now and to have the information to do so; your PMO can drive this with the data available to it now.
  • Over time, sustainability will increase in importance as your path to Net Zero and other goals become closer. Initially goals such as simplification, cost reduction, increased self-service, cloud only will align really well with your sustainability objectives. Allowing your PMO to help to grab these win-wins early will significantly aid your path to your goals.



Project Portfolio Management


  • Your PMO can perform a review and update your Project Portfolio Management methodology to ensure that Sustainability criteria are embedded in everything you do. As part of your portfolio management processes, make it a clear factor in your decision-making to determine the programmes to prioritise and those to defer. Your PMO should add considerations in your formal project stage gates for sustainability to ensure that your project management community has, and keeps the focus though the lifecycle. You stop a programme if it no longer makes economic sense. Has anyone stopped a programme because it no longer made sense from a sustainability perspective?
  • You road map your portfolio towards your economic or transformational goals. Shouldn’t you do the same for your sustainability goals? This is exactly where your PMO can help.



Metrics, Goals and Tracking


  • You will have overall sustainability goals in place for your organisation. As you are thinking about new projects, your PMO should work with key stakeholders to define key sustainability metrics for your major initiatives. Metrics should be measurable wherever possible. These should be included in your project charter and business case and clearly communicated to the project team. KPI’s may include environmental metrics, such as carbon footprint or waste generation, social metrics such as employee well-being and community engagement or economic metrics such as cost savings or economic impact to your end customer. By being transparent on the progress of your sustainability efforts will increase accountability and stakeholder confidence.
  • You will need expertise to measure sustainability metrics. Your PMO, once trained, can help your project management community to understand scope 2 and scope 3 emissions (and the difference between them). Your PMO can be the expert across the portfolio ensuring you have accurate and consistent metrics.



Training, awareness, and communication


  • Your PMO and Project Management team need to be trained in the changes being made to the project lifecycle with the inclusion of sustainability considerations. As part of this it needs to be made clear how each individual projects sustainability targets drive the overall company objectives. As part of the regular communications and governance, the PMO can help to regularly update stakeholders on the status of the sustainability efforts across the project portfolio. Make this part of your regular project standups, don’t let it just be an afterthought.



Vendors, suppliers, partners, and supply chain management


  • As part of your project considerations for your selection of partners to work with, you should work with procurement to include sustainability considerations as part of your decision criteria. As part of the overall supply chain, their sustainable environmental and social practices will directly affect your overall sustainability impact. For example, for most organisations their broader supply chains will represent 80%-90% of the Greenhouse Gas emissions.  See our blog on Greenhouse Gas fundamentals for details.  So, making sustainability part of your vendor selection process is critical and then working with your partners to ensure they have goals set (in line with your own) and that they achieve these is imperative. Make it clear to suppliers the importance of this as part of the selection process.  However you manage you vendors, your PMO will have a key role here given that Change initiatives will often change suppliers for the organisation.



Risk Management


  • As part of your standard way of working you need to consider the sustainability aspects when making decisions and include any risks that may mean you miss your sustainability targets. Develop mitigation approaches to sustainability risks just as you do now for other project aspects. Your PMO can be the overall SME. Your PMO will work with your change teams already on the risk management processes.



Continuous feedback and improvement


  • Through internal and external stakeholder engagement and through the project teams, your PMO can gather data and feedback on your sustainability efforts. This information should be used to enhance your process for identifying, delivering, and measuring your current and future initiatives. Through continuous improvement, you can increase the effectiveness of your sustainability efforts to meet (and exceed) your corporate targets.



By building sustainability into the core of your project processes and portfolio management, implementing clear metrics and having a fully engaged project community, you can ensure that your projects help to drive your sustainability targets.  Doing so early will also ensure that you can deliver against your sustainability targets and achieve you other goals such as cost reduction. Treating sustainability separately or late in the change cycle is likely to cost you additional effort and money.  Your PMO is ideally positioned to be at the heart of you Change Portfolio to provide leadership and oversight to ensure that sustainability is a core consideration of your delivery methodology.


If you would like to discuss how your PMO can put sustainability at the heart of your change initiatives, please get in touch with

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