Sustainable development and stakeholders in project management

The notion of sustainable development means the awareness of the fact that all our actions will affect the future so those actions should be thoughtful. It is a kind of development that meets the needs and expectations of today’s generations without infringing on the future ones and this is its main goal. It is connected not only to the environmental aspects but also to the social ones. This approach must be taken into account on several levels like global, regional, and local so that means all types of organizations, when it comes to their size and the area of activity, should be involved in sustainable development because all actions matter. The approach is indeed getting more and more popular among organizations and enterprises. It is also strongly connected to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. It was not that recognizable until the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Then, the organizations like World Business Council for Sustainable Development or The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on CSR were created. Now they work for the idea of CSR and also sustainable development.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development which are set by the UN are helpful to understand the concept of sustainable development. The goals relate to different areas but they have a common primary goal. The objectives apply to both high-income and low-income countries so it also means that the organizations of various incomes can apply them too.


There is no doubt that the basics of the approach should be implemented in organizations. They should be present consequently in the dimension of projects too, especially as projects may be sometimes described as temporal organizations. It does not mean that all of the enterprises should focus on the projects that directly pursue the goals of sustainable development. It means that while implementing all different types of projects, whether they are in the area of business improvement or the area of building construction, the assumptions of sustainable development should be present. It is crucial if we care about future generations. Long-term benefits are important to projects so long-term benefits for the society and ecosystems are significant too. Applying the framework of sustainable methods compatible with international standards and ethics makes project management be able to deliver greater value at the macro level.

How to implement the basics of sustainable development in project management? While defining project objectives we must take into consideration the ecological and social aspects. At this point, the crucial role of stakeholders is emphasized. They are individuals or groups of people that can influence the implementation of the project or they are influenced during its implementation. That means their role in project management is fundamental and being in contact with them is required. The approach of sustainable development also requires a continuous dialogue with the stakeholders as the consensus with this kind of partners is an objective of the approach. Therefore, there is a strong connection between sustainable development and project management in this aspect. The way individual stakeholders can influence the project is the subject of the analysis that should be carried out in the first phases of project management. At this point, it is worth paying attention to the classification of stakeholders, in particular, the one according to the strength of impact and type of involvement. Using the knowledge of stakeholders who care about the idea of sustainable development is precious. They should be heard and their comments should be taken into consideration although sometimes they could be considered as the negative stakeholders with the strong impact who want to stop the project.

The issue of stakeholders is mentioned in the standards of stakeholder management and these are the tools that could be very helpful. One of the most common of these models is the AA1000 Stakeholder Management Standard (AA1000SES). This is a set of framework assumptions that support an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders. The standard has three main principles: inclusiveness, relevance, and responsiveness which relate to the corporate social responsibility theme that underlies the AA1000 standard set. The model indicates the stakeholder engagement process that is critical during the project realization, especially the project that is consistent with sustainable development.

The other model worth mentioning in this field is PRiSM – Projects Integrating Sustainable Methods. Its main focus is the balance between the resources, social responsibility, and delivering project outcomes that can be called “green”. It also distinguishes stakeholders as an important aspect of projects that are engaged in sustainable development.

It is worth getting acquainted with the PRiSM model, especially since it is that simple to access, the guide is available here.

Author: Roksana Podkowa