‘THE NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT’

Farah Saeed
9 min readNov 9, 2021

Overview of Environmental Project Management

It can be defined as all the templates as well as the tool sets which are used to effectively manage all components of an ecosystem which comprises of air, water, land and all the atmospheric layers. This ultimately helps to achieve the sustainable development targets and goals. After its completion, it evolves into one of the routine operations of a company or organization.

Green and Sustainable Projects

They are focused towards improving and preserving the environment and this is done by incorporating environmental aspects and also complying to environmental regulations and environmental policies. If we talk about green projects then a good example would be of a project related to road construction in which wetlands’ protection and conservation would be considered a priority. A few more examples include subsea project, mining project, Research and Development, and gas or oil project.

Projects based on Environment

It is like a type of project which is temporary as it has a specific starting and ending date. It is created for initiating and managing a certain task. Environmental-based project has some characteristics similar to green projects but they are different as they involve many environmental activities. All such activities are done to accomplish sustainable objectives which include reducing and mitigating adverse environmental impacts such as groundwater contamination, oil spills and greenhouse-gas emissions etc. Evidently all the environmental-based projects are of environmental nature. One such project was HYPREP (Nigeria’s-hydrocarbon pollution-restoration project) whose objectives included coastal-wetland restoration and environmental remediation. One of its key characteristics is that it must have a specified environmental objective which has to be accomplished within its time frame such as reducing industrial waste or decreasing the total greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% until 2020. This objective shows that this is a whole project and is not a part of organizations’ routine activities. Once such project gets incorporated into the organizations’ management structure, it will be considered a part of regular environmental-management practices and routine operations. Other examples include carbon-sequestration project, Alcoa waste-wise project and environmental-remediation projects.

Business Operations and Environmental-based Projects

Environmental-based projects include an entirely new system, product or process, have a single environmental goal, have specific start date and ending date, achieves a sustainability outcome, uses systems such as environmental-management system (EMS) for integrating efforts, have a high uncertainty of schedule, cost and performance, it is implemented outside of the company or organization and implies change. Projects require funding for their implementation and accomplish specific objectives. Projects, upon completion, provide a new service, product or result.

Whereas business operations include a repeating system, product or process, possess multiple goals, is continuous and ongoing, has multiple outcomes, have already well-established systems for integration of efforts, have higher certainty of schedule, cost and performance, is implemented inside the organization and indicates business-as-usual scenario. Operational tasks are a source of income generation and sustain business.

The intermixing of operational tasks, project and business commonly occurs in an environmental industry. Business cycle refers to the state before the project and it is when new opportunities of business are being analyzed and reviewed. Environmental-project cycle refers to the execution of the project in the specific project-management phases. Operation cycle indicates the benefit stage and involves the utilization of project results.

Examples of Projects performed in Australia

Projects can be categorized into small and large projects. Some projects can involve a single person, one large group or can comprise of thousand people or more. Their duration can range from one week, one month, or might require years to be completed. Environmental-based projects require skills, innovative technology and knowledge to produce some sustainable change in system, result or service. If we talk about difference business cycle, operation cycle and environmental-project cycle. Operation cycle includes plan, schedule, execute, analyze and improve steps. Environmental-project cycle includes these steps; initiation, EIA study, planning, execution and close out. Business cycle includes the value identification, screening new business opportunities, feasibility review and final-investment decision.

Australia is working on some amazing environmental-based projects which include;

· Ten-Million trees program which was started by Alcoa industrial corporation as a mitigation measure to climate change. Their key objective was to start the plantation of 10 million trees by the year 2020. They have estimated that the new 10 million trees will help in absorbing 250,000 tonnes CO2 per annum in their whole lifetime.

· Carbon dioxide reduction program was initiated to cause a substantial decrease in anode effects resulting from Portland-Aluminium smelter. Till date, it has caused a decrease of 106,000 tonnes CO2 emissions per annum and also created maintenance savings of about US $ 135,000 every year.

· Carbon-Capture project initiated the installation of Kwinana-residue carbon-capture station located in west Australia which is sequestering about 70,000 tonnes CO2 per annum which would otherwise pollute the atmosphere and this is similar to removing 17,500 motor vehicles from roads.

· Alcoa-Darling Range Water-Catchment Program was initiated to design the rainfall-zone mining alongwith salinity management in such a way that the water quality of catchments is protected in the regions of Western Australia.

· Alcoa-Wastewise program was started as a practical approach for reducing waste production and to increase the sustainable resource use.

In Australia, Alcoa industrial corporation became the first one to report and formally register to DITR (Federal-Department of Industry-Resources and Tourism) and agreed on abiding by the EEO (Energy-Efficiency Opportunities) Act of 2007 along with Greenhouse-Challenge Plus-programs. Alcoa has made an investment of 60,000 US$ for a partnership spanning three years in collaboration with Murdoch University. In 2008, Alcoa Chair was established by them in the Sustainable-Water Management. In 2009, in terms of emissions reduction they achieved a milestone which was observed at their Portland Aluminium station. The implementation of Carbon-Bakes Sustainability-Project completed in the year 2008 whereas full commissioning started in the year 2009. The outcomes of this project showed a 80% decrease and a 90% decrease in emissions of PAHs (polycyclic-aromatic hyrocarbons) in anode baking technique and VOCs (volatile-organic compounds) respectively. Woodside Petroleum in collaboration of C02 Australia made an investment of 100 million Australian US$ for reducing the carbon emissions resulting from working of Pluto reservoir. This program also includes large scale plantation of trees to increase the carbon sink forests. In Australia, it is considered as the biggest program for offsetting commercial emissions. The plantation started in 2008 and continued for a period of five years.

Such projects are usually taken by organizations and corporations for showing their clients their dedication towards environmental compliance and environmental stewardship but the problem is that they do not follow an appropriate methodology for project management.

Importance of EnvPM

EnvPM (Environmental-Project management) is one of the newly emerging terms which can be interpreted in more than one way. but for the professional of this field, it refers to all the knowledge areas, processes, principles, techniques and detailed tools which are employed for management of different elements of our environment including land, living organisms, air and water resources. This term is also used in association with EMS (environmental-management system) and relevant processes which are used for determining the potential impacts the project activities might have on environment. EnvPM’s concept as well as the term was given by Shirley, Maltzman, Krasnoff and Mochal and this concept’s basic goal is to incorporate the environmental policies of an organization into the processes of project management. GPM (Green-Project Management) is actually a model created for the project managers so that they think in terms of sustainability in the entire lifecycle of any project and to take into consideration all the consequences anthropogenic activities will incur on environment especially during decision making. The major goal of EnvPM is to accomplish several sustainable outcomes which maintain the integrity of the natural and built environment.

It can be simplified as:

EnvPM = Management + Environment + Project

Environmental Project Management = ecosystem consisting of physical and biological elements of life (land, air, living organisms, plants and water) + unique and temporary activity started for achieving a sustainability objective + controlling, coordinating and organizing a specific ecosystem element

This concept is considered as a paradigmatic shift in all the methods of environmental improvement and management. Thomas in 2005 narrated the problem which can be summarized as; we cannot take advantage of the natural resources and also dump our wastes into the same environment because that will make the future generations suffer as the natural resources won’t be adequate for their use. If we continue with our sustainable resource exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and making the atmosphere polluted by release of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere then it will put the coming generations into jeopardy as they won’t have sufficient resources and will have to survive in the most polluted environment. It has become imperative that, as a responsible citizen, everyone must come alive to their responsibility to work for conserving and improving environment and remediating the degraded sites.

Framework of Environmental Project Management

Environmental-Project Management Framework can be created by using the below-mentioned descriptions of environmental management, project management and project.

· Project is defined as a unique, temporary and specific endeavor or set of activities which produce some deliverables. It involves organizing the financial and material resources efficiently and properly. It undertakes some work with a unique scope, of certain specification, has a definite time period, and also has some quality constraints and cost constraints.

· Project management is a form of science as well as art integrating, planning, controlling, directing and organizing all the resources in the entire lifecycle of a single project. It aims to accomplish several objectives regarding time, scope, customer satisfaction, cost and quality.

· Environmental Management refers to procedure of optimally utilizing all artificial and natural resources so that the environmental resources are sustainably used and the basic human requirements are adequately met.

Three aspects are very important when developing the Environmental-Project Management Framework i.e. cost, quality and time. They are often known by the name of ‘Triple Constraints’ in project management. When project activities are being managed, these constraints and their association with each other must be constantly reviewed and wherever required, trade-offs should be made to prioritize one constraint on another. An example would be reducing the planned schedule for making EIS (Environmental-Impact Statement) which would result in cost savings as staff time would be reduced but it would result in an incomplete and poor quality EIS.

Environmental management proves to be a linkage between sustainable development, project management and environmental management. All the environmental regulatory laws and regulations must be fulfilled according to the country where the project is taken. Moreover, it should follow all the health and safety policies, laws and standards which the organization has certification of i.e., OHSAS 18001 etc. The sustainability principles must be incorporated into the project.

Significance of Environmental-Project Management

The technology and science has progressed to the benefit of mankind but it has also caused damage to the environment in the form of improper disposal of industrial waste, increase in greenhouse gases, contaminated groundwater, space debris and nuclear waste. But now every country has become cognizant of the effect of industrialization on natural resources so they have enforced stricter regulatory measures and laws on activities such as production industries and resource exploration in private as well as public sectors. Still our planet’s health is threatened owing to dishonest practices and negligent surveillance.

For every new project, performance, time and additional costs which are needed for complying to stipulations and norms of environmental authorities should be incorporated into the schedule and cost structure. For projects regarding conservation, remediation and environmental protection, business decisions and planning should incorporate environmental-strategic programs. GIS (geographic-information system), remote sensing, photogrammetry and GNSS (global-navigation satellite systems) must be used for screening of different projects to assess whether an EIA (environmental-impact assessment) is required or not before starting a certain project.

Conclusion

Environmental problems such as ozone depletion, scarcity of natural resources, air pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change are gaining traction with each passing day as their impacts are becoming evident. There is an increased awareness regarding conservation and protection of natural environment. But still there is an insufficient application of interdisciplinary courses like environmental governance, environmental management, environmental policy, environmental law, sustainable development and sustainability in general. Environmental project management is crucial for advancement of social values, enhancing technological skills as well as achieving economic prosperity.

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