The sustainability of services and products

The sustainability of services and products

Every product or service has a carbon footprint.

Craig SmithHow a project is managed, how a product is built and used, and how it is disposed of will define the harm it does to our planet. Sustainability must be judged across the entire product lifecycle.

So many of the decisions that govern whether a product is sustainable are made during its design.

Project managers and service managers have a duty to come together while the project is being planned to minimize the product’s lifetime environmental impact. Between them, they can influence the decisions that will mitigate the impact it has on the environment, guiding the design to ensure the right choices are made.

For example, they can choose to source material from sustainable suppliers who recycle materials once they have passed their usefulness. When delegating work, they can use third parties who favour renewable sources of energy.

Frequently, benefits to the organization and to the environment are aligned. For example, a well-designed product that is fit-for-purpose reduces the number of meetings needed to retrofit a solution to a problem that should have been resolved in development. This has business and environmental benefits: meetings have financial and ecological overheads, especially when people need to travel to take part. This is not to negate the imperative to make improvements to a product or service once it is in use. Indeed, it might be possible to design an approach to sustainability that accommodates continual service improvement (CSI), where the operational metrics allow the service provider to tweak the service’s environmental impact throughout its life.

At present, eco-friendliness is often the more expensive option. However, the cost of sustainability is coming down. When sustainability equates value for money, then the discussions will be more straight-forward. In the meantime, project managers and service managers with environmental awareness must work together to aid our planet.

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