Consideration of sustainable development principles in process management


By Mag. Ivonne Lange, PMP, PM (IPMA Level C), SPcM,

Doctoral candidate

T-Systems Austria GesmbH,

Vienna, Austria


Sustainable development (SD) is of relevance for project and process management. A process related definition of sustainable development is applied in this paper. Thus SD can be defined by using the following principles: economic, social and ecologic-orientation; short, mid, and long term-orientation; and local, regional and global-orientation. Furthermore, sustainable development is based on values. Process management considers the whole company by aligning all business processes with the corporate strategy. By treating process management as a holistic approach, sustainable development can be taken into account in all of the company. This paper discusses the analysis of different process management standards such as processRGC, Performance Excellence, BPM CBOK® and Six Sigma to see how sustainable development principles are applied in practice. As a result of this paper, selected methods of process management are further developed by considering sustainable development principles. Furthermore, their viability in practice is discussed.

1.    Introduction

In the Brundtland Report sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment Development 1987: 43). Increasing interest in the topic of sustainable development is observable in organizational management and strategy research (Cummings/Daellenbach 2009). Sustainable development is relevant for different social systems, such as society, region and organizations (Gareis et al. 2013).  Research has shown that only by integrating sustainability principles into the core processes, an organization can gain performance benefits (Wagner 2007).

The application of sustainable development is already being taken into account in individual processes, such as, for example, in the construction process (Bourdeau 1999; Hill/Bowen 1997; Khalfan 2006; Kompass Nachhaltigkeit 2012a; Wolpensinger 2006) or in the procurement process (CSR Europe 2012; EU-Kommission 2012; Kompass Nachhaltigkeit 2012b; Koplin 2006; Little 2002). Thus a contribution is being made to process management as a whole. However, one needs to distinguish between individual processes and process management as a holistic approach, which systematically aligns all business processes with the corporate strategy. This is relevant in so far as process management figures prominently in entrepreneurial decision making and in the increase of organizational efficiency in order to secure a company’s ability to compete.

The consideration of sustainable development in process management requires a holistic view. Because a basis for the professional completion of processes is created through process management (Gareis/Stummer 2008), contributions to the sustainable development in individual processes are realized through sustainable process management. Moreover, the consideration of process management takes qualitative aspects of business activities into account (Gaitanides et al. 1994; Käfer 2006; Schmelzer/Sesselmann 2010; Wittig 2002).

Recognized process management standards such as processRGC (Gareis/Stummer 2008), Performance Excellence (Wagner/Patzak 2007), BPM CBOK® (EABPM 2009) and Six Sigma (Gygi et al. 2006; Töpfer 2007; Toutenburg/Knöfel 2009) exist. These standards have been developed by practitioners and represent best practices across organizations within the field. These standards offer a generic process management approach, applicable to all industries.

This paper reports first results of a PhD research. It seeks to analyze how sustainable development principles are considered in process management applied in globally recognized process management standards and to discuss how the methods of process management can be further developed considering sustainable development principles.


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Editor’s note: This paper won the 2nd prize Student Paper Award at the happy projects ’13 conference in Vienna in April 2013; it is republished here with approval of the author and happy projects conference organizers, PROJECT MANAGEMENT GROUP at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and ROLAND GAREIS CONSULTING.  Learn about the happy projects events at http://www.happyprojects.at/ 

About the author 

ivonne-langeflag-austriaIvonne Lange

Vienna, Austria

Since 2007 Ivonne Lange has been working as a project manager in projects of national as well as of international relevance. Furthermore, she has been engaged in process-related themes since 2008 and has been process manager for the project management process in her company since November 2012. She possesses a broad knowledge base in project and process management due to training in and application of these fields over the last four years. She holds a Magister’s degree in business administration from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. Currently she is writing her PhD thesis at the PROJECTMANAGEMENT GROUP and focuses on the consideration of sustainable development principles in process management.  Ivonne can be contacted at [email protected]