Emerging Sustainable Development Strategy in Projects: A Theoretical Framework

By Lynn A. Keeys, MA, PMP

Strategy, Program & Project Management

SKEMA Business School, Lille, France



(Editor’s note: This paper won the 1st prize Student Paper Award – PhD level at the happy projects ’12 conference in Vienna in May 2012; it is republished here with approval of the author and happy projects conference organizers, PROJEKTMANAGEMENT GROUP at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and ROLAND GAREIS CONSULTING.  Learn about the happy projects events at http://www.happyprojects.at/ )


This article proposes a theoretical framework for emerging sustainable development strategy in projects, within the context of corporate sustainability strategy.  The framework is the first phase of exploratory case study research on integrating sustainable development principles in projects, as a core business operation.  The framework is based on a literature review of concepts, definitions, theories and models in strategic management, corporate sustainability, and projects.  The theoretical framework is intended to help develop new knowledge and insight into how business can integrate SD principles into core business operations from a management process, rather than sustainability content perspective.

Further results of the PhD research will be published in:  Keeys, L, Huemann, M., & Turner, R (forthcoming 2013), Integrating project strategy for sustainable development: A conceptual framework.  In A.J.G. Silvius, AJG & J. Tharp (eds), Sustainable Integration for Effective Project Management, Hershey, PA: IGI Global House.

  1. 1.             Introduction

The burning challenge of business in the 21st century is to mainstream sustainable development (SD) principles into the daily practice of business (Accenture 2010). The 1987 World Commission Report on Environment and Development, “Our Common Future,” better known as the “Brundtland Report” (WCED 1987) defined sustainable development as “the process of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p.1).

As core business activities, projects have not escaped this challenge and are called to integrate holistic SD principles, addressing economic, environmental and social (triple bottom line) concerns of stakeholders at the local level while contributing to sustainability at the global level in the short, medium and long term.  Businesses develop corporate sustainability (CS) strategies to outline their path towards sustainability.  However, it is not clear whether or how these strategies actually address holistic sustainability issues in core business activities such as projects (Ebner & Baumgartner 2010).


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About the Author

Ms. Lynn A. Keeys is an independent consultant and a Ph.D. candidate at the SKEMA Business School in Lille, France.  An American based in Johannesburg, South Africa she is a certified project management professional with extensive experience in international cooperation and sustainable development, specializing in program and project strategy conceptualization, design and planning, project & strategy facilitation, and organizational project management.  She can be contacted at [email protected]