Sustainability in Project Management Case study project GrownDownTown


By Roeland Derichs and Bob Valk

University of Greenwich

London, United Kingdom


Sustainability is a hot topic nowadays. Many companies are using this term, but the big question is how many of these companies actually implement sustainability in their business operations and thus are entitled to use this term. Sustainability has many different principles and concepts, which all can be implemented in these operations. To combine all these different principles and concepts and create a complete view of sustainability, a framework was created to see how sustainability is integrated in a project. The project ‘GrownDownTown’ is created by ‘De Groenten Uit Amsterdam’ and Philips is responsible for the LED lighting. The project was tested to the framework and the Maturity Model, to see how the concepts are integrated and the level of consideration of sustainability in terms of resources, business processes, business model and products/services. The outcomes clarify that project ‘GrownDownTown’ mainly has a focus on the environmental concept of sustainability. Philips outsources the knowledge that is needed for the agriculture, to the company ‘De Groenten Uit Amsterdam’. Like how Philips collaborate with ‘Douwe Egberts’. Through these collaborations Philips makes it possible to develop the high quality without the knowledge inside the own organisation.


Sustainability became a hot top in the middle of the nineties (Hart, 1995). The burning challenge of business in the 21st century is to integrate sustainable development principles into core business operations such (Cooper, Hayward, & Neuberger, 2010) as projects. Sustainability is not just for the environment. Although environmental concern is what immediately comes to mind whenever the word “sustainability” is mentioned, there are many languages of sustainability, depending on whatever perspective is under consideration (Badiru, 2010). Thus sustainability has not only something to do with the environment, but also with the economical en social issues (Triple Bottom Line).

Many companies say that they consider or already use sustainability principles in projects or in project management processes (Keeys, 2012), the reality is that sustainability development principles are not largely considered in projects (Labuschagne et. al., 2005 & Gareis et. al., 2010). In project management, the focus is on specific sustainability aspects (environmental, social, construction, techniques, etc.) (Robert, et al., 2002) (Ebner & Baumgartner, 2010).

Businesses want to be sustainable (for their selves or for the outside world) so they develop what they call ‘corporate sustainability strategies’. However it is not clear if and how these strategies contribute to the integration of sustainability issues in projects (Keeys, 2012). There is very little guidance available on what is meant by sustainable project management or the responsibilities of the project management professional (Silvius, Brink, & Smit, 2009). So when there is little guidance available for how to integrate sustainability in projects, how can companies actually do it? The main question of this paper is:

How do (or how can) organisations integrate the concepts of sustainability into the way they execute and manage projects?


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Editor’s note: This paper won the 1st prize Student Paper Award – master level at the happy projects ’13 conference in Vienna in April 2013; it is republished here with approval of the authors 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 authors

roeland-derichsflag-ukflag-hollandRoeland Derichs





bob-valkBob Valkflag-ukflag-holland

After Bob Valk and Roeland Derichs graduated for the Bachelor of Built Environment at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam in 2012, they both started the European Master of Real Estate of the University of Greenwich in London. For the course Sustainability during this Master, Bob Valk and Roeland Derichs wrote the paper about Sustainability in Project Management within the project ‘GrownDownTown’. With this paper they won the first prize of the student paper awards on Masters level at the international Happy Projects conference in Vienna in April 2013. At this conference they also presented their paper.  Roland Derichs can be contacted at [email protected].  Bob Valk can be contacted at [email protected]