Sustainable project management brings Circular Economy to life

Sustainable project management brings Circular Economy to life

Since the start of proSense we have been concerned with bringing sustainable strategies to life. Many of these new ways of working and thinking mean a change for the organization. This is especially relevant for changes towards circular economy solutions. After all, the entire change does not happen overnight, but in several steps. Almost all areas of the company are affected and must be involved. New processes are required, current ones are reviewed and adapted. And this is probably one of the reasons why so many companies are not tackling this change actively. Because the challenge is seen as too big, and there are so many other issues that are currently being tackled.
This cannot be dismissed. But the question is how these current issues, especially digitization, will bring the greatest sustainable benefits to the company. And how this can be linked to the switch to circularity. After all, digitization will make new business models for the circular economy much easier to implement. On the one hand, people have their heads and hands free for innovation when routine processes are digitized. On the other hand, digital solutions help us to know where and in what quality resources are or will be available. This is an absolute success factor in a circular world in which it is not a question of constantly making new products from new materials.

Sustainable project management brings clarity and focus on benefits

It is therefore important for us not only to carry out sustainable projects, but also to make the project management itself sustainable. A project is unique, but this does not mean that you have to reinvent everything for every project. That’s why framework conditions, principles and structures for project and portfolio management in the company are important, and we then apply these to sustainable projects. For us, project management is considered sustainable if it achieves long-term benefits and anchors the change in the company. And if the employees concerned are actively involved in finding solutions.

I know this very well from the optimization of project management structures based on PRINCE2. Standards are used to create clear structures and procedures for projects in the company, from the definition of the project for initial release, through the preparation and planning activities with the team, to the implementation and coordination of the work in terms of content. An important part of the standards, strange as it may sound, are the rules for deviating from the standards. After all, I have to consider for each project which way is the best to implement it.

A very interesting approach to this is available at There are 4 areas in particular that distinguish which project management is required:
• How well known are the requirements of the customers/users?
• How well do we know the technology we want to use?
• How much cooperation between different areas (inside and outside your own organization) is required?
• How time critical is the project really?
It depends not least on this, how extensively agile procedures such as Scrum should be used in project management and when it is better to proceed in more waterfall-like procedures.

Why does Circular Economy need sustainable project management?

Projects are often viewed critically because they disrupt the current process. Employees of the daily business are assigned to projects, processes are changed and have to be adjusted, new partners are taken on board, technologies are changed – and many people have to be adequately involved in communication. Achieving sustainability first of all means creating understanding, taking resistance and fears seriously, and ensuring that the operative organization follows the new paths, offers and represents new solutions after the end of the project.
This is especially true for Circular Economy, which requires a rethink within the company and triggers many changes. In my view, this is where agile approaches to further development are particularly useful. Implementing step by step will ensure that employees and existing partners have the chance to follow and co-create the change. The agile mindset also ensure that everyone is aware that not everything will lead directly to success, but it needs continuous learning by doing, inspection and adaptation.

Implementing the Circular Economy Program

Stable project management is important because Circular Economy is not a short-term change, but rather has the character of a program. It needs a vision that is linked to the corporate strategy and business development, the development of the company. First of all, you analyze which options provide the highest added value for the company and the first implementation projects are started. The existing project landscape should be checked with a Circularity Check to see if they support the strategy, if changes are necessary or even if they need to be stopped, as they are based on linear thinking. Measures that bring early benefits should be prioritized.

What it needs above all is the human aspect: leadership from the decision-makers and drivers of change, stakeholder involvement of people inside and outside the company. Because, as I have seen in successful companies, people like to be there and get involved when it comes to solutions for cycles. They find meaning in it and know that there are better ways of using resources than the ones we are currently using. Therefore change management, especially change communication is an important factor for sustainable project management. Together with our partners, we attach great importance to this, because stable processes in day-to-day business are often the result of actively involving the people in the project who will deal with the result.