The Sustainable Development Goal to End Poverty and Project Management’s role

If you recently watched the webinar I did recently for IPMA on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you will know that I briefly covered two.  By request, I have started a series on our blog to break down each SDG from a PM perspective.  To watch the Webinar, Click here 

For the series, I will start at the top with SDG #1 “No Poverty”.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.54.55 PMQ. What is it this goal?
A. To end poverty in all its forms everywhere (by 2030). 

Q. Is it lofty?
A. Yes.

Q. Is it doable?
A. The short answer is Yes.  >BUT< not unless it becomes a goal of enough people who have the ability to create change.  >However< the focus should be on ensuring a livable wage by all, not simply playing a numbers game to get people to $1.40 an hour and declaring victory…

Q. Is it something that should be taken into consideration by projects and project management?
A. Yes.

That final question is all that needed to be posted.  Should we care and is it our remit?  Yes. But how?

Ending poverty is one of the greatest challenges there is. I will note that through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) tremendous progress was made, and the number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased from roughly 1.9 billion people to 836 million people.  Extreme poverty is, in this case, defined by individuals who live on less that $1.25 USD per day.   Eradicating poverty must be based on how many people can be lifted out of poverty through the opportunity to earn a livable wage.

To eradicate extreme poverty, an integrated approach is critical, and a focus needs to be placed on the areas of the world that are most afflicted, namely sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.  These are parts of the world that we at GPM have spent the past several years focusing efforts on.

01-no-povertyWhat does it mean to me as a project manager?

This answer is simple. We can’t focus solely on project outcomes. What matters, is how we define success, which isn’t simply completing the project within the constraints of time, cost scope, quality, resources, and risks.  We must consider the impacts.  Looking at SDG #1 for example, here some questions that should be posed when a PM and Sponsor review a project business case.

  • Is there an opportunity to reduce poverty as a result of or through this project i.e. create employment and decent work opportunities?
  • Are individuals who are working on this project paid a livable wage?
  • Does governance for procurement ensure that all purchases are made from organizations that pay fair wages and require it from their suppliers? Are suppliers held accountable?
  • Are men and women paid equally for the same work?
  • Would undertaking this project in a location that could support economic growth and lift people out of poverty? What about the opposite?  Is it a success factor?
  • What are the long-term economic impacts?
  • Does decision making/prioritization take poverty and economic growth into consideration?

I know, I know.  This sounds all well and good but I don’t have total control of the project from this perspective. I can’t make these kinds of decisions.

Project Managers do have control over your ability to engage your stakeholders, especially your sponsor.  You do have the ability to raise awareness and support benefits planning and realization.  If these aspects (supporting SDGs) are explained from a benefits perspective, it is easier for executives to digest, assess, and to make decisions on.  It is important to remember that today’s executive will be measured against these SDGs and how well they performed with them as a back drop.  Being able to explain how a project can support an SDG is something that every project manager should be able to do.

A Good Example

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

H&M, who just a year was under fire for poor supply chain management and child labor issues has developed standards and goals to ensure all workers in textile factories earn livable wages. They state “We use our influence on various levels to enable a fair living wage for workers in the textile industry. For example we work with supplier factories to support the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.” and  “It has always been our vision that all textile workers should be able to live on their wage. We are focusing on our strategic suppliers to start with. Our goal is that all of them should have improved pay structures for fair living wages in place by 2018.” SRC

Time will tell if their goals, policies, procedures, and practices all align to support SDG#1.  It is a step in the right direction.  For project managers, it is important to look at who is doing the work on the project, who is doing the work to supply materials to your project and if they are able to earn a sufficient wage for doing so. Ensuring that people are paid fairly is how Project Management can contribute to SDG#1 and eradicate poverty.

Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

4 thoughts to “The Sustainable Development Goal to End Poverty and Project Management’s role”

  1. Awesome sir, I truly align with the concept of tackling the SDGs through project management. In fact, this is why Young Crew Nigeria is making the theme of its conference in September on Project Management and the SD. I am very sure we can learn a lot from your wisdom. A wonderful piece.

  2. The conveyance of the SDG’s and targets here in correlation to project management and especially SDG #1 is fabulous. I was hoping you could direct me to more information regarding a plan of action that specifically targets helping achieve SDG#1 with the identification of the predominantly specified African and Asian recipients and progress monitoring to that regard? I did not locate information with those focalizations in the thirty-five page UN agreement. Any and all assistance would be graciously appreciated.

  3. Awesome sir, I plan on working on a research topic on project management and the role it plays in the 2030 sustainable development goal in Nigeria. I will be glad if you can help me with a particular research topic.

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