Learn about Sustainability in a few hours…

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” Nathaniel Branden

Key Sustainability References

Trying to figure out what sustainability is about can be a challenge.  I have benefited significantly from reading the following references… and for the afternoon and a few hundred dollars, they have more than payed for themselves.

If you can think of any other references that have significantly impacted your awareness understanding and insight into sustainability, please let me know!

ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on social responsibility

Overall this is a brilliant introduction and overview of social responsibility, incorporating discussions on organizational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement and development… in essence the people, planet and profit components of sustainability.  Due to the fact that this is an ISO standard, the cultural, moral and ethical constraints of various cultures has been largely removed and left with guidance that the world can collectively accept and adopt.

Taken from the Introduction on Page 6:

“This International Standard provides guidance on the underlying principles of social responsibility, recognizing social responsibility and engaging stakeholders, the core subjects and issues pertaining to social responsibility (see Table 2)”…

ISO 26000 Core Subjects


…”and on ways to integrate socially responsible behaviour into the organization (see Figure 1).”

ISO 26000 schematic overview

“This International Standard emphasizes the importance of results and improvements in performance on social responsibility.

This International Standard is intended to be useful to all types of organizations in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, whether large or small, and whether operating in developed or developing countries. While not all parts of this International Standard will be of equal use to all types of organizations, all core subjects are relevant to every organization. All core subjects comprise a number of issues, and it is an individual organization’s responsibility to identify which issues are relevant and significant for the organization to address, through its own considerations and through dialogue with stakeholders.”


118 Pages

198 CHF or $202.16 USD (presuming 1 CHF = 1.02103 USD)


ISO Guide 82:2014 – Guidelines for addressing sustainability in standards

ISO Guide 82 is a fairly new release and is effectively a Coles Notes® (if you are Canadian) or Cliffs / Monarch Notes® (if you are American) or York Notes® (if you are British) version of ISO 26000.  It is also a brilliant guideline for helping ISO standards developers incorporate social responsibility into ISO standards.

Taken from the Introduction on page 5:

“Sustainability is the goal of sustainable development. It refers to any state of the global system in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainability is continually evolving. Understanding and achieving a balance between environmental, social and economic systems, ideally in mutually supporting ways, is considered essential for making progress towards achieving sustainability. The achievement of sustainability is now recognized as one of the most important considerations in all human activities.

The term “sustainable development” is often used to describe development that leads to sustainability, and the term “social responsibility” is often used to describe how an individual organization (e.g. a company) can contribute to sustainable development.

This Guide is intended for use by anyone involved in the development of ISO standards and similar deliverables, and aims to:

a) raise awareness of sustainability issues arising from the application of ISO standards;
b) provide standards writers with a systematic approach to addressing sustainability issues in a coherent and consistent manner, with regard to both new and revised standards, and in a manner related to the objective and scope of the standard being developed;
c) promote consistency, where appropriate, among standards that address sustainability. This Guide makes reference to related ISO deliverables, as appropriate, e.g. ISO Guide 64 (which addresses environmental issues in product standards) and ISO 26000 (which provides guidance on social responsibility).

Standards writers are encouraged to consider sustainability issues in their work at all stages in the standards development process. If sustainability issues have not been considered, this can be a valid reason to start the revision of a standard. In addition, the significance or relevance of specific issues might have changed since the previous edition of a standard was drafted or reviewed. Whenever a new standard is drafted or an existing standard is revised, all standards writers (including project leaders, convenors, committee chairs and secretaries) are encouraged to actively promote the application of this Guide, and thereby involve experts knowledgeable in the subject.”

Though obviously designed for standards development, ISO Guide 82 included recommendations that could be used for incorporating sustainability and social responsibility into standards, policies and strategies.

ISO Guide 82 Standards Process


26 Pages

118 CHF or $120.48 USD (presuming 1 CHF = 1.02103 USD)


ISO/DIS 20400.2 – Sustainable procurement — Guidance

This was a reasonably short and very practical and hands on guidance for sustainable procurement which I strongly recommend acquiring.

Taken from the Introduction on Page 6:

Every organization has environmental, social and economic impacts on a variety of stakeholders.

Procurement is a powerful instrument for all organizations wanting to behave in a responsible way and contribute to sustainable development. By integrating sustainability in procurement policies and practices, including supply chains, organizations can manage risks (including opportunities) for sustainable environmental, social and economic development.

Sustainable procurement is an opportunity to provide more value to the organization by improving productivity, assessment of value and performance, better communication between purchasers, suppliers and all stakeholders, and by encouraging innovation.

This international standard assists organizations in meeting their sustainability responsibilities by providing an understanding of:

  • what sustainable procurement is;
  • what the sustainability impacts and considerations are across the different aspects of procurement activity: policy, strategy, organization, process;
  • how to implement sustainable procurement.

Figure 1 presents the structure of this international standard.

ISO DIS 20400.2 Structure

This international standard is applicable to any organization, either public or private, regardless of its size and location, and aims to be understood by any stakeholder involved in or impacted by procurement decisions and processes. The implementation of this international standard should take into account the context and characteristics of a particular organization, scaling the application of the concepts to suit the size of their organization. The adoption of the standard by large organizations may promote opportunities to small and medium size organizations in its supply chains.”


58 Pages

58 CHF or $59.22 USD (presuming 1 CHF = 1.02103 USD)


The GPM P5™ 2014 Version 1.1 Standard for Sustainability In Project Management

From the Introduction on Page 6

P5 2014 1.1 Cover“P5 stands for People, Planet, Profit, Process and Product.

The GPM P5 Standard is a tool that supports the alignment of Portfolios, Programs and Projects with organizational strategy for Sustainability and focuses on the Impacts of Project Processes and Deliverables on the Environment, Society, the corporate bottom line and the local economy.

The simplest way to explain P5 is that it is made of bonds between the triple bottom line approach, project processes and the resulting products or services.

P5 expands on the triple bottom line theory to allow for project management integration and is an adaptation of a sustainability checklist that was developed at the 2010 IPMA® Expert Seminar, “Survival and Sustainability as challenges to projects.”

This publication provides guidance on what to measure and how to integrate P5 into project activities and can also be used by CSR professionals to support their sustainability reporting to include projects.

P5 serves as the sustainability framework our PRiSM methodology is built and leverages ISO standards, the GRI G4 indicators and the UN Global Compact Ten Principles.”


29 Pages

$0.00 USD


Several Other Fun References

Six Capitals, or Can Accountants Save the Planet?: Rethinking Capitalism for the Twenty-First Century

This book is not a quick read, but it is very interesting and timely.  The following is a slight modification of an excellent summary by Nick Shepherd (Shepherd, 2015).

It provides an interesting background around the evolution of the sustainability concept from the original Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, profits) from the 1980’s to today. Six Capitals is a model where the major accounting bodies around the world, with capitalists, investors, governments, regulators and other key stakeholders have been meeting and have developed a new reporting system called the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) which addresses not only capital (financial) but the following:

  • financial
  • manufactured
  • intellectual
  • human
  • social and relationship
  • natural capital

These capitals represent the sources of inputs that organizations access in their business model.

There was a fun story about the real cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac:

The problem of externalities is best expressed by former World Bank economist Raj Patel in his hypothetical “$ 200 hamburger.” In this thought experiment Patel estimated the real cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac to be $ 200. The reason Big Macs sell for almost one-hundredth of this figure is that their price does not account for their real costs. These include their carbon footprint, their impact on the environment in terms of water use and soil degradation, and the enormous health-care costs of diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Traditional accounting models do not take these costs into account, but they still have to be paid; it is just that the McDonald’s Corporation does not pay them. We do. Society as a whole pays, in the form of environmental disasters, climate change, the depletion of natural resources and higher health costs. For Patel, the fact that corporations do not pay the environmental and social costs they rack up amounts to corporate subsidy on a massive scale. As he remarks, “You’d be forgiven for thinking that this ongoing bailout from nature and society to private enterprise is what puts the ‘free’ into free markets— despite its protests, corporate capitalism has yet to prove that it can operate without these kinds of subsidies.”

The goal of adopting a move to a broader based “integrated report” is to provide key stakeholders, particularly investors with a broader understanding of an organizations sustainability in all areas of input that it depends upon (a more realistic basis for a going concern in the longer term). The view is that in a world where balance sheets represent on average only 20% of an organizations value investors need to understand more in order to make judgements on investment decisions. In addition the public is demanding greater accountability from the organizations and the Six Capitals can be a way of opening up transparency into areas such as environmental impact.


Hardcover 304 Pages

Hardcover $22.64 USD

The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public

This is a very interesting book, and a quick read.  It is very important for corporations in the West, specifically the Americas, to understand the nonsensical and legally incorrect shareholder value myth is harming not just investors but the global economy as well.  As demonstrated in this book, this short term and immediate share value perspective is not only non-sustainable but damaging in the long run.

Executives, investors, and the business press routinely chant the mantra that corporations are required to “maximize shareholder value.” In this pathbreaking book, renowned corporate expert, and professor at Cornell University Law School,Lynn Stout debunks the myth that corporate law mandates shareholder primacy. Stout shows how shareholder value thinking endangers not only investors but the rest of us as well, leading managers to focus myopically on short-term earnings; discouraging investment and innovation; harming employees, customers, and communities; and causing companies to indulge in reckless, sociopathic, and irresponsible behaviors. And she looks at new models of corporate purpose that better serve the needs of investors, corporations, and society.



Softcover 120 Pages

Softcover $17.29 USD


Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth

This is an exciting book that Grzegorz (Greg) Szalajko recommended to me several years ago during an IPMA Project Excellence Assessment in Guatemala.  I believe it is relevant from a sustainability perspective in terms of culture and values organizationally.  I copied the following from the Amazon site:

“Jugaad Innovation is the most comprehensive book yet to appear on the subject [of frugal innovation].”
The Economist

A frugal and flexible approach to innovation for the 21st century.

Innovation is a key directive at companies worldwide. But in these tough times, we can’t rely on the old formula that has sustained innovation efforts for decades—expensive R&D projects and highly-structured innovation processes. Jugaad Innovation argues the West must look to places like India, Brazil, and China for a new approach to frugal and flexible innovation. The authors show how in these emerging markets, jugaad (a Hindi word meaning an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness) is leading to dramatic growth and how Western companies can adopt jugaad innovation to succeed in our hypercompetitive world.

  • Outlines the six principles of jugaad innovation:
  1. Seek opportunity in adversity,
  2. do more with less,
  3. think and act flexibly,
  4. keep it simple,
  5. include the margin, and
  6. follow your heart
  • Features twenty case studies on large corporations from around the world—Google, Facebook, 3M, Apple, Best Buy, GE, IBM, Nokia, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Tata Group, and more—that are actively practicing jugaad innovation
  • The authors blog regularly at Harvard Business Review; their work has been profiled in BusinessWeek, MIT Sloan Management Review, The Financial Times, The Economist, and more
  • Filled with previously untold and engaging stories of resourceful jugaad innovators and entrepreneurs in emerging markets and the United States

This groundbreaking book shows leaders everywhere why the time is right for jugaad to emerge as a powerful business tool in the West—and how to bring jugaad mindset and practices to their organizations.

There was an insightful case study that I particularly enjoyed about the difference in corporate cultures between the East and West:

For instance, in China, any call placed to Haier’s national customer service center is answered within three rings and a technician is dispatched to your house within three hours— even on Sundays.

A few years back, one such call came from a farmer in a remote village in Sichuan province who complained about the constantly clogged drainpipe in his washing machine. The Haier technician who went to investigate found that the farmer was using the machine to wash the mud off his freshly harvested potatoes; it was this mud that was causing the clogging.

“Most companies would react by saying ‘This machine is not designed for this purpose,’ ” explains Philip Carmichael, Haier’s president, Asia-Pacific, “but Haier’s approach was to say, ‘This guy (farmer) isn’t the only one who’s tried to wash potatoes. Is there a way to adapt this product to this requirement? Maybe we can make a machine that actually washes potatoes and clothes.’ ”

Haier’s flexible thinking was spot on: it turns out that millions of farmers across China routinely use their washing machines to clean their vegetables. Sensing a big market opportunity, Haier’s cross-functional teams quickly acted on their intuition by developing a washing machine with larger pipes that could also handle vegetables.

The product was a big hit among farmers. But Haier’s creative teams didn’t stop there. They also invented a washing machine that can peel potatoes and even designed a model for herders in Inner Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau to help churn yak milk into butter! These inventions eventually inspired Haier to introduce, in 2009, a washing machine able to wash clothes without detergent. That groundbreaking innovation helped propel Haier to the number one position in the laundry equipment market not only in China but also around the world.

Jugaad innovators— such as Haier’s employees— are highly adaptable. They are capable of thinking on their feet and acting with great agility. Being nimble-minded and nimble-footed serves them well in the context of emerging markets, which are characterized by extreme unpredictability. Western leaders confronted with increasing volatility and uncertainty in their own business environment must also learn to think and act flexibly— but, as we discuss next, that’s easier said than done.

I also liked their analysis of what is actually making our Western Firms so inflexible and why we are losing the innovation opportunities in so many arenas:

We believe that Western firms’ inability to think and act flexibly in response to change has five chief causes: complacency; binary logic; an aversion to risk; disengaged employees; and rigid, time-consuming product development processes.


Hardcover 288 Pages

Hardcover $22.02 USD



Carboni, J., Gonzalez, M., & Hodgkinson, J. (2013) The GPM reference guide to sustainability in Project Management. Fort Wayne: GPM Global. http://www.greenprojectmanagement.org/the-gpm-reference-guide-to-sustainability-in-project-management

Carboni, Joel (2014). The GPM P5™ Standard for Sustainability In Project Management. 1st ed. Fort Wayne: GPM Global.

Gleeson-White, Jane. Six Capitals, or Can Accountants Save the Planet?: Rethinking Capitalism for the Twenty-First Century. W. W. Norton & Company. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Six-Capitals-Accountants-Save-Planet/dp/0393246671/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473045244&sr=8-1&keywords=Six+Capitals%2C+or+Can+Accountants+Save+the+Planet%3F

Goedhart, M., Koller, T., & Wessels, D. (2015). The real business of business. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/corporate_finance/the_real_business_of_business

GPM. (2012). PRISM PRojects Integrating Sustainable Methods. Green Project Management Association.

ISO, (2016). ISO/DIS 20400.2 Sustainable procurement — Guidance. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=63026

ISO. (2014). ISO Guide 82:2014 – Guidelines for addressing sustainability in standards. Retrieved from http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=57775

ISO. (2010). Guidance on social responsibility (ISO 26000:2010). EN ISO 26000:2010. Geneva: International Standards Organization. Retrieved from http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=42546

Radjou, Navi; Prabhu, Jaideep; Ahuja, Simone. Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth. Wiley. Retrieved from http://jugaadinnovation.com/

Shepherd, N. (2015). Changing Thinking about Sustainability. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/changing-thinking-sustainability-nick-shepherd-cpa-cga?trk=mp-reader-card

Stout, Lynn A.. The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.  Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Shareholder-Value-Myth-Shareholders-Corporations/dp/1605098132/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473045325&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Shareholder+Value+Myth

The business of business. (2015). The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/business/21646742-old-debate-about-what-companies-are-has-been-revived-business-business

UNOPS. (2016). UNOPS Sustainable Procurement – Our Approach. Retrieved from https://www.unops.org/english/Services/Procurement/Pages/Approach.aspx



Peter Milsom

Peter Milsom is an entrepreneurial advocate for sensible, sustainable change delivery practice. Peter has come to realize that sustainability is the perfect catalyst for Project / Programme / Portfolio / Risk / Value / Business Case and Benefits Management improvement. As an entrepreneurial methodologist Peter's unique value proposition is the vast array of tools and techniques that he brings to every engagement using the most cost effective and efficient methods based on the situation and tailored to meet your needs. This is based on his unique combination of experience and extensive training / certifications in change delivery, value / risk / benefits management business case, and business architecture.

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