Are you breaching the Code of Ethics by not being sustainable?

At a recent presentation to a group of project managers in Australia I spoke about sustainable projects and sustainable project management. During the presentation I put forward the argument that if project management is to be considered a profession, then we collectively need to operate to a higher set of ethical standards.

So what is the standard we should work to and do we need to be sustainable to meet the professional body’s Code of Ethics?

The IPMA Code of Ethics

The International Project Management Association (IPMA) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct sets out the fundamental principles that guides all professional conduct and practice in project, programme and portfolio management. The Code applies to IPMA volunteers, those who have achieved an IPMA certification as well as Member Associations or companies that voluntarily adopt the Code.

The IPMA Code contains many references to specific sustainability elements, including, the need for project managers to:

  • remain conscious of the possible consequences of their work and are to minimise any negative impact on project stakeholders.
  • not participate in projects, programmes or project portfolios that subject people to unsustainable overwork or harmful working conditions.
  • Explicitly ensure there is no use of child labour, forced or bonded labour, or demand illegal overtime
  • Not participate in activities that undermine or harm local communities, societies and economies.
  • Minimize any possible damaging effects to the environment, which may come about as a consequence of our projects, programmes and project portfolios.
  • Promote and raise of awareness of environmental responsibility among our teams, within our organisations and in society.
  • Think long-term with regard to the environment and strive for sustainable development
  • reduce waste and emissions to air, ground and water and encouraging the recycling of materials and used products; and,
  • use resources efficiently in our projects and programmes and avoid waste.

What does PMI have to say?

The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct by comparison “…describes the expectations that we have of ourselves and our fellow practitioners in the global project management community.” The PMI Code applies to PMI Members as well as non-members who hold or apply for PMI certifications or who serve PMI in a volunteer capacity.

The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct contains both aspiration standards, that all project, programme and portfolio management practitioners should aspire to, as well as the mandatory standards with which all practitioners must comply.

In a sustainability context, the PMI Code requires project managers to:

  • make decisions and take actions based on the best interests of society, public safety, and the environment
  • show a high regard for ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us, including people, money, reputation, the safety of others, and natural or environmental resources

So what does this mean for project managers?

Based on both the IPMA and PMI Code’s of Ethics and Professional Conduct, project, program and portfolio managers have an ethical responsibility and moral obligation to be sustainable and ensure that projects, programmes and portfolios do not impact the planet, society or prosperity.

Are you truly complying with the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct or you are putting your membership and project management certification at risk?

Want more information?

Don’t know much about sustainability or what you need to do to make your projects more sustainable?

Not sure what you need to do to comply with the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct?

Become a GPM member today and gain access to our leading sustainable project management methodology (PRiSM) and a range of tools, templates and sustainable project management resources. Join at:

Michael Young

Michael is the GPM Vice President for Membership and Research. As a program and portfolio management consultant, he specializes in sustainability, working with C-level executives around the world to reduce risk, save money and improve their reputation. Over the past 20 years, he has lead the development of national and international standards in project, program, and portfolio management standards for ISO, IPMA, AIPM and PMI. He has authored over 50 articles, papers, book chapters and edited books and my work has been featured in Business Review Weekly, Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. Michael has also been recognized as a winner of the Australian Business Awards in innovation, sustainability and project management, the Telstra Business Awards, Project Management Achievement Awards and the awards.

4 thoughts to “Are you breaching the Code of Ethics by not being sustainable?”

  1. Michael, since when did PMI become a “paragon of virtue” sufficient that we can or should be using them as some kind of benchmark of integrity or honesty?

    IF you are going to benchmark ethics, then why not choose the “best in class” Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics practitioners? (SCCE)

    These are the people (literally) who wrote the book or corporate ethics.

    Bottom line- it serves absolutely no useful purpose to assume that just because PMI is the largest professional organization that just because they are effective at marketing means that their standards (PMBOK Guide) or Code of Ethics (which the organization itself doesn’t even follow) are worthy of being used as some kind of standard of excellence.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  2. A very good way to make us all be more aware of the glaring need to be reflective practitioners of Project Management. If we are to achieve a more sustainable world, then the focus must be on ensuring ethical behaviour in every project. And it comes down to every project manager upholding and practising these standards.

  3. It’s time all Building professionals were reminded of their professional responsibilities to the environment and our community. There is no better time than now to train up to understand what actions can be taken to for a better future

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