Last Updated 07 Jul 2021

Sustainability as a Key Critical Success Factor

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Executive Summary

Sustainability is one of the popularly emerging principles in project management and is rapidly becoming a critical success factor as considered by some businesses. However, there are also a number of other critical success factors in project success which include time, money, and the involvement and skills of employees and management. However, sustainability is viewed as socially responsible behavior and may be beneficial in promoting a business’s sales and media relations. Contrarily, some businesses still view it as a fourth constraint in project management against time, scope, and money.

Businesses such as Zara’s and Nike have implemented sustainability in their project specifications and have gained a favorable reputation with consumers. However, while all companies may not be duly aware of how to implement such processes, knowledge transfer may be an important consideration in the further implementation of sustainability principles.

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These issues are further discussed in this proposal and outlined in the form of research questions for the final dissertation. The data for the dissertation is proposed to be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data which will be in the form of a literature review of secondary data and a questionnaire dispersed to 30 employees in 3 project-based organizations. Results will be combined to arrive at an appropriate conclusion and recommendations will be made accordingly.


Project management is one of the most vital disciplines within business management and is crucial to economic prosperity for both the public and private sectors. While there is ample emphasis upon project management within various industries, it is often seen that many projects fail due to a lack of emphasis upon critical success factors. As there are numerous factors that affect a project’s success, it is often difficult for managers to choose those that are most vital in improving the success of a project.

As the business environment is highly competitive and complicated, success factors for a project are likely to be relative to the industry the project is aimed at and the objectives that the individual project is trying to achieve. While efficiency, cost, and time management are all vital resources within a project or any business process, managers are always aiming to reduce the cost and the time allocated to each project while also aiming to increase efficiency, productivity, and turnover. Hence, it is generically considered that projects which are completed within budget and on time are successful. However, with increasing research it has become evident that there are numerous other factors which affect the success and outcome of a project such as the involvement and decision power of leaders and managers, the skills of employees, the organizational culture practiced during the project, the level of teamwork shown by the team, and many others.

Accordingly, the contemporary business environment has recently explored a new concept, sustainability, which is becoming highly popular amongst society and may also be considered as a vital factor to success for businesses in the future or may already be considered so in the present. With the quest to improve the environment and ensure businesses implement environmentally-friendly processes, society is becoming highly conscious of businesses performing unethically and harming the environment. Thus, this increases the pressure upon business operating in the contemporary environment to adopt sustainable processes which are environment-friendly.

Literature Search

Sustainability is a highly interesting and important concept in the contemporary business environment because there has often been heavy debate regarding the necessity of its adoption by businesses. While some businesses may easily be able to adopt appropriate sustainability processes, it is more difficult for other businesses to implement such processes specifically in the industrial sector. Thus, while aiming to implement sustainability may raise a business’s costs substantially, choosing the correct manner in which to implement sustainable practices may also substantially reduce a business’s operating costs and other costs. Moreover, the current business environment demands businesses to be socially responsible and ensure that they perform ethically ( Lindsey,2011). Thus, a business implementing and including sustainability as a criterion in its project specifications is likely to gain a good reputation in the corporate world, media, and society which may in turn benefit the business in the form of increased sales, higher consumer confidence, and positive press releases.

Recently, it has been seen that organizations are increasing their emphasis upon sustainability and consider it to an extent of 25.9% in their project management specifications. While this does show a positive trend, it also shows that business may not be implementing sustainability in their project specifications because of adopting a socially responsible approach, but is more aimed towards adopting a “less unethical” approach. This is to ensure that they can escape the blame when questioned regarding the manner in which they run their business.

However, there is no doubt that there is an increasing emphasis upon principles of sustainability and awareness of social pressure upon businesses. Companies such as Zara, Toyota, Nike, and many others have changed their production processes in order to make sure that they uphold sustainability as a principle and thus, these companies have increased their credibility in the consumer market. However, in order to increase the emphasis upon sustainability it is essential to indulge in knowledge transfer between industries and businesses to properly disperse information regarding the importance and applicability of sustainability principles. Such information dispersion and knowledge transfer may be organized by large governmental or business organizations to facilitate open communication between businesses in order to find viable solutions.

However, the problem of the perception of sustainability as a further constraint upon projects in the essence of time, cost, and scope also is widespread. Accordingly, this dissertation proposes to discuss the critical success factors affecting businesses today, how sustainability affects businesses today, the importance of sustainability and the reasons why it is considered interesting, corporate social responsibility as a determinant of project success and gaining contracts, knowledge transfer as a determinant of the application of sustainable principles, and whether sustainability is viewed as a fourth constraint in project management.


  • Discuss the Critical Success Factors affecting businesses in the contemporary business environment
  • Determine the importance of sustainability as an emerging critical success factor in project management
  • Illustrate the examples of businesses who have adopted sustainable practices successfully
  • Discuss the benefits of credibility when adopting socially responsible business practices
  • Discussing the importance of knowledge transfer in implementing sustainability principles
  • Analyzing the extent to which sustainability is considered a fourth constraint in project management
  • Research Questions:

Main Research Question: To what extent is sustainability considered a critical success factor in project management in the contemporary business environment?

Subsidiary Research Questions:

  • How does the implementation of sustainability affect the project outcome
  • How does sustainability affect a business’s credibility and image of being socially responsibleIs this beneficial for the business
  • What is the importance of knowledge transfer in the implementation of sustainability
  • To what extent is sustainability considered a fourth constraint in project management besides those of time, cost, and scope
  • Research Design

Data Collection: The study is designed to be an exploratory study which will investigate the concept of sustainability in businesses today. The study will make use of both quantitative and qualitative data in order to further explore the research questions outlined above. The study will also rely upon both primary and secondary data in order to thoroughly explore the topic in question. The mixture of both types of data will be appropriate for this dissertation in order to validate the opinions and information presented in the literature review and as the topic of sustainability as a success factor of project management is an evolving topic, it is also essential to get first-hand and recent information regarding its current importance in the business environment.

Data will initially be collected via the internet, journals, articles, magazines, and other databases in order to obtain relevant literature regarding the concept of sustainability. The literature will then be analyzed and duly criticized in order to determine popular opinion regarding the concept of sustainability and arriving at conclusions regarding the research questions mentioned via secondary data.

Primary data will then be collected via an industrial questionnaire dispersed to three project-based organizations regarding their opinions and practices of sustainability as a criterion for success in project management. The questionnaire will be dispersed to approximately 30 respondents working in the three respective organizations and this sample size has been chosen for researcher convenience, access, and appropriateness in attaining sufficient information.

The questionnaire will be quantitative in nature in order to avoid irrelevant responses and to limit the discussion towards the points made in the literature review. The results of the questionnaire would then be used to validate or conquer the findings in the literature review.

Data Analysis

The qualitative secondary data collected will be analyzed through content analysis in order to extract the most relevant and important points from the arguments presented in the literature review. The quantitative survey results will be analyzed through the use of the statistical software, SPSS.

The results of the quantitative survey will then be analyzed against the results of the literature review in order to arrive at appropriate conclusions for the research questions mentioned above. Recommendations will then be given accordingly for issues like knowledge transfer and eradicating the perception of sustainability as a fourth project management constraint.

Limitations/Ethical Risks

One of the limitations of this study is gaining access to 30 randomly selected individuals in three different project based companies. Permission must be obtained and the individuals must be randomly chosen in order to avoid biasness. Moreover, there may be issues of confidentiality or their unwillingness to respond to questions regarding their own personal sustainability practices and principles. There is also the risk of people answering dishonestly only to maintain their image or respondents not paying particular attention to the survey because of lack of interest or boredom.

The questionnaire may be prone to researcher bias and the data obtained in the literature review may be outdated and not applicable in all countries. Thus, appropriate care must be applied to ensure contemporary data is collected and data is relevant to the topic in question. One of the major ethical risks of this project is ensuring that confidentiality is maintained while conducting the survey of project-based companies and ensuring that no information is dispersed openly which may negatively affect their reputation.

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