Industries are increasingly pressurised to incorporate the objectives of sustainable development into company policies and decision-making processes, i.e. social equity, economic efficiency and environmental performance. Furthermore, companies that compete globally are increasingly required to commit to and report on the overall sustainability performances of operational initiatives. Project management methodologies are not excluded from this pressure. As a recognised core business competency, project management methodologies must thus incorporate planning, execution and implementation procedures within the broader sustainability framework, i.e. internalising the externalities of a project.
An evaluation of the project Life Cycle Management (LCM) methodologies in industry has revealed that the three objectives of sustainable development are not efficiently addressed, especially in developing countries such as South Africa. Also, the current indicator frameworks that are available to measure overall business sustainability do not effectively address all aspects of sustainability at operational level. A prerequisite for aligning project management frameworks with the principles of sustainable development is a clear understanding of the various life cycles involved in a project and the interactions between these life cycles, and the external environment and society. In the context of the process industry, social aspects and impacts are rarely considered during project management, while environmental factors are typically only addressed by means of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). In addition, the traditional project appraisal approach can lead to outcomes that are unacceptable from the point of view of intergenerational fairness, which is one of the core principles of sustainable development. However, a procedure to improve the consideration of environmental aspects in project LCM has been introduced in the process industry of South Africa. The procedure is demonstrated by means of a case study in the process industry.
A framework of social sustainability criteria that are relevant to projects within the process industry is further proposed. In contrast to previous social evaluation approaches, the framework focuses on the operational aspects of the process industry, i.e. where implemented projects impact society. The acceptance of the framework to decision-makers in petrochemical companies is discussed. Case studies are further suggested to evaluate the practicability of measurable social impact indicators for project LCM.