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Sustainable Development Goals and the triple bottom line 

10 October 2019

Elodie Huiban, ICE Knowledge Strategy Manager, wants to encourage project teams to prioritise SDGs for their projects to enable successful, long-term outcomes.

Sustainable Development Goals and the triple bottom line 
It's apparent that more time and investment must be spent during the very early stages of the project initiation phase

Sustainability could and should be seen as the biggest opportunity for business.

As stated by Isabelle Linden during her keynote address at the Major Projects Association annual conference, sustainability can bring an additional $12 trillion revenue per annum to the global economy.

There are many opportunities available. However, the question we should all be asking ourselves is which side of history do we want to be on?

Do you want your business to be seen as pushing the boundaries to achieve profit with a purpose and creating shared value putting the users at the centre of every decision?

Or would you rather NOT challenge the status quo and reach your bottom line by chasing economic growth at all costs?

A need to change business models

A wide range of industries, including infrastructure and the built environment, are slowly realising the need to change their business models to grasp benefits across the value chain, moving from a linear model to a circular model.?

Many questions remain:

  • How do you create a business case for the triple bottom line? (Social, Environmental and Economic)
  • How do you design with circular and sustainability in mind?
  • How do you plan, design, deliver, manage and decommission infrastructure to minimise its negative impacts and maximise its economical, societal and environmental benefits?

First, we need to understand the scale of the problem. This is why the ICE gathered a very diverse cohort of engineers for the Global Engineering Congress (GEC) last year, which resulted in the creation of three workstreams constituting the Sustainability Route Map:

  • Education and Capacity building
  • Systems approach
  • Measuring, Monitoring and Reporting impact on SDGs at project level

Engineers recognise the importance of measuring SDG impacts at project level, but they don’t know how to do this efficiently and effectively.

The research prior to and after the congress clearly showed a need to fill the perceived gap with a framework and a set of guiding principles. These would enable engineers to collect the relevant data to demonstrate how their project will be delivering long-term outcomes.

It's apparent that more time and investment must be spent during the very early stages of the project initiation phase to clearly define project success and move away from short-term focus to long-term environmental, social and economic benefits.

Building projects SDG impact. Click to enlarge.
Building projects SDG impact. Click to enlarge.

Paul Mansell, Major Projects Advisor and PhD Researcher, was the instigator of the research behind the suggested Impact Value Chain model as a method to effectively define project success.

It uses systems of systems theories, log frames and other guidance tools to determine what a project’s long-term outcome will be and ensure data can be collected to measure its impact.

MPA SDG prioritisation workshop

Due to our extensive work in this area, Paul and ICE were invited to run a workshop as part of the MPA annual conference dedicated to sustainability and the circular economy.

The fully immersive workshop supports project teams to determine how the SDG Impact Value Chain (IVC) can help define a projects’ successful SDG impacts.

It allows the participants to play a role at the start of a project with other stakeholders to determine which SDG global goals are relevant for them and to identify a few key targets to measure against.

It gives participants a good insight into the complexity of measuring SDGs on projects, and some approaches to find a way to answer those questions through the apparent fog.

  1. What are the drivers for reporting SDGs at organisation and /or project level?
  2. What are the priority SDGs for your business / project?
  3. Where are the gaps and what do we need to do as a project teams to deliver on the SDGs?

Having run a few prioritisation workshops, Paul is now able to start testing the IVC model on the ground with project teams, around two main areas:

  • Doing the project right (during delivery) and its outcomes (post-delivery)
  • Setting criteria to validate water/sanitation projects

These methods will be tested via three case studies / pilot projects each focusing on water/sanitation to establish a baseline and assess good practice.

  • Elodie Huiban, Knowledge Strategy Manager, ICE