Understanding of sustainability

Source: Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE

Switzerland relies on the sustainability concept of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission), which defined sustainable development as development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This underlines how economic, social, and ecological processes are all connected.

Sustainable development is not a voluntary task for the Confederation or the cantons. Article 2 ("Aims") of the Federal Constitution declares sustainable development to be a national objective, and Article 73 ("Sustainable development") calls on the Confederation and the cantons to endeavor "to achieve a balanced and sustainable relationship between nature and its capacity to renew itself and the demands placed on it by the population". To date, the Federal Council has implemented these constitutional mandates by means of strategies for sustainable development (1997, 2002, 2008, 2012).

3-dimensional concept

As Figure 28 shows, the Confederation's strategy is based on the 3-dimensional concept.

The strategy includes the following aspects:

  1. Economic, social, and ecological processes are all connected. The interplay between the three dimensions of environment, economy and society must be taken into account.
  2. Sustainable development goes beyond environmental protection.
  3. The implications of today's actions for the future must be taken into account (generations of today and tomorrow).
  4. The consumption of the environment and resources must be reduced to a sustainable level for the long term while maintaining economic capacity and social cohesion.
  5. Global interdependencies must be taken into account (north/south aspect).
Figure 28: Confederation's 3-dimensional concept
Figure 28: Confederation's 3-dimensional concept

If projects are to be sustainable, the definition of the project objectives must not be limited to economic objectives (deadlines, costs, project outcomes), and instead must also include the target areas of society and the environment. In this respect, successful project management has a positive impact in the area of sustainable development as well.

One way of assessing projects for implications in sustainability-related areas is to use a sustainability assessment. With this, expected implications in the areas of the economy, environment and society can be estimated and presented and options can be compared using 15 criteria defined by the Federal Council. For further information: Sustainability assessment, .

From a sustainability perspective specifically in the area of information and communication technologies, the focus is primarily on energy and resource efficiency (from the extraction of raw materials to recycling) and working conditions in the producing countries when it comes to lifecycle considerations. In this regard, special attention is paid to procurement by defining ecological and social award criteria.

For information technologies (IT), long-term information security, data protection, data integrity and access to knowledge (digital resources) additionally play an important role.

Sustainability with HERMES

HERMES as a complete product

The project's sustainability is supported by HERMES. The HERMES method components are described with regard to sustainability aspects below.

Scenarios and modules

In the procurement module, the sustainability objectives and requirements are included in the list of criteria for the procurement of services and products and are included in the evaluation.

Phases and milestones

It is important to enshrine sustainability objectives when defining strategic project objectives. These are included in the project as a requirement during the initiation phase.

  1. The decision to release the project is made at the end of the initiation phase. The core organization decides on the release together with the project sponsor. One of the key criteria in the process is how the project meets the sustainability requirements and objectives. Unsustainable projects are not even released as a result.
  2. With every phase release decision, compliance with the specifications and the project's alignment with the strategic objectives are checked. When choosing an option and at other milestones – such as the system architecture decision – the achievement of the sustainability objectives is taken into account as an evaluation criterion.

With their powers and responsibility, roles can promote a conscious approach to resources. The understanding needed for this is created already when defining the objectives. Accordingly, all roles and their tasks are decisive for the project's sustainability.

At the hierarchy levels of steering and management, the following roles are particularly relevant with regard to sustainability objectives:

  1. Project sponsor
  2. Defines the objectives in line with the strategy and sustainability requirements
  3. Prioritizes objectives and resolves conflicts between objectives
  4. Regularly checks the implementation of requirements and the achievement of objectives
  5. Ensures the involvement of stakeholders and their requirements
  6. Ensures the long-term resources needed for operation
  7. Project manager
  8. Enshrines sustainability awareness in the project
  9. Considers sustainability criteria when making decisions
  10. Ensures the careful use of resources
  11. When assigning roles, ensures that specialists have the skills needed to fill the roles and closes any skills gaps
  12. Takes stakeholder interests into account

At the execution hierarchy level, the following roles are particularly concerned with sustainability:

  1. Business analyst
  2. Determines the sustainability requirements of the core organization
  3. Supports the project sponsor in defining sustainability objectives
  4. Ensures that sustainability aspects are factored in when defining project requirements
  5. Sees to a value-oriented prioritization of requirements; The sustainability objectives are included in the evaluation of the requirements
  6. Evaluates options also from a sustainability viewpoint
  7. Operations manager
  8. Considers sustainability aspects when defining the operation-related requirements
  9. Considers sustainability aspects when drawing up the operating concept
  10. Ensures sustainable operation

In the core organization, the following role groups are particularly concerned with sustainability:

  1. Controlling and compliance bodies
  2. Assess compliance with the requirements and the achievement of the sustainability objectives
  3. Check the IT architecture in IT projects; homogeneous IT architectures should make it possible to ensure long-term operation and further development
  4. Executive board
  5. Prioritizes the projects in the project portfolio also using criteria that take sustainability into account
  6. Checks whether the sustainability requirements and objectives can be realistically achieved with the project

Several tasks specifically support sustainability in the project, for example:

  1. The decision tasks for project release, phase release and project closure
  2. The task decide on an option
  3. The task decide on system architecture
  4. The task agree on and steer goods/services
  5. The task manage stakeholders and communication
  6. The procurement module tasks

All outcomes required for sustainable operation are developed in the project. These include the organization with its processes, as well as the outcomes for maintenance and further development, including the user manual, operating manual, system architecture and detailed specifications. The test infrastructure and test tools are transferred from the project to the core organization for further development after project closure.

The following outcomes support sustainability in decision-making:

  1. Study
    Assessment criterion for option selection
  2. Project specifications
    Evaluation criterion for evaluating the solution and providers
  3. Checklist
    Quality assurance criterion in the decision-making process