Building ESG into your projects

ESG in Your PMO: Understanding the Social Impacts of Your Projects

The work of your project management office (PMO) stretches much further than project teams and the clients who commission a project. Projects reach wide and deep into the world, so it’s important to understand the social impact of your projects.

Understanding the social impact of a project and working to ensure that impact is positive is one of the key planks in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations that should be part of your PMO and wider business ethos.

To help you map what your projects’ social impacts are and how to improve them, we’re going to consider:

  • What impacts a project can have on society
  • Assessing the impact of projects on society
  • How your PMO can improve a project’s social impact
  • The changes that need to be made in your PMO processes

What social impacts do my projects have?

When we talk about the social impact of a project, we’re talking about:

  • How the project affects the people within the project
  • The end users of the project deliverables
  • The wider community where the business operates

It’s important that every project tries to not only do the least harm to the people around it, but it should actively improve the lives of the people around it.

Some examples of how this could work in different industries include:

  • Assessing the impact of the local community when planning and delivering a construction project, such as not making excessive noise, not blocking access, and making sure there are community facilities included in the project.
  • Upskilling your software developers during the lifetime of a project to ensure they are happy and motivated to keep working for the company and able to get a pay rise.
  • Ensuring that the outsourced labour in every project is paid equitably and that outsourced products are supplied ethically.

Many people will be involved in your project or affected by it, and they need to be considered – otherwise, you risk not landing future contracts or even being called out by customers in public for poor practices.

How do I assess the social impacts of my projects?

It can be challenging to figure out the social impact of your projects. You need to make sure that projects set the parameters of their social impacts – every project will be different.

An education project may need to ensure that it reaches students of all demographics, whilst an advertising campaign will need to make sure to represent a diverse audience.

When assessing social impacts, your projects need to:

  • Identify the people who will be affected by the project and how
  • Understand the wider communities that will be impacted
  • Identify the key social impacts for the people affected
  • Monitor them through surveys, interviews, and social listening of the mainstream and social media

This data should be collected regularly as part of the project process.

How can my PMO have a direct effect on social issues?

You can start from the top down in making social issues a major factor in project delivery and completion.

Have every project create a social impact statement. This needs to outline all the people who will be affected by the project and how they will benefit. It can then be referred back to when measuring impact.

Social impacts, just like environmental ones, need to be embedded in the whole project process and regularly assessed.

What do I need to change in my PMO to focus on social impacts?

The planning documentation you provide to projects needs to be updated to include a social impact assessment. Your scheduling framework also needs to have regular social impact assessments built-in.

You also need to make sure that procurement procedures consider social aspects. You need to make sure the complete supply chain of components is ethically sound, and any external resources are paid a fair wage for their work.

It’s also possible to have a social impact on a PMO level. You can give your team time off to do community work or plan a project with a local charity or school to engage the area where you operate.

Social considerations and project management

When you work with a lot of data in a PMO, it can sometimes be easy to forget that a project affects people. Understanding the social impacts of your PMO’s projects will keep people at the centre of what you’re working towards.