Sustainability Strategy: Mindset & Skills

Prassede Colombo talks about Sustainability and Business Analysis at a recent event
Author: Prassede Colombo – Event Festival of Sustainable Development 2022

Today we need to become aware of our relationship with the earth, as reported in the following sentences.

Sustainability is that the earth does not belong to man, it is man who acts for the earth and for its children
Fonte: Chief Seattle,1854

Starting from here, I would like to make some considerations with you on the challenges and opportunities that the changes in progress bring us and on the need to achieve concrete results for sustainable development. Let’s explore together what sustainability and Business Analysis means for organizations, Business Analysts, Project Managers, professionals and people.

Sustainability Why and What it means

Why are we talking about Sustainability? Because we must preserve the natural capital that we are destroying. In 2022, Earth Overshoot Day was July 28, in Italy May 15. It is the day that marks the depletion of renewable resources that the Earth is able to regenerate in a year. For the rest of the year, we run an ecological deficit by reducing local resource reserves and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The date is calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) and is brought forward every year.

The alarm…

An alarm has been raised since 1987. We report the definition of sustainability of the United Nations Brundtland Commission: “Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”“We need to avoid the depletion of our natural resources in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem and preserve natural capital”.

We must be able to guarantee a future for the generations that follow.

Various initiatives have followed up to the development of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards which governments, companies, organizations and people are working.

Evolutions for the development of sustainability of interest to business analysis
Figure: Evolutions for Sustainable Development

Now we are all much more aware of the need to act for real sustainable development, to combine sustainability and business analysis.

As Business Analysts, Project Managers, Professionals…

As Business Analysts, Project Managers, professionals we must be actors and activate the necessary skills to design and implement new business and operational models, new products, services and sustainable projects of value:

  • for the People and communities involved
  • for the Planet
  • for Prosperity (3P – Triple Bottom Line)

going beyond profit.

John Elkington had anticipated the evolution “The triple bottom line wasn’t designed to be just an accounting tool. It was supposed to provoke deeper thinking about capitalism and its future”. The 3Ps have really led to a rethinking of capitalism and economic models.

Sustainability and Business

In 2019-2022, the CEOs of the Business Roundtable redefined the “statement on the Pupose of a Corporation” and capitalism, to serve all stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities (including the planet through sustainability) and investors.

This means that business value encompasses the 3Ps and that sustainability is no longer optional but mandatory and is becoming “Business as Usual” across all industries.

Organizations are changing radically and the results are visible. Those who have taken up the challenge are strengthening their leadership as actors of change by promoting virtuous behaviors that create positive impacts both internally and externally, engaging suppliers, institutions, customers and consumers to reduce negative impacts and regenerate or reuse resources.

An organization’s commitment to sustainability has become an integral part of measuring its overall value as well as its ability to thrive in the global marketplace. Just look at some Purposes, such as those in the figure below, and the sustainability strategies of leading companies in the various sectors to fully understand their meaning. Today the sustainability results and related reports are presented together with the annual financial reports.

Examples of corporate 'Purpose' oriented towards sustainability: Bayer, Nike, Timberland, Patagonia
Figure: Purpose and Sustainability

Sustainability and Organizations

Sustainability-focused organizations around the world thrive by delivering attractive returns to shareholders, as evidenced by the growth of Sustainability Index Funds.

An organization’s commitment to sustainability is proving to influence:

  • The competitive advantage in achieving a favorable or superior commercial position in the market
  • The reputation of the brand and the level of trust it has among consumers
  • The ability to attract clients and retain talent
  • Employee morale, climate and productivity
  • Evaluation by investors, donors, sponsors and the financial community
  • Relationships with other companies, governments, the media and suppliers
  • Organizations, consumers and the communities in which it operates.

The organizations that are having the best results are the ones that have changed their culture.


In summary, as illustrated in the figure below there are various levels of adoption of sustainability. Some organizations focus on sustainability for crisis management, others for regulatory compliance and are driven by risk management and brand protection. Some to optimize resources and still others to differentiate themselves on the market, driven by the need to increase productivity.

The level of maturity in sustainability, where sustainability is part of one’s “Purpose” of one’s Core Values ​​and becomes part of one’s culture, drives growth. It also needs to measure the social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit) impacts by acting at all levels of organizations from top to bottom and bottom to top.

Levels, Drivers, Measures and Lenses for a Business Analysis aimed at Sustainability
Figure: Levels, Drivers, Measures and Lenses for Adopting Sustainability – Source: The GPM Reference Guide V2

It is essential that organizations become “Purpose Driven“, incorporating social and environmental considerations into their vision and values.

Sustainability, new Business Models and approaches

The conventional “Take Make Waste” economic model based on profit, and projects with scope, time, cost, quality, risk objectives have destroyed resources and are at the end of the line. The new circular economy model, based on reuse, reproduction, recycling, is necessary to reduce waste.

New model of circular economy based on reuse, reproduction, recycling
Figure: Circular economy – Source: 2020 – Geissdoerfer, M., Pieroni, M.P., Pigosso, D.C. and Soufani, K., 2020. Circular business models: A review. Journal of Cleaner Production

I invite you to read the article “Right to repair – why fight for it” by Riccardo Conturbia, which shows us new models that allow us to extend the life of products thanks to repairs, reuse and promote a development that supports professions, local activities , avoiding the depopulation of some territories, and which generates value for the communities and reduces CO2 emissions.

However, this is not enough and we need to go beyond reducing waste,

and continually asking ourselves, “What is it that we are advocating?” because “it is not enough to operate sustainably but it is necessary to regenerate what has been lost” (Regenerative Approach by Paul Hawken in the book “Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation“).

A value-oriented approach must be applied, to fully consider the social, environmental and economic impacts starting from the problems and designing “regenerative” solutions, products and services. The following figure represents the ongoing evolution.

Evolution from traditional to regenerative models according to GPM Global
Figure: Evolution from traditional to regenerative models. Source: GPM Global


Today, to create value for People, the Planet and Prosperity, we must be able to direct our sustainable strategy by answering these questions:

  • Why are we doing the project/product? Are we in the best position to do this? (Purpose)
  • Does this make financial sense with the technology and capabilities we have at our disposal? (Profit)
  • Have we reflected on the impact not only on end users, but also on society in general? (People)
  • How does this project leave our planet in a better shape than before it started? (Planet) (Mckinsey & Comany Purpoe People Planet Profit, B. Sheppard, 2022).
The quadruple bottom line: purpose with people, planet & profit
Figure: The 4 Ps – Quadruple Bottom Line

In summary, we can say that organizations must fully integrate sustainability into their corporate strategies, to drive the changes necessary to create global value. In this context, Business Analysis and Project Management skills are essential.

Sustainability and Business Analysis

The IIBA® Business Analysis Core Concept Model® (BACCM®) supports the definition of business strategy and its implementation to generate value. With the evolutions taking place it is necessary that the BACCM® incorporates sustainable goals and objectives by answering the questions:

  • What are the kinds of changes we are making? Are they aligned with sustainability goals?
  • What are the needs we are trying to satisfy? Am I current with the 17 SDGs?
  • What are the solutions we are creating or changing? Producing value for people, the planet and are they profitable?
  • Who are the stakeholders involved? Am I respectful to communities, society, the planet?
  • What could stakeholders value? Are the 3Ps, sustainable goals and 17 SDGs considered?
  • What are the contexts in which we find ourselves and the solution we are thinking of? What are the impacts on people, communities, populations, the environment, the ecosystem, biodiversity?

This is why BACCM® is essential for organizations that are integrating sustainability into their Strategy.


The following figure shows the reference models for the Sustainability Strategy.

Figure Sustainability Strategy and BA Core Concept Model. Source: Sustainability Strategy and Green Project Management – 21 Oct 2022 Prassede Colombo

Sustainability must be at the heart of the Business Analysis to ensure that the Purpose, the needs of present and future generations are met and solutions are implemented that have positive impacts for the Planet, People and Prosperity (3P).

The Business Analysis skills allow us to understand the real needs and to support the definition of new business models, the design of new processes, new or regenerated products and services. It supports the elaboration of business cases, product roadmaps, analyzing the business requirements, stakeholders, solutions and sustainability in the activated projects.

I invite you to also read the article “Circular economy explained with the BACCM” by Sergio Ceddia, who applied the BACCM® model to the circular economy, allowing us to better understand its specificities for sustainability.

Sustainability and Green Business Analysis

What does sustainability mean for the Business Analyst? What can be the characteristics of a “Green Business Analyst”?

We do not yet have a benchmark definition of a Green Business Analyst or a Sustainable BA from IIBA®, although we do find many searches for Green Business Analysts and Sustainability Business Analysts.

Business Analysts need to acquire a “Sustainable Mindset”.

The Sustainable Business Analyst should use and adapt the appropriate methods, tools and techniques to support stakeholders, engage stakeholders to understand needs and activate solutions that safeguard society, the environment and human rights.

The Green Business Analyst should understand which is the best way of working, among the many available, in order to adapt quickly to changes.

Should have strong Business Analysis skills to understand the many influencing factors and impacts within and outside the organisation. Have developed interpersonal skills of collaborative leadership with an innovative mindset and a strong orientation towards the creation of “sustainable” value.

It should include the organization’s sustainable objectives, priorities, analyze impacts, measures against the SDGs to ensure that the solutions are in line with the corporate strategy which incorporates sustainability.

Sustainability in Business Analysis and Project Management

The implementation of corporate sustainable strategies requires the definition of a portfolio of initiatives and the implementation of projects that make it possible to obtain lasting value and benefits.

Business Analysis and Project Management skills are essential to ensure continuous value alignment and definition of routes to achieve feasible and sustainable results capable of increasing positive impacts and reducing negative ones. Business Analysts and Project Managers must acquire the knowledge and skills to develop the necessary “Sustainability Mindset”

The figure shows some relevant aspects.

Source: Sustainability Strategy and Green Project Management – 21 Oct 2022 Prassede Colombo

First of all, you need to understand the needs, the value to be achieved through an in-depth strategic analysis that allows you to refine the Purpose, the Value Proposition, the Business Model (traditional versus circular CANVAS). Then define the initiatives and elaborate the Business Cases in order to evaluate the sustainable requirements for the processes, products and services in the whole life cycle.

Consequently, prioritize the portfolio of business initiatives, identifying possible options, solutions, priorities and impacts.

Then initiate and plan projects with a detailed impact analysis by evaluating events, targets, actions and measures. Develop a Sustainable Management Plan, analyze and document sustainable, business, stakeholder, solution requirements and product and solution designs, considering the entire life cycle.

During the implementation of the projects, Business Analysts and Project Managers collaborate to ensure the achievement of value, measuring sustainable results.

Green Project Management and Project Manager

In Project Management we find a reference definition of Sustainable Project Management developed by Green Project Management Global® (GPM® Global), since 2009, and accepted by PMI®, IPMA®, and others internationally.

Definition of Sustainable Project Management according to GPM Global
Figure: Sustainable Project Management. Source: the GPM Reference Guide

The characteristics of a “Green Project Manager” have also been defined.

Sustainable competencies: Ways of Working, Power Skills, Business Acumen
Figure: Project Manager Skills – PMI Tringle revised. Source Sustainability Strategy and Green Project Management – ​​21 Oct 2022 Prassede Colombo

A Green Project Manager allows you to ensure the realization of sustainable results and benefits that go beyond the closure of the projects. Evaluate priorities, impacts, defining a project sustainability management plan, measuring impacts and monitoring results.

A Sustainable Project Manager must use and adapt the appropriate methods, tools and techniques to lead the project team, engage stakeholders and move the project forward while safeguarding society, the environment and human rights.

A Green Project Manager must understand the meaning of sustainability and the 17 SDGs and is supported by the P5 Standard and the GPM Reference Guide (made by GPM® Global), which define the principles of sustainable Project Management. The skills of the Project Manager are enriched with those of sustainability.

In conclusion, I think that today even the Business Analyst, as an actor of change, needs to develop sustainability skills and be a “Green Business Analyst”.

IIBA® Italy Chapter and Sustainability in Business Analysis

The IIBA® Italy Chapter started this journey with the BAWI 2021- Business Analysis & Sustainability, sharing experiences with both large and small companies and associations.

In summary, BAWI 2021 gave us a strong message: “We all need to be aware of sustainability and we can all act both as professionals in the workplace and as consumers and as citizens in the private sector”. And we as Business Analysts what can we do? Very much because we have the right toolkit and the right mindset to guide towards sustainable choices and contribute as protagonists.

In 2022 with the Business Model Journey we were able to see the application of a Canvas Model of circular economy and Business Analysis techniques for the community cooperative: Filo & Fibra. It was exciting to see how Business Analysis enables capabilities and supports the definition of sustainable solutions by directing the most valuable choices contributing to the 17 SDGs.

Furthermore, the 2022 survey, carried out by IIBA®, to understand the application of Business Analysis considering the areas of knowledge, techniques and skills also had a section dedicated to sustainability.

We need to become a “Green Business Analyst” and we expect these concepts to become part of the new BABOK® Guide. We can not wait!

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