MEASURING INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS IMPACT (MISI)

PhD Thesis


Mansell, P. (2021). MEASURING INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS IMPACT (MISI). PhD Thesis London South Bank University https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.93w47
AuthorsMansell, P.
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

The research captured in this thesis has led to the development of a range of models, tools and processes for government and industry that provide a forwardlooking approach to the measurement of impact on infrastructure projects. This approach enables measurement of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) at the project level to ensure investments are made equitably across economic, environment and social objectives. Application of the results from this research are already being actively used by the Environment Agency to manage impact assessment across its £5.2Bn portfolio of projects and by the Thames Tideway Project (£4.9Bn).
Background. Achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030 is of paramount importance and the construction industry has a major role in achieving a measurable impact against the SDG targets. However, linking of ‘local’ infrastructure project success to ‘global’ SDG targets is problematic because the targets were designed at the national level and not at the project or programme level (Mansell, et al., 2020a). Furthermore, while the so called ‘triple bottom line’ (i.e. economy, environment and society) approach to understanding sustainability remains important, there is a need to understand how this can be related to the full project lifecycle as well as a need for improved project governance. This is consistent with the findings of a key UN investigation’s Fourth Report (Global Task Force, 2020) which calls for localization of SDGs as well as the need for cooperative governance to establish shared priorities.
Research description. The research was based on two main stages. The first stage, informed by a systematic literature review, comprised a mixed method that involved a survey of 325 engineers to derive quantitative data (Mansell et al., 2020b) along with interviews with 40 CEOs and corporate Heads of Sustainability to capture qualitative data (Mansell et al., 2020c). The second stage involved the development of a prototype that was tested through two further exploratory investigations at two levels: (1) Test 1: is there a Golden Thread from global SDGs, through the organisational level, down to project level SDG impact measurement?; (2) Test 2: does the prototype model, the Impact Value Chain, have practical coherence when PhD: Measuring Infrastructure Projects’ SDG Impact (MISI) v assessed in a brief case study of a Water Utility Company (Anglian Water) (Mansell et al., 2020d). Subsequently, and not part of this thesis, the research led to a collaborative partnership to test the prototype model and its approach across the Environment Agency’s full portfolio of projects and also, the megaproject of the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
Findings. The survey of 325 engineers (Mansell et al., 2020b) indicated four primary shortfalls for measuring SDGs on infrastructure projects, namely leadership, tools and methods, engineers’ business skills in measuring SDG impact, and how project success is too narrowly defined as outputs (such as time, cost and scope) and not outcomes (longer-term local impacts and stakeholder value). Moreover, the interviews with 40 senior executives (Mansell et al., 2020c) from the UK identified that SDG measurement practices are currently ‘more talk less walk’ and indicated a number of contextual and mechanistic opportunities to increase the outcome success.
Therefore, using empirical evidence the researcher identified a ‘golden thread’ between best practice sustainability-reporting frameworks at the ‘local’ project level and those at the organisational and supra-national-levels (Mansell et al., 2020a). In doing so, the research identified that there is sufficient linkage to embed SDG impact targets into the design stage of an infrastructure project. Furthermore, the innovative process model, called the ‘Infrastructure SDG Impact-Value Chain’ (IVC) to link project delivery with strategic SDG impacts, builds on the concept of creating shared value and creates a practical mechanism to turn theory into meaningful impact in project selection and delivery. The utility of the IVC process model was initially investigated as part of the case study investigation of Anglian Water (Mansell et al., 2020d) and its application has been further demonstrated in the MISI Project (not included in this thesis).
Research Impact. The research produced twelve peer-reviewed papers including being published in seven internationally recognised academic journals, such as: Sustainability (2 articles), Administrative Sciences, and the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers–Engineering Sustainability. The MISI research outputs have been taken forward by the government and industry partners, specifically the Environment Agency and Thames Tideway Project, working together to establish this new approach for measuring sustainability on infrastructure projects.

Year2021
PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.93w47
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Publication dates
Print20 Apr 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Apr 2023
Additional information

This research was carried out in collaboration with a number of partners including the Institution of Civil Engineers, University College London, the Buildings Research Establishment, the Cabinet Office’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the Environment Agency, Thames Tideway Tunnel Ltd and the UN Global Compact.

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Related outputs

Measuring Infrastructure Projects’ Impact on UN SDG Global Goals: Development of an SDG Impact-Value Chain for the Infrastructure Sector based on the Triple Bottom Line
Mansell, P., Philbin, S., Broyd, T. and Nicholson, I. (2021). Measuring Infrastructure Projects’ Impact on UN SDG Global Goals: Development of an SDG Impact-Value Chain for the Infrastructure Sector based on the Triple Bottom Line. International Journal of Sustainable Society. 13 (3). https://doi.org/10.1504/IJSSOC.2021.10041358
Delivering UN Sustainable Development Goals’ Impact on Infrastructure Projects: An Empirical Study of Senior Executives in the UK Construction Sector
Mansell, P., Philbin, S. and Konstantinou, E. (2020). Delivering UN Sustainable Development Goals’ Impact on Infrastructure Projects: An Empirical Study of Senior Executives in the UK Construction Sector. Sustainability. 12 (19), p. e7998. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197998
Redefining the Use of Sustainable Development Goals at the Organisation and Project Levels—A Survey of Engineers
Mansell, P., Philbin, S. and Konstantinou, E. (2020). Redefining the Use of Sustainable Development Goals at the Organisation and Project Levels—A Survey of Engineers. Administrative Sciences. 10 (3), p. e55. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci10030055
Development of a New Business Model to Measure Organizational and Project-Level SDG Impact—Case Study of a Water Utility Company
Mansell, P., Philbin, S. and Broyd, Tim (2020). Development of a New Business Model to Measure Organizational and Project-Level SDG Impact—Case Study of a Water Utility Company. Sustainability. 12 (16), p. e6413. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166413
Measuring Sustainable Development Goal Targets on Infrastructure Projects
Mansell, P and Philbin, SP (2020). Measuring Sustainable Development Goal Targets on Infrastructure Projects. Journal of Modern Project Management. 8 (1).
Assessing the Impact of Infrastructure Projects on Global Sustainable Development Goals
Mansell, P., Philbin, S., Broyd, T. and Nicholson, I. (2019). Assessing the Impact of Infrastructure Projects on Global Sustainable Development Goals. Proceedings of the ICE - Engineering Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1680/jensu.19.00044
Infrastructure Projects’ Impact on Sustainable Development – Case Study of a Water-Utility Company
Mansell, P., Philbin, S.P. and Broyd, T. (2019). Infrastructure Projects’ Impact on Sustainable Development – Case Study of a Water-Utility Company. International Conference on Organization, Technology and Management in Construction (OTMC). Zagreb, Croatia 04 - 07 Sep 2019
Why project management is critical to achieving the SDGs and how this can be achieved
Mansell, P., Philbin, SP and Plodowski, A (2019). Why project management is critical to achieving the SDGs and how this can be achieved. Delft TU Project Management Congress 2019. Delft, The Netherlands 11 - 12 Apr 2019
‘Call to Arms’: Using the Creating Shared Value Business Governance Paradigm to Deliver Projects’ Business-Society Impact Against the UN SDG 2030 Targets
Mansell, P., Philbin, SP and Konstantinou, E (2019). ‘Call to Arms’: Using the Creating Shared Value Business Governance Paradigm to Deliver Projects’ Business-Society Impact Against the UN SDG 2030 Targets. EURAM (European Academy of Management) 2019 Conference. Lisbon, Portugal 26 - 28 Jun 2019