«Limitations of Sustainability Implementation amongst Project Managers Case study in an Icelandic energy company Master of Science Thesis in the ...»
External validity on the other hand refers to the degree to which the finding can be generalized across social settings (Bryman, 2008).
Semi-structured focused interviews were conducted and the author was the only one conducting the interviews with one interviewee at a time, making the internal reliability very high. Bryman (2008) explains how additional interviewer will most likely not add any value to the context of the interview. The external validity is quite low because of the low number of interviews conducted. The research design undertaken in this dissertation was a case study design and the researcher was fully aware and made an effort to avoid the limitations following the case study design.
A section of the population chosen for the case study is called a sample (Bryman, 2008), and in this research a small sample of employees in Landsvirkjun was chosen to participate. The sample was chosen with a purposive sampling meaning that the participants were chosen in a strategic way in order to fit the research question posed.
3.2 Research method A technique for collecting data for the dissertation is called a research method (Bryman, 2008). The drive for this study was to find out how project managers perceive and use the sustainability concept. The relevant literature was studied and questions for semi structured interviews were made. After conducting and analysing the interviews the results were fitted to the literature and conclusions made.
The rational for using only semi-structured interviews was because the researcher wanted to know how much the participants knew about sustainability in the company and how they worked with the concept. It would have been hard to ask those CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 questions in a survey style. Another reason for excluding surveys was that the researcher had only limited time to conduct the research and evaluated the process of making both surveys and taking interviews too time consuming.
3.2.1 Data collection Data was collected from an Icelandic energy company that has incorporated sustainability into its corporate strategy. The company is the main provider of energy in the Icelandic market. Data was collected by interviewing eight employees of the company and by reviewing official documents from the company. These are two of six main sources of evidence most commonly used in a case study research. A rather informal direct observation was also done while taking the interviews (Yin, 2009).
The office environment was observed and special attention was given to how the sustainability strategy was communicated in art in the office building, such as with posters and paintings.
18.104.22.168 Interviews Interviews are an essential form of case study information and it is optimal that they act as a guided conversation instead of structured queries (Yin, 2009). According to Bryman (2008) a semi-structured interview is a type of interview style where the interviewer has a series of questions that are in the form of an interview schedule but the interviewer has the authority to change the sequence of the questions and add questions to the schedule. The respondent has the liberty of expressing their thoughts and ideas on the subject (Bryman, 2008). Focused interviews are when a participant is interviewed for a short period of time, approximately an hour, and the interview is open ended and fluent as well as it follows a certain set of prepared questions (Yin, 2009). It is important when conducting interviews for a case study to satisfy the needs of prepared line of inquire and at the same time put forward friendly and nonthreatening questions. To avoid defensiveness on the behalf of the participant it is best to ask “how” questions instead of “why” questions, because the “how” questions are often the preferred way of addressing a “why” question. It is also vital for the case study results that the interviewer phrases the questions carefully and avoids using leading questions (Yin, 2009).
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 Semi-structured interviews were used in this case study so that the respondents could express their ideas and thoughts. The interviewer could also add relevant questions in the interview if the opportunity came along. Eight interviews were conducted in a face-to-face manner in the company’s headquarters, either in participant’s office or in a booked meeting room. Not all of the meeting rooms looked the same, some were a part of an open space and not completely closed off resulting in lack of perfect privacy to conduct the interview. In a few interviews the interview had to be paused because of external distraction. The interviews ranged from half an hour up to two hours but most of them took about 45 minutes. All of the respondents were engineers and each one was given a code to protect his/her identity. The code consists of the letter R that stands for respondent and a number from 1 to 8, which was distributed randomly to the respondents. Interviewees R4 and R5 are female and rest male. The respondents’ age varies but R1, R4, R5, R6 and R7 have worked for less than 10 years in Landsvirkjun but the rest has worked for more than 10 years.
22.214.171.124 Documents The researcher handled public documents from the company studied. All documents can be found on the company’s website. These are for example annual reports, environmental annual reports and sustainability report. The website is also a source that was used to get a deeper understanding of the company. Information like vision, mission and strategic action can be found on the website. For conducting a successful case study the researcher kept in mind that the documents provided by the company were written for a specific purpose and specific audience, other than the researcher of this case study. By doing so the researcher was less likely to be mislead by the documentary evidence and likelier to critically interpret the content of these evidences (Yin, 2009).
3.2.2 Data analysis Analysing a case study is not an easy task and the process is the least developed aspect of doing a case study. It is a common problem that researchers collect data but have no notion of how to analyse it. There are not so many fixed formulas on how to analyse case studies and therefore it depends a lot up on the researcher’s own style of rigorous empirical thinking how the data are analysed. (Yin, 2009). There are four CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 general strategies to choose from when conducting a case study and in this research a strategy called relying on theoretical propositions was used as a guideline. It is based on the method that original objectives and design of the case study were generated from theoretical propositions that led to research questions, review of the literature, and new hypotheses or propositions. Other strategies include for example setting up a descriptive framework where data are collected without an initial set of research questions or propositions, this strategy can be used if relying on theoretical propositions strategy is not an option (Yin, 2009). Using both qualitative and quantitative data is also a strategy that can be used but is recommended for advanced researchers and finally examining rival explanations which combines all of the three strategies above (Yin, 2009). A case study without a research strategy would proceed with difficulties and therefore it is recommended by Yin (2009) to have a general analytic strategy. The anonymity of the case for this dissertation will be restricted to the participants’ names and identity, the rest of the case information will be open.
This goes hand in hand with Yin’s (2009) explanation of two levels of anonymity issues, the case itself and then the individual person within the case.
3.3 Limitations to methodology Limitations to this study are of various kinds, first of all, the sample chosen was very small and participants chosen by a purposive sampling meaning that a homogeneous group of people took part in the case study. This might mean that not a realistic view of the organisation is reflected in the results. On the other hand that was not the purpose of this study.
Secondly, the interviews were conducted in Icelandic, the limitation is that some word that describe theoretical concepts do not have the same obvious meaning in Icelandic and English, Due to Icelandic’s tradition of making up new words for every English word used e.g. sustainable is sjálfbær in Icelandic and it is made up of two words sjálf which means self and bær which means to bear. Therefore the meaning of sustainable in Icelandic becomes ‘something or someone that can bear itself, without external forces or interruption to external environment’. It made the interviews a bit confusing at times and sometimes the researcher had to use the English word in order for the interviewee to clearly understand the question posed. The researcher has to keep in CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 mind that external distraction could have influenced the respondents shape at the interview day, causing the respondent to not have a clear head.
Other limitations is that the researcher is not experienced in conducting a case study and according to Yin (2009) to conduct a high-quality case study the investigator needs to be well trained and experienced in running a case study. Knowing this the researcher tried to adapt attributes that high quality investigators possess; these are according to Yin (2009).
Asking good questions where the mission is to engage in a rich conversation • about evidence and activities included as well as constantly evaluate the events and facts that appear.
Being a good listener meaning receiving information through multiple ways as • well as being unbiased when processing large amount of new information.
Exercising adaptiveness and flexibility meaning that the researcher has to be • ready to adapt plans to unexpected events that might occur Having a firm grasp of the issue being studied meaning that the researcher • needs to be able to interpret the information and know immediately if some sources of information contradict one another and if additional evidence is needed.
Avoids bias of any kind.
• 3.4 Ethical considerations Ethical dilemmas that might affect this study can involve one or more of four stakeholders; the research itself, the researcher, the university/universities or the participants. The researcher did everything in her power to avoid ethical dilemmas. A time plan was produced beforehand and discussed with the supervisors both in Chalmers and Northumbria, as well as the progress of the dissertation was reviewed regularly with the supervisors. Four ethical principles were carefully reviewed before undertaken this research and made sure that none of them were crossed. The principles concern whether there is harm done to participants, whether there is lack of informed consent, whether there is an invasion of privacy and whether deception is involved (Bryman, 2008). The aim was to undertake this research professionally and CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 with integrity as well as the focus was on being unbiased towards the subject and the participants. All documentation was considered to be confidential and handled according to that, all data recorded was stored in a password-protected device and it was destroyed as soon as the research was completed. The participants chosen were neither children nor vulnerable adults. All of them willingly gave their written consent for participating in the study and to be auto recorded.
The researcher kept in mind that ethical issues could arise at all stages of the research process and that it was important to be aware of the ethical dilemmas facing a researcher when case study research is undertaken (Bryman, 2008).
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 4 Case study and empirical results This section contains a description of the case company and empirical findings from the interviews and documents.
4.1 Landsvirkjun Iceland is the second largest producer of electricity from renewable sources in Europe and the largest when calculated per capita. Landsvirkjun is an energy company owned by the Icelandic state. It is Icelandic’s biggest energy provider possessing 75% of all energy used in Iceland and one of the 10 largest producers of renewable energy in Europe. Landsvirkjun’s aim is to be a leader in the sustainable use of renewable energy sources and the company values are progressiveness, reliability and prudence.
The name of the company, Landsvirkjun, means in English ‘Country harnessing’ and it refers to the company’s activities of building and maintaining power plants. The company runs 13 hydropower stations, 2 geothermal stations and 2 wind turbines, with a total number of 247 employees.
Landsvirkjun has five divisions (see figure 2) and one subsidiary company that works across all divisions. This case study was conducted in the Project Planning and Constructions division of the company and some interviewees were also a part of the subsidiary company, Landsvirkjun Power.
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 Figure 2 Landsvirkjun's structure (Landsvirkjun, 2012).
“Landsvirkjun’s role is to maximize the potential yield and value of the natural resources we have been entrusted with, in a sustainable, responsible and efficient manner” (Landsvirkjun, 2012, p.18).
Landsvirkjun’s mission (above) since 2010 shows very clearly that sustainability is included in the company’s core strategy. In 2009 Landsvirkjun published a report on social responsibility. In November two years later Landsvirkjun’s Executive Board approved a sustainability strategy called Landsvirkjun’s social responsibility, which was inspired by the company’s core strategy. Landsvirkjun’s sustainability strategy is summarized on their website and is listed below and on figure 3.
“Landsvirkjun’s social responsibility is to create value, to respect and protect natural resources and the environment and to share our expertise in order to effectively contribute to society” (Landsvirkjun, 2012 p.50).
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 Figure 3 Landsvirkjun's social responsibility (Landsvirkjun, 2012) “We want our company to make value for all our stakeholders” (Landsvirkjun, 2014).