«Limitations of Sustainability Implementation amongst Project Managers Case study in an Icelandic energy company Master of Science Thesis in the ...»
The social responsibility strategy was let by a steering committee with representatives from all divisions of Landsvirkjun. It was extensively communicated within the company before being officially approved by the Executive Board. The ISO 26000 (Social Responsibility) was use as a guideline in the development of the strategy and six focus groups established; corporate governance, the value chain, environment, society, health and safety, and knowledge dissemination. A director of social responsibility was appointed to implement the strategy in late 2012 and implementation of the strategy was a priority project within the company in 2013 (Landsvirkjun, 2014). The following goals were set for Landsvirkjun in relation to the sustainability strategy and published on the company’s website (Landsvirkjun, 2014).
Ø། “We practice responsible corporate governance and follow the company’s code of conduct in our work.” CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 Ø། “We work with clients and suppliers that show responsible corporate governance.” Ø། “We emphasize on sustainable utilization of natural resources, working according to recognized international practices and minimizing environmental impacts caused by the company.” Ø། “We focus on good collaboration with the society by promoting transparent work practices and interactive information flow, as well as we want the society to benefit from Landsvirkjun’s operations.” Ø། “We work according to responsible health, security and human resources strategy, which is to ensure wellbeing, security and equality of employees.” Ø། “We create value for the industry and society by sharing knowledge and supporting innovation.” Landsvirkjun has more specific goals in some areas such as gender equality and carbon emission. Where the purpose is to equaling gender percentage in the company as well as to make sure that all have the same opportunities regardless of gender. The carbon neutral goal is to promote ecological ways of operating the business and it reaches out to personal employee ambitions. Below are the detailed goals (Landsvirkjun, 2014).
“Landsvirkjun ensures equality between men and women. Each employee is evaluated according to its own merits. It is Landsvirkjun’s goal to increase the percentage of female managers from 17% to 20% in 2014.” CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “Landsvirkjun has for years represented actions to minimize pollution in the company’s business. Landsvirkjun’s strategy is to reduce the influences
transportations have on the environment and the atmosphere in three ways:
Reduce the usage of fossil fuels on the company’s vehicles.
• Use mitigations to make up for inevitable emission.
• Promote employees ecological transportation ways.” • On Landsvirkjun’s website there are many slogans referring to the company’s strategy as well as they are communicated on posters and art in the company’s head quarters.
Often these slogans emphasize on the company’s relationship with society and the environment. Which may indicate that the strategy is only used for external marketing purposes instead of an internal change in processes that affects all departments and people. Few of the slogans are demonstrated below and on figure 4 (Landsvirkjun, 2014).
“Landsvirkjun’s social responsibility is to create profit, treat resources and the environment well and promote the dissemination of the company’s knowledge and positive influence to society.” “Landsvirkjun places great importance on sustainability and utilizing energy resources with careful consideration for any potential impact on the economy, society and the environment.” “Create a joint value for the industry and the society by sharing knowledge and encouraging innovation and development of renewable energy sources.” “Knowledge is a prerequisite for progress.” “In collaboration with society.” CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “Energy production in harmony with the environment and society.” Figure 4 Poster in Icelandic in Landsvirkjun, the English translation is “We treat all resources with sustainability and feasibility as a guiding light.” 4.2 Interview findings In the following section findings from the interviews and documents will be presented. The interviews were conducted in Landsvirkjun’s head quarters in Reykjavík, Iceland. The exact place varied between interviews; sometimes it was at the respondents’ office or in a pre booked meeting room either on the respondents’ floor or on the ground floor by the reception.
4.2.1 Project based organisation Landsvirkjun is a project based organisation and many of the project managers interviewed for this research were working on the same project although they have different roles and responsibilities, very few have employees working under them.
The project managers were based in Landsvirkjun’s head quarters in Reykjavík but the projects took place in the country site. Requiring some of the project managers to CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 travel to site regularly. All the project managers are engineers but have various experiences within the company, some have worked in Landsvirkjun for years but others have just recently started. They all belong to the Project Planning and Constructions division of the company or are involved in the projects but are part of a subsidiary company of Landsvirkjun, Landsvirkjun Power.
The same CEO is over both the Project Planning and Constructions division and the subsidiary company but the respondents did not feel any difference although some had been transferred to Landsvirkjun Power, like one responded said; “I don’t feel any difference between working for Landsvirkjun or Landsvirkjun Power especially because my role is still in Landsvirkjun's project” R2.
The employees feel very much that they are a part of a project group and the company becomes a bit distant to them, this was mirrored clearly in the interviews;
“I have mostly been in big projects and the projects need to be able to live their own life and have a well defined beginning and an end. In order to ensure the progress of the project you need to maintain the quality, be on time and budget. The project needs to be driven project oriented and often they don't fit into company structures”...”It is often with projects that they live their own life and not in harmony with the company" R7.
The culture in the company is very much dialogue and meeting oriented as respondents described: “We have a very strong meeting and dialogue culture, therefore it is rich in our culture to try to take consensus decisions” R1 and R2 says “sometimes you take the decisions by yourself and sometimes the decision is based on advises from consultants and work colleagues.” Decisions are usually made at the meetings and that relates to their strong meeting and dialogue culture. One person has to be responsible for the decision each time and it depends on how big the decisions are who that person is, but voting is not a method used in Landsvirkjun to take decisions. R6 said “Decisions are made after discussing CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 the topic for a while – voting is never an option” and R7 said “We try to take consensus decisions and we try to have the discussion democratic but the decision autocratic, there is always someone who has to take responsibility for the decision.”
Other respondents had similar stories to tell:
“Decisions are not taken democratically, more professionally where each person takes decisions in their own power” R3.
“We try to take all decisions collectively and it helps a lot being in an open space, we just have to remember to document the decisions we take on the run” R7.
“Bigger decisions go to the steering group which is over the project…it composites of highly experienced individuals from the company and managers, this group has extensive knowledge and managerial influences to take decisions” R6.
Decision authority was very clear amongst the project managers and they always knew where to go if they did not have the authority to take a certain decision; “I take my proposal to my boss and together we present it to the board, which takes the decision...therefore my authority to take decisions is very clear" R3.
“When the decision is in your power you take it after best consciousness...if you don't have the power to take the decision you just go to the person who has the power and get the decision from there" R2.
Some respondents described how Landsvirkjun is trying to change their decisions making methods from the meeting culture orientated to more systematic decision making methods such as the stage gate model like respondents R4 said;“The company is looking at stage-gate method” and R8 said; “We have been developing a decisionCHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 making method and we try not to use the BOGSAT method (Bunch Of Old Guys Sitting Around a Table) although it is a method usually practiced.” 4.2.2 Vision, mission and ambiguity of the sustainability concept When the sustainability concept was brought up in the interviews only few respondents gave a clear and confident description of the concept like it is expressed
in the company’s strategy. R1 described it as follows:
“It is Landsvirkjun's role, and we say that our role is to maximize the culmination of the resources that we are trusted for with sustainability as a guiding light. We interpret it as we don't want to ruin the natural resources for coming generations, in order for it to be used sustainably”.
And it seemed like many felt it was rooted in their processes and culture:
“Our code of conduct talks about prudence, reliability and progressiveness” …“We are looking at all three factors [social, environmental and economical] because it is common sense not because of sustainability” R4.
“We think unconsciously according to these [sustainability] values”…"We shall show prudence..." R2.
But majority of the respondents got defensive about it and started excusing themselves because they were not confident talking about the concept. Usually the excuse was that they did not have time to prepare themselves beforehand or that they had already read up on the concept and therefore they new the “right” definition.
Although almost all claimed that they did not know the meaning of sustainability and had not prepared themselves for the interview. Still most could describe sustainability like it is defined in the Brundtland’s report.
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “I know nothing about sustainability...but I understand the concept. We are not overusing the resource, we are just using it and nothing more than that.
We are not diminishing any chances for future generations.” R2.
“Landsvirkjun is working a lot with the concept but I should have prepared myself and goggled it...I know the sustainability concept pretty well from my work here, the three pillars and the Brundtland's report that was made for the United nations. I once took part in the implementation of something that had to do with sustainability...in my mind sustainability is all about returning the nature in same condition to next generation but at the same time use the resources. We don’t really have sustainability as a guiding light in my project other than we work for the company and hydropower is a sustainable phenomena” R3.
“I think the concept is a bit fuzzy in my mind. I though sustainability was something that can bear itself but then I started reading up on the concept and one of the definitions is that we deliver the country to future generations so they can do almost what ever they like and is good for the country” R4.
“I don’t remember the definition I have to admit but I think it is defined here [in the company]"R6.
“I looked it up before you came…It is the big picture that we are looking at and it is important to include all three aspects [environmental, social and economical aspects] although the focus on each of them is not the same" R8.
Many pointed out that sustainability was not within their area of work and suggested that the researcher should talk to more relevant person such as the director of social responsibility.
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 "...it's not my role to have the overview, we have a sustainability department [in the company]" R3.
“The person who takes care of these things [sustainability] here is like an environmental manager, we put this straight in his/hers hands and we get input for our documentations”…“Environmental manager knows what the demands are, we first and foremost just follow the procedures set by relevant person” R6.
Some respondents did not recognize that the sustainability concept was used in the
company or they thought it was a very confusing term:
“There is some discussion about sustainability in the company but I don’t think we have specific goals or vision”…"Like I said it [sustainability] is more in the subconscious and common sense, it has somehow been integrated into the work processes" R4.
“Maybe I’m not understanding the concept”…“I would say that the sustainability concept is not used a lot here in Iceland...it is in general not part of the discussion, not even inside the company"…“We build power plants with corporate social responsibility in mind but otherwise we do not work with sustainability for goals”R5.
“Sustainability is to be sustainable, me in my world can take care of myself and nobody really notices…but corporate social responsibility is when I can enter into a new environment and people will notice me because I cause disturbance but with responsibility so it becomes positive influences on the nature and society. That is of course not sustainability it is corporate social responsibility therefore there is a fundamental differences on these two” R5.