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«Limitations of Sustainability Implementation amongst Project Managers Case study in an Icelandic energy company Master of Science Thesis in the ...»

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CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 "We could probably talk more about sustainability, it is indeed an interesting fuzzy concept, each person has their own view of it"..."it would be good for the company if there were a common understanding of the concept, maybe there is and I've just missed it" R7. Implementation of sustainability Most participants mention that it is the rational thing to do to implement sustainability as well as Landsvirkjun is owned by the Icelandic state and it is its duty to work in a sustainable manner. That was reflected in an employee survey conducted by Landsvirkjun, which stated that 91% of Landsvirkjun’s employees think it is important to have corporate social responsibility strategy (Landsvirkjun, 2014). Many also mention personal ambition and they described how proud they were working for a company that has a sustainability strategy like Landsvirkjun does.

“First of all we have defined it [sustainability] as part of our role/requirements, in order to use these resources it has to be done in a sustainable way” R1.

“It personally means a lot to me to be working in projects that do not pollute” R3.

When Landsvirkjun’s strategy such as the goals of becoming a carbon neutral company and equalling the gender percentage were discussed most answered that it was not in their area of work and they knew nothing about it. They could in most cases describe what the company was doing, but they usually talked like it was distant to them and their role in the company.

"It's part of the company's strategy, you can probably google it or ask the human resources department about it [what actions Landsvirkjun is taking to equalling the gender percentage]" R3.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “There are two female engineers in this division out of 11 persons, the gender percentage is not good. I don’t take part in changing the percentage, I don't even try!” R4.

"… what we do exactly to reduce the CO2 I know nothing about" R2.

"I'm not exactly much in this field, it's not mine but we have electric cars, we try to reduce our own electric usage and we have Hekluskógar [forestry]" R3.

"Maybe you want to talk to somebody else about that"…"We encourage people to take public transportations or bike to work and we have electric cars for employees to use" R5.

“It is not in my area”…“I don’t know [what Landsvirkjun is doing to fulfil the carbon neutral goal]” R6.

"I can't tell you what the company is doing only what my project is doing" R7.

On Landsvirkjun’s website the carbon neutral goal is very clear as well as equalling the gender percentage goal. A few respondents illustrated the company’s actions with confidence and talked about it as it was part of their role in the company.

“We are measuring our carbon footprint and we try systematically to reduce it”…“We have all sorts of mitigation actions” R1.

“We have electric cars available” R3.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “It's part of our strategy and we want to be known for operations like this [Carbon neutral goal]" R8.

"We need measurements to measure [CO2 emission] and we are working on it...We have virtual communication equipment and that is one part of reducing CO2 emissions...We try to reduce waste that goes to landfill, all waste is sorted" R4.

Open communication and interactive information flow was something that the participants were confident to talk about. They described communications methods they used internally as well as to external stakeholders and all of them emphasized the importance of open communications. It is also one of Landsvirkjun’s goal to increase open and honest communications.

“We emphasize on having good communications with stakeholders and especially those who are against our operations, to discuss their point of view” R4.

"We try to publish all of our reports and other things we do on our webpage and our library...we also emphasize on having open communication with stakeholders" R5.

This reflects on Landsvirkjun’s goal of increasing the accessibility to research reports for the public. In 2013 a big step was taken for this goal and Landsvirkjun’s reports were connected to the electronic search machine gegnir.is (Landsvirkjun, 2014).

“Here the information flow is very good; regular meetings, newsletters published and intranet used where notifications about latest activities is posted. There is also a whole department that makes sure that information flows” R3.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “There are no secrets here” R2.

–  –  –

Although the employees were in general very informed about the importance of open and transparent communication some felt the need to state that it was not part of their responsibilities in the company.

“...Other people know this better”…"In general we don’t necessarily talk about sustainability although it is a department here..."R3.

When the subject was training and education about sustainability the respondents did not recall that there was something like that organized in the company, but most of them pointed out that the employees were encouraged to attend meetings, conferences and courses on various topics held by the company. In Landsvirkjun’s strategy there is a focus on sharing knowledge and encouraging innovation to create value both for society and the industry. Even though the employees did not get a specific education about sustainability there is a great emphasis put on education in Landsvirkjun and it shows in the company’s statistics for 2013. Landsvirkjun invested 11000 hours in education and training for its employees. These 11000 hours equals 275 working weeks, which is roughly one week per employee (Landsvirkjun, 2014).

"I don't think people get any formal training in it…but there is a lot of discussion about sustainability in the house”…“We are a part of FESTU (Icelandic Center for Corporate Social Responsibility) and everyone is encouraged to attend those meetings”…"When the corporate social responsibility strategy was implemented then employees were divided into teams that worked on specific task related to the strategy" R1.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 "No I can't say that I have noticed that [there is any training on sustainability provided], maybe you have to go and get it yourself, at least people are not pushed into it" R2.

“No we don’t get any training but we have specialists in this area and they get training” R3.

"There are certain requirements put on employees and it is just my responsibility to fulfil these requirements...I must know what I'm doing otherwise I'm not qualified for the job" R7.

“Training…we could do better” R8.

The subject of personal sustainability and what the company is doing to support it was not very clear to most of the participants. Most mentioned that there were electrical cars available and that employees were encouraged to participate in ‘lífshlaupið’ (competition between workplaces on how much the employees exercise) and other competitions.

"There are a lot of things going on here to deepen the sustainability thinking amongst employees and make them more aware of it" R1.

"Every employee has an educational plan for each year where goals are set for Landsvirkjun, employee’s department and personal progress. This is then evaluated yearly" R8.

The final question in each interview was about what the respondents thought were the biggest challenges related to sustainability. The answers were quite unanimous and were all somehow related to communication in one-way or another. Landsvirkjun’s slogans relate to the communication challenge the company is facing.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 “Having good and a lot of communication with stakeholders...getting a joint understanding and consensus about sustainability...You can stretch the concept as you please and that is the challenge [to get a common understanding]…Sustainability is all about balancing the different interests of stakeholders...We want to be honest and transparent in what we are doing" R1.

“The biggest challenge is to get the nation to realize that the profit we make goes into the system and make them see the good in what we do…The challenge is to get a better an wider acceptance of what we are doing [from the public]" R2.

“The big challenge is not to let the profit perspective take over the environmental perspective" R3.

“The biggest challenge is to make sure that everyone is speaking the same language when it comes to sustainability” R7.

“To realize where sustainability comes into the picture...or doesn't it affect every part of the picture?!" R8.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 5 Discussion and analysis This section analyses the empirical findings in relation to theory. A theoretical tool is used to analyse the findings and the section is structured according to the tool.

Landsvirkjun approved a sustainability strategy in late 2012 based on their core strategy and appointed a director of social responsibility to implement it in the company in 2013, as it was a priority project (Landsvirkjun, 2014). The interviews with Landsvirkjun’s project managers were analysed and Dopplet’s (2003) tool of seven sustainability blunders applied.

Many references from the interviews fitted with the tool but after reflecting on the tool it was clear that a modification could be done to improve it. Therefore the ambiguity of the sustainability concept was added as an extra blunder to the tool.

Resulting in a more realistic view of the failures organisations face when implementing sustainability into projects and organisational culture.

5.1 Patriarchal thinking Patriarchal thinking was one of Doppelt’s (2003) blunder that was weakly reflected in the interviews because the employees seemed to have personal responsibilities and not much false sense of security. Only one person spoke in a way that could be interpreted as patriarchal thinking and described the environmental manager as person who knows what the demands are and the project teams only follow the procedures set by that person. This first blunder is not known to be a problem in project based organisations due to high autonomy of project teams (Sydow, Lindkvist, & DeFillippi, 2004).

It seemed that the project managers had great autonomy from the organisation and that reflects in Forsyth & Danisiewicz (1985) theory about professions, where they say that the formation of profession is the creation of an occupational group that has specialized knowledge and has autonomy from its organisations and clients. Often a steering group is formed to coordinate between projects and the company (Hovmark & Nordqvist, 1996). It was mentioned in the interviews that steering groups are over the projects and they are made up of experienced individuals from the company with CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 extensive knowledge and managerial influences. The project managers interviewed seemed to know their authority to decision making and they make decisions after best consciousness. It is clear to them that if they do not have the power for a certain decision they know where they can go in order to get the decision.

This great autonomy the project managers have can be a sign that there is not much patriarchal thinking in the organisation. Employees seemed to take personal and collective responsibilities. They even described how each person is responsible for the decisions in his/her power and they thought this responsibility was very clear. There was an on going theme in the interviews about the democratic discussion in the company and at meetings. When it came to the decision itself they made an effort to take consensus decisions but in the end someone has to be responsible for it and therefore they spoke, as the final decisions were autocratic.

5.2 The silo approach to environmental and socioeconomic issues The silo approach to environmental and socio-economic issues was often encountered in the interviews. The participants often began an answer by stating that it was not part of their field or there were other people more qualified to answer the relevant question. This goes hand in hand with Doppelt’s (2003) second blunder about employees not feeling like they are responsible for the company’s strategy. The respondents often knew the actions the company was taking in certain areas such as becoming carbon neutral and equalling the gender percentage. But they strongly felt that it was not their responsibility to act on it although it was intergraded in some of their processes. In general they pointed out that it was someone else’s role in the company and they also expressed lack of interest in taking part of making the company’s goals become reality.

"It's part of the company's strategy, you can probably google it or ask the human resources department about it [what actions Landsvirkjun is taking to equalling the gender percentage]" R3.

CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2014:111 The project managers often talked like they were not part of the company, more like they were a subunit attached to the company.

"I can't tell you what the company is doing only what my project is doing"…"It is often with projects that they live their own life and are not in harmony with the company" R7.

This can be interpreted as the project team is a subculture in the company. According to Guzman et.al. (2004) the nature of subculture is often based on their occupational role and it arises amongst groups of individuals with similar ideologies and forms of expressing those ideologies. Professionals in an organisation can form a professional subculture due to their adoption of values and norms, shared practices, experiences and relationships with other professionals (Schein, 2006; Bloor & Dawson, 1994).

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